The Shinkansen bullet train is one of the most convenient ways to travel long distances in Japan. However, there are specific baggage policies you need to be aware of when taking the Shinkansen, especially if you have large luggage.
Pro Tip: Consider shipping your luggage instead of taking it on the train
In early 2023, new baggage rules went into effect on some Shinkansen lines that require reservations for oversized luggage. Understanding these updated policies will ensure a smooth journey on your trip.
What Counts As Oversized Luggage?
Oversized luggage is defined as any bag with total dimensions (height + width + depth) between 160cm and 250cm. This includes most full-sized checked suitcases.
Luggage under 160cm can still be brought onboard without a reservation. These bags can be stored in overhead racks or at your feet. Just be mindful not to block aisles or exits.
Anything over 250cm is prohibited on the Shinkansen. If you have extra large bags, consider shipping them to your hotel ahead of time.
Make Reservations For Oversized Bags
On Shinkansen lines operated by JR Central, JR West, and JR Kyushu, you now need to reserve special seats if you’re traveling with oversized luggage between 160-250cm.
Look for seats labeled as having an “oversized baggage area.” These are usually located in the last row of each train car. When you reserve these seats, you can use the space behind them to store large suitcases.
Reservations can be made at train station counters, ticket machines, or online. The cost is the same as regular reserved seating. With a Japan Rail Pass, oversized luggage reservations are free.
If you show up without a reservation, you may have to pay a luggage fee or be forced to switch trains. So book ahead of time to avoid hassles.
Alternatives For Large Bags
If no oversized luggage seats are available on your desired Shinkansen, consider these options:
- Forward bags to your hotel using luggage delivery services like Yamato Transport or Sagawa Express. This allows you to travel hands-free.
- Reserve a standard seat and keep your bag at your feet. Just be prepared for less leg room.
- Split luggage between multiple smaller bags that can fit overhead.
- Take a non-reserved train car if available and find a spot for your luggage.
- Ship luggage as cargo through Japan Post or a private courier.
With some preparation, large luggage doesn’t have to limit your bullet train travels. Carefully check the size of your bags, make reservations when required, and explore alternatives like luggage shipping for a smooth Shinkansen journey.