We all want to travel light, we try to avoid the hassle of handling luggages which affects our movement and mood. If you have no choice and need to carry large luggages, you definitely do not want this burden to spoil your trip. After all, it is a rare occasion to come to Japan.
Before you scroll further, take note of the secondary title of this article – Enjoy Japan to the fullest.
Based on similar presentation from previous article , we refer to JR Rapid Service to demonstrate the stowage facilities on the train, especially for tourists who carry large luggages.
It is convenient to carry large luggage onto the train?
To-date, there are only two shinkansen in the west of Kansai, Sanyo Shinkansen (Shin-Osaka to Hakata) and Kyushu Shinkansen (Hakata to Kagoshima-Chuo), so for those who are travelling in the area with the railway pass, the chances of using the limited express services would be higher. To be frank, trains in this region are not as convenient as in east and north – refer to the needs of tourists to put away their large luggages.
You might be assessing the needs to get a rail pass depending on where your destinations are. However, we suggest you to think from the convenience of luggage stowage, not just the cost alone.
JR Rapid Service luggage stowage area
The information below has been introduced in previous article. All JR divisions across Japan have clearly defined that passenger luggages shall not exceed the specific dimensions below:
- 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
In reality, most JR limited express services operate in west of Kansai could not accommodate such large dimension, especially the height and the width of trolley luggages. During peak travel season, this limitation will pose some challenges. Refer below for further details.
The reference information below is based on the updates in Jan 2018.
- Kansai region
- Chugoku & Shikoku region
- Kyushu region
For information related to other regions, please refer to previous article:
The Hokuriku area (including Kanazawa and Fukui) and Kansai are closely related. It is the Thunderbird (サンダーバード) which serves these two areas via its rapid service and is one of the routes with highest occupancy of JR West Japan division.
Despite gradual upgrade of Thunderbird, there is still no designated area for luggages within the car. Large luggage (ie those unfit for hand-carry into the aircraft) could only be kept at the rear of the last row in each car.
Maizuru is the key tourist port along the coast of the Sea of Japan. Amanohashidate together with Itsukushima (Hiroshima Prefecture) and Matsushima (Miyagi Prefecture) are the Three Views of Japan. Maizuru (まいづる) and Hashidate (はしだて) are the services which link these places to Kyoto.
These routes are supported with JR 287 series and the Kyoto Tango Railway KTR8000 series. The former has feature similar to most trains of JR, large luggages can only occupy the rear of the last row; the latter, however, has a larger legroom and in the free seating car (自由席, “jiyūseki”, non reserved seat), there is a public area with ample space for large luggages.
Currently, the following services are operated with KTR8000 series:
Maizuru – train# 5, 6, 14 and 15 / Hashidate – train# 2, 5, 8 and 9
The remaining of Maizuru – train# 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 & 13 and Hashidate – train# 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 & 10 are all on 287 series.
In addition, customers with Japan Rail Pass to be aware that on Hashidate, stops from Fukuchiyama Station onwards do not belong to the JR (West Japan division) network where the pass is not valid. Passengers would need to settle for fare differences at service counter of the station before boarding.
Kinosaki Onsen has always been one of the most popular onsens (hot spring) in Japan. Since its development from Heian era until today, it spanned across 1300 years of history, it was ranked the second in west Japan (the first was Arima Onsen) towards late Edo era, as captured in the “onsen ranking record”.
The JR (West Japan) has Kinosaki (きのさき) and Konotori (こうのとり) departing from Kyoto and Osaka respectively. These trains are similar to the rest of the limited express services, without dedicated stowage zone.
Passengers with large trolley luggages are encouraged to queue up in advance on the platform in order to grab the space at the back of the last row upon boarding.
As the number of tourists increases, it spreads from focusing on only key cities to the rest of the country. The UNESCO world heritage is normally the sought after spots. The limited express service, Kuroshio (くろしお) , from Osaka bound for Shirahama and Shingu direction (with some departures from Kyoto) has allowed some fans to explore Kumano Kodo, ancient pilgrimage route and learn the local history.
If you were to travel direct from Osaka and Kyoto to Shingu, Kuroshio is the only option (another option is the bus to Kii-Tanabe and Shirahama; ten departures from Osaka and two departures from Kyoto, then 3 to 4 hours bus ride from Shirahama to Shingu). This route utilizes the trains of 283, 287 and 289 series which do not have dedicated large luggage storage area. If Shungu is your destination, you would need to consider for your luggage size.
Tottori and Shimane Prefectures in San’in region are ironically deemed “non-existent” in Japan, but are in fact the hidden treasure for tourists. The largest sand dune in Japan — Tottori Sand Dunes, the most renowned shrine, Izumo-Taisha, and the mountain for hiking and skiing, Daisen, are all within proximity.
The shortcut between Kansai area and Tottori is via the joint service of JR West Japan and Chizu Express – Super Hakuto (スーパーはくと). This servce has up to seven departures each day from Kyoto station with stopovers at Shin-Osaka, Osaka, Sannomiya (Kobe), Himeji, etc.
At this time, the two major airports in Kansai area (Kansai and Itami) do not have direct flight to Tottori. While taking the bus is time-consuming, Super Hakuto is definitely a lifesaver alternative, a relaxing two and a half hours train ride with departure from Osaka station.
Opting for this train service not only efficient and punctual, but, most importantly, it provides luggage stowage which adds another convenience to the passengers. Large luggage allocations are at the rear of car 1 (free-seating, non-reserved seat) and car 5 (designated seating, reserved seat) on first come first serve basis.
The sector between Kamigori and Chizu station is operated by Chizu Express Company and is excluded from the Japan Rail Pass. Pass holders would need to settle the fare differences prior to boarding.
Izumo-Taisha is one of the most respected shrines in Japan. Worshippers believe in coming here to request for love and good relationship over people. However, it is never easy to get there due to the isolation of Izumo City in San’in area. If you insist to travel by railway, the only option is via Yakumo (やくも) departing from Okayama. The car itself is dated back from Japanese National Railways, predecessor of Japan Rail (JR), which has been operating for more than 35 years. Not to mention the amenity of the train, including stowage.
Since the completion of the Great Seto Bridge (Seto Ōhashi) in 1998, the railway connection between Honshu and Shikoku is made possible and has improved the convenience of tourist travels. Among the alternatives between Okayama and Matsuyama, the introduction of the new 8600 series train was the major breakthrough.
Currently there are four departures from each Okayama and Takamatsu – Shiokaze (しおかぜ) Ishizuchi (いしづち), and four departures from another direction from Matsuyama using 8600 series: train# 11, 17, 23 and 29 (bound for Matsuyama) and train# 12, 18, 24 and 30 (bound for Okayama and Takamatsu).
New car new feature – apart from cars 1, 4 (Shiokaze）and 6 (Ishizuchi) which are equipped with stowage area, there is a relatively large space at the rear of the last row as well.
Passengers must pay special attention to the train originates from Matsuyama bound for Okayama or Takamatsu, Shiokaze and Ishizuchi operates as a single train from Matsuyama. Half way through at Utazu or Tadotsu station, it splits into two for its respective destination (normally cars 1 through 5 is Shiokaze – bound for Okayama; cars 6 through 8 is Ishizuchi – bound for Takamatsu. When you stow your luggage, be mindful of which car you are. This is to avoid seating yourself in Shiokaze, but leaving your luggage in Ishizuchi sector.
There are as many as 30 daily departures of Kamome (かもめ) limited express trains from Hakata, Kyushu railway hub, bound for Nagasaki. This allows flexibility for tourists to plan their day.
Travel by train in Kyushu is always a pleasant experience. Apart from its extensive coverage, the train facilities are of high quality and user-friendly, not to mention the amenities of Kamome.
The JR Kyushu has cars of both 787 and 883 series for Kamome where the picture above shows the seating in premium class of 787 series “Deluxe Green” (デラックスグリーン車) with ample space at the front and back of each seat.
The Kamome services operate under 787 series are train# 1, 5, 11, 15, 19, 29, 33, 37, 41 and 45 (Hakata bound for Nagasaki); train# 10, 14, 18, 28, 32, 36, 40, 44, 48 and 52 (Nagasaki bound for Hakata)
The 787 series is a seven-car formation, with the exception of cars 4 and 7, the rest of the cars has dedicated area for luggages. For 883 series, most of the cars has allocated stowage space for the passengers.
The fully operational of Kyushu Shinkansen has brought the crowd to Kumamoto and Kagoshima and prompted tourism growth in the region. Despite the popularity of these major cities, let’s not forget Oita in the east of Kyushu – the home to the famous Japanese onsen (hot spring). In terms of discharge and number of onsens, Oita tops the list. When you think of onsen in Japan, Oita is the place to be.
It is very convenient to travel by train from the largest city in Kyushu, Fukuoka, to Beppu. There are up to 30 trips daily departing from Hakata Station bound for Beppu direction via limited express, Sonic (ソニック), with the travelling time of merely two hours.
A very thoughtful design for tourists, most of the cars of 883 and 885 series have space allocated for luggages, including large trolley luggages. Passengers could relax and enjoy the view while commuting.
When we talk about the JR Kyushu rapid service, the Yufuin no Mori (ゆふいんの森) is always be part of the discussion. This service started as early as 1989 and took the lead in promoting the tourist train in the country. Until today, it is still one of the most sought after trains by foreign tourists.
As a result of the rain storm in July 2017, there were damages to the train tracks in Kyushu region, the JR Kyushu has adjusted the route to via Nippo Honsen Line bound for final destination at Yufuin Station (including stoppages at Kokura, Beppu and Oita). According to the schedule adjustment effective March 17, 2018, the Yufuin no Mori with services 91 and 92 from Hakata to Oita requires approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes, one trip per day from either end.
The route adjustment and scheduling has no impact on the customer experience and the same goes to the stowage facilities. Yufuin no Mori (services 91 and 92) is made up of five cars, each car has sufficient space for luggages.
Note that services 93 and 94 of Yufuin no Mori are not on regular service and cars with different configuration could be used.