We were able to experience the Shinkansen bullet train in all its speedy glory on our trip to Japan. We had two separate trips. The first was from Yokohama to Gifu and the other was from Nagoya to Tokyo. Both experiences were completely different which gave us great insight on what types of luggage you can and can't bring on the train. Before arriving in Japan we couldn't find good information to answer the question, Can you take luggage on the Shinkansen bullet train? It was stressful leading up to our train ride not knowing if we could make it on the train with all of our luggage.
Can You Take Luggage on the Shinkansen Bullet Train?
The simple answer to this questions is Yes. We brought 2 large suitcases, one small suit case, one purse and one backpack on board with us.
Starting in May of 2020, all passengers with large luggage will have to book a “Reserved Seat” in advance.
Failure to book ahead of time will incur a 1,000-yen (US$9.25) penalty fee per oversize bag.
Large luggage is described as those with collective length, width, and depth measurements over 160 centimeters. For reference, most airline carry-on bag are 120 centimeters combined measurement. To sum it up you may get away with a bag that is SLIGHTLY bigger than a carry-on. Any large roller suitcases will require a reservation.
Large luggage will be locked in a separate secure area while in transit.
Reservations can be made online or at Shinkansen station service counters.
Officially large suitcases can't weigh more than 30 kg per bag and must be less than 250cm in height plus width plus depth. We didn't have a measuring tape (who carries a measuring tape as they travel?) so we just winged it.
Worst Case Scenario of Bringing Large Suitcases on the Shinkansen Bullet Train
On the day of our first Shinkansen Bullet Train ride, Super Typhoon Trami was approaching. When we went to purchase our tickets at the Yokohama train station all reserved seating was sold out. In fact we were lucky enough to get on the last train before they were cancelling them for the day due to the storm. This meant there were tons of people trying to get on this train and it was going to be packed.
When the train arrived, the doors opened and all we saw was a wall of people. We slowly made our way through a maze of people with two large suitcases that both weighed 25kg each. There were no seats and very little room left to even stand on the train. We kept our suitcases at our feet and did our best to keep them out of the way. The train ride was 1 hour and 45 minutes between Yokohama and Gifu. We stood the entire way and made the best of it. At the end of the day even with a completely over packed train compared to usual, we were still able to get on with all of our luggage. We only saw one other couple on the train with as much luggage as we had.
Best Case Scenario of Bringing Large Suite Cases on the Shinkansen Bullet Train
Our second trip on the Shinkansen bullet train was much easier with our luggage. We were able to book two reserved seats this time. From our previous ride we noticed the front row in each car appeared to have a bit of extra room in front of the seats. We booked the two front seats so we could place our luggage in front of us. It didn't leave us much leg room but we were happy to be sitting with our luggage secure and out of the way of other train passengers. There is also a luggage rack above the seats but keep in mind this rack will only fit small suitcases, backpacks or duffel bags.
We were originally going to book the “Green Car” which is the Shinkansen's version of first class but tickets were already very expensive. If you have the extra cash and lots of luggage this may be the best bet as there is even more room in front of all the seats to keep large suitcases.
Other Shinkansen Questions Answered!
Are There Washrooms on the Shinkansen Bullet Train?
One of our burning questions was Are there Washrooms on the Shinkansen Bullet Trains? The answer is Yes! There were flush toilets and spacious bathrooms. They were NOT squat toilets either which Kashlee has yet to quite figure out! The bathrooms were clean and had soap, paper towel and running water. A reminder that the water on any train or plane is not for drinking or you may find yourself spending more time in the toilets then you had planned. Outside of the washrooms are another set of hand sinks and mirrors with good lighting in case you want a makeup refresh.
Are There Baby Changing Stations on the Shinkansen Bullet Train?
We don't have any children but we know there are lots of moms and dads out there following our blog so we made sure to have your back! Are there baby changing stations on the Shinkansen Bullet Train? The answer is Yes! I had a quick look over the baby changing station and it was in working order, clean and there was lots of extra space compared to that of a plane.
Can You Smoke on the Shinkansen Bullet Train?
Japan has a higher smoking population so we were concerned there could be smoking allowed on the trains. Can you smoke on the Shinkansen Bullet Train? The answer is No, except for designated smoking rooms. There are no cars designated as smoking cars but there are closed off smoking rooms that ventilate the smoke out of the train.
Is there food on the Shinkansen Bullet Train?
We LOVE food! So even before boarding we were wondering Is there food on the Shinkansen Bullet Train? The answer is YES but it is limited to a food cart that goes up and down the aisles. There is no dining or lounge car. We suggest grabbing some snacks and drinks from one of the many Kiosks that line the platform while you wait for your train.
Our Shinkansen Bullet Train Review
The Shinkansen Bullet Train in Japan is by far the fastest and most efficient way to travel within the country. The train was clean and the facilities were high quality and modern. The regular train seats were more comfortable than an economy plane seat. We highly suggest booking reserved seating tickets ahead of time which can be done online or at any Shinkansen train station. That way you know you will have a seat on board. Trains fill up fast so the earlier you can book the better. If you are doing more than one trip it's cheaper to get a JR Rail Pass which is good for 7 or 14 days. After getting the rail pass you can make seat reservations at any ticket counter.
Being in the non reserved train cars can be cramped and claustrophobic during peak times. There is no guarantee that you will get a seat and standing with a lot of luggage at your feet for hours could be hard for some. Even getting to the washroom could prove a difficult task requiring everyone to let you by.
I am a huge fan of efficiency and the Shinkansen is as good as it gets! We will definitely use it again next time we are in Japan but I will be sure that we have reserved seats. Make sure to bring the least amount of luggage you can. Space is limited and there is nobody designated to help you get your bag on or off the train.
If you have any questions about the Shinkansen ask below and we will be glad to help!
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