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Shinkansense 101: New luggage rules from May 2020

Shinkansense 101: New luggage rules from May 2020

Shinkansense 101 is an informational series where we share the latest news, features, and tips regarding the Japanese bullet train, or the shinkansen (新幹線), which is a marvel of engineering that has made it possible for millions across the years to travel city to city with remarkable ease. To give you an idea of the speed, Tokyo can be reached from Osaka in within three hours, while the length of the whole main island of Honshu can be travelled in less than a day.


One common problem faced by the shinkansen, however, is the difficulty of bringing large luggage on board to their destination. Since its inception in the 1960s, the shinkansen have been favoured by the locals as a mode of transport for domestic travel, particularly for business. However, the shinkansen have seen a rise in ridership among foreign visitors in the last two decades—resulting in the lack of storage spaces for the larger luggages that tourists tend to bring a more noticeable problem than before. To futureproof the problem of tourists overcrowding the cabins with luggage, new rules will be introduced in May 2020 to deter inconveniences on the train.


Bringing a baggage with total dimensions of between 160cm and 250cm into the Tokaido / Sanyo / Kyushu Shinkansen requires a reservation. (Image credit: JR Times / Afiq)


This means that on some of the most popular shinkansen, you will only be allowed to bring a large luggage with you if you book specific seats in advance on the reserved seat cabins. If no prior reservation is made, passengers will be required to pay a fee of ¥1,000 per luaggage piece. This will also prove to be quite difficult to do during peak periods as there are very few of such seats on every shinkansen.


No need to fret, however, if your luggage falls within a reasonable size! Refer to our handy guide below to see if your luggages are suitable for bullet train travel:


(Image credit: JR Times / Afiq)


  • Luggages with a total Height + Width + Length (HWL) of less than 160 cm are allowed on the shinkansen.
  • Luggages with a HWL above 160 cm must be declared in advance with a reserved seat booking. A fee of ¥1,000 will be charged if brought on the train without a reservation.
  • Luggages with a HWL beyond 250 cm CANNOT be brought on board the shinkansen.


Luggage sizes can be found at the entry of all shinkansen stations, from which you would be able to check the size of your luggage. Luggage delivery services such as Takuhaibin must be used to send these luggages ahead to your destination.


(Image credit: JR Central)


As shown in the diagram above, the last 5 seats of a reserved carriage are the only one with access to the Oversized Baggage Area. We foresee that these seats can get fully-booked very quickly, so try to plan in advance and book your seats as early as possible if you know for sure that you will be bringing oversized luggages on the train.


Questions and Answers:

Q: How do I book seats on the shinkansen if I have a large luggage with me?

A: There are several ways to book seats for the shinkansen, the simplest method would be to do so at a Midori-no-madoguchi (みどりの窓口), otherwise known as a JR Ticket Offices, at any major JR stations within Japan. Reservations can be made up to 1 month in advance, and will incur an additional reservation fee unless a JR Pass is utilised. 


Q: Where can I leave my smaller carry-on bags/luggage?

A: There are overhead racks in every carraige where you can put your belongings, but be cautious with heavier bags as there are no straps or covers with which to secure them, so they may pose a potential safety hazard.


Q: How do I get my luggage delivered to my hotel?

A: Delivery services are available from airports, hotel concierges and many convenience stores. It can cost around ¥1,500 to ¥2,500 onwards per luggage depending on size, and depending on the area, it usually results in next-day deliveries. Popular delivery services include Takuhaibin & Luggage Free Travel.


Q: I’m travelling with an infant, is my stroller considered under these new rules?

A: These new baggage rules do not apply to strollers, bicycles, or musical instruments.


Q: What about my luggage on the unaffected train lines?

A: At the time of writing, shinkansen trains rarely have a dedicated luggage space, but the legroom is spacious enough to fit mid-sized luggage in front of your seat. There is also a small gap at the back of each carraige where you may leave your bags if you wish.


Q: What if you show up with a non-reserved-seat ticket and large luggage?

A: You’ll once again be asked to pay the ¥1,000 penalty, and also to upgrade to a more expensive reserved-seat ticket for an extra ¥520. Shinkansen operators are currently vague on what will happen if there are no more reserved-seat tickets left, but the assumption is that you’ll be told to wait for the next train, while keeping your fingers crossed that it has available reserved seats.


Still unsure about your shinkansen travels? Fret not, you can always make a trip down to JAPAN RAIL CAFE and have your burning Japan travel questions answered by our friendly Travel Communicators!


Address: 5 Wallich St, #01-19/20, Singapore 078883
Opening hours: 11am–8pm (Travel Communicator will be on duty on most weekends)

Stay tuned for the next edition of Shinkansense 101. In the meantime, why not check out some other cool shinkansen, like the worlds’ fastest art gallery?


Header image credit: photoAC


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