Like it or not, shopping might be one of your tasks while in Japan due to the requests from family or friends. Any additional stuffs will take up luggage space, leading to additional needs of capacity. The next thing to worry is how are you going to manoeuvre, where to stow them?
This article will use some JR rapid service trains (which are also called “limited express” trains, tokkyū (特急) in Japanese, not including shinkansen) as example to demonstrate the large luggage stowage facilities. Having some information in advance will help you prepare for your trip.
Understanding passenger luggage allowance
While packing the luggage before departure, some travellers spend time adjusting the contents therein with the ultimate aim of avoiding any overweight charges by the airlines.
The same applies to the train services – every railway operator has its own guidelines. In Japan, JR (Japan Railways Group) has standardized the rules below for the following regions: Hokkaido, Kanto, Central, Kansai, Shikoku and Kyushu.
- Sum of the three sides shall not exceed 250cm (the length shall not exceed 200cm) per piece
- The weight shall not exceed 30kg per piece
- Max two pieces per passenger
These also applicable to routes commonly used by visitors: Keikyu Line (Tokyo Haneda Airport bound for Shinagawa and Yokohama), Keisei Line (Tokyo Narita Airport bound for Ueno), Nankai Line (Osaka Kansai Airport bound for Namba), Meitetsu Line (Nagoya Centrair Airport bound for Nagoya), Fukuoka City Subway (Fukuoka Airport bound for Hakata) etc. For the convenience and comfort of the travellers, it is advisable to adhere to these rules.
The terms “large luggage” in the following sections refers to large trolley luggage.
Luggage stowage on JR rapid trains
Although there are rules set by JR, tourists are encouraged to find out whether or not there is sufficient space on the train to accommodate your luggages. Many of these trains are designed for local passengers, the needs of tourists with many luggages have not been taken into consideration. Thus, it is important that the tourists find the limited space within for stowage and also the appropriate seats for themselves.
- Hokkaido region
- Kanto region
- Chubu region
For information related to other regions, please refer to previous article:
“Kamui” (カムイ) links these two major cities in Hokkaido, Sapporo and Asahikawa. The route has high occupancy and there are 10 departures per day from either origin.
The only designated zone for storage is in car 4, beside seat 13 (two-level rack). There is sufficient space for large luggages.
Note that all seats in car 4 are “reserved seat”, passengers are expected to acquire their seat numbers prior to boarding.
There is another limited express train service from Sapporo to Asahikawa, “Lilac” (ライラック), but without designated area for large luggages.
Hakodate has always been a popular vacation spot. and the “Super Hokuto” (スーパー北斗) between Sapporo and Hakodate is the top choice of transportation. Currently, there is also another service by “Hokuto” covering this sector, however, it will all be replaced with “Super Hokuto” effective March 17, 2018.
The “Super Hokuto” operates with cars of 261 and 281 series – some differences in their facilities.
In 281 series (train#: 1, 2, 5, 7, 10, 14, 15, 16, 21 & 24), stowage availability is as follows:
Car 1 (beside seat 1), car 2 (beside seat 1 and connections between car 2 & 3), car 4 (beside seat 1 and connections between car 4 & 5), car 5 (beside seat 13) and car 6 (connections between car 6 & 7). Entire train is reserved seating except for car 6.
In 261 series (train#: 4, 6, 9, 11, 18, 19, 20 & 23), stowage availability is as follows:
Car 1 (beside seat 1), car 3 (beside seat 1 and connections between car 2 & 3), car 4 (beside seat 1 and connections between car 3 & 4), car 5 (beside seat 1 and connections between car 4 & 5), car 6 (beside seat 1). Car 1 “Green Car” is the first class, cars 3 through 5 are with reserved seats and car 6 is non-reserved seating.
Atami and Izu are the destinations in Tokyo suburbs which allow you to enjoy the mountains and the sea. The broad windows of “Super View Odoriko” (スーパービュー踊り子) together with the breathtaking view of the coastal area is definitely a good start of the journey. However, for those who carry many luggages, you need to take note of the departure time and the seatings of this train service. Details to follow.
Super View Odoriko comes with two stowage zones for the convenience of the passengers: car 1 (upper level – beside seat 2D) and car 10 (upper level – beside seat 4). Car 1 is first class “Green Car” and car 10 is reserved seating. It is worth noting that seat 13 of car 9 has a relatively large space for luggages or large items.
One of the selling points of this train is the playroom for the children at the lower level of car 10. Be expected to have passengers with children in car 10 and car 9 next to it. Passengers who would like to rest might be disturbed. If you are looking forward to a quiet and restful journey, it is best to avoid the weekends or holidays.
Travelling towards the direction of Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko via Otsuki, or to Kamikochi by taking a detour to visit the Japan’s national treasure of Matsumoto is possible by considering”Kaiji” (かいじ, to Kofu), “Azusa” (あずさ) or “Super Azusa” (スーパーあずさ, to Matsumoto). These trains depart from Shinjuku station.
“Kaiji” and “Azusa” both use the same model (E257 series) with no designated stowage area. However, passengers could opt for the space at the rear of the last row in each car. At most two luggages could be occupied in this limited room. Be mindful that a large luggage might however affect the seat inclination of the passengers at the front of the stowage space. As a courtesy, please politely inform the passengers concern ahead of time.
The gradual transition to the new E353 series car started in Dec 2017. The full deployment of “Super Azusa” effective Mar 17, 2018 will bring a new experience to the passengers. It includes a lot more amenities, not only the power supply on every seat, but also the stowage racking for large luggages in cars 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10 and 12.
Among the compartments above, cars 1, 7, 10 and 12 are with reserved seats, cars 3 and 5 are non-reserved seating and car 9 is the “Green Car”.
Among the points of interest in Tokyo suburbs, Nikko attracts the most overseas tourists due to its UNESCO world heritage status. The JR (East Japan division) has “Nikko” (日光) limited express service between Shinjuku and Tobu Nikko to cater for same-day return. Moreover, this is a quick connection and reliable services for visitors who intend to explore Nikko and Kinugawa and even Aizu-Wakamatsu areas.
The “Nikko” consists of 6 cars, with the exception of car 2, there is space for putting away luggages on this train.
Point to take note for Japan Rail Pass holders: as this is a joint service between JR and Tobu Railway, the sector between Kurihashi station and Tobu Nikko is owned by Tobu Railway and is not covered by the pass concern. When making the reservation, passengers need to present the pass and pay for the fare differences.
The visit to Takayama and Shirakawa-go is getting common to many foreign visitors. During peak season, don’t be surprise of the fact that foreigners are the majority in this area, still the influx of tourists never ends. We feel that sharing some information on “Hida” (ひだ) limited express train here is necessary for the benefits of most of our readers.
The cars on this route are almost thirty years old and have limited facilities. Only the first class “Green Car” sector comes with a small space for stowage. For the remaining of this train, the only choice is the space at the back of the last row of each car.
There was news from the JR (Central Japan division) and JR (West Japan division) in June 2017 to bring in new model of “Hida” with more ergonomic features in 2022, including stowage for large luggages. An upgrade which everyone is looking forward to.
Since the opening of Hokuriku Shinkansen (from Nagano to Kanazawa sector) in March 2015, the travel demand to Hokuriku region has increased. At the same time, it has brought business opportunities to the locality. For Chubu and Kansai regions which do not really benefit from this new sector of the shinkansen, the demand to Hokuriku (especially Kanazawa) also becomes more than ever before.
For tourists who travel with large luggages, “Shirasagi” (しらさぎ) might not be the most convenient mode of transport. Similar to “Hida” which does not have proper stowage area – bulky items could only be occupied behind the last row.
Regardless of assigned or free seating, the space at the back of the last row does not necessarily belong to the passengers who sit next to it. It is on first come, first served basis. If you board the train midway, it would depend on your luck of getting the luggage space you want.
For overseas tourists, we hope the sharing the reference above could prepare you for the trip. After all, it would depend on the flexibility of your needs to travel by railway, plane or bus to your destinations. Bon voyage!