Motorized wheelchairs are great for going long distances and exploring outdoor tourist attractions with gravel like temples and shrines. However, many restaurants and businesses have a step or two at the entrance which may be too difficult to get up in a heavy motorized wheelchair. Manual wheelchairs have the advantage of being able to be carried up a step or two if needed, or put in the trunk of a taxi, but the long distances of traveling may tire some users out.
So, it will likely depend on your itinerary and interests.
Mobility scooters can be used to go long distances, but because they are still uncommon in Japan many rail lines have strict rules about usage. Please see this page for more information.
Nearly all train stations in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto are wheelchair accessible. While areas further out in the country are less likely to be accessible, many are becoming more accessible.
Station staff will help you get on and off your train. You can read more about the process here.
The bullet train is also wheelchair accessible but can require an advanced reservation for those requiring assistance. You can read about the Shinkansen here.
Mobility scooters are still uncommon in Japan and many rail lines have strict rules about usage. Please see this page for more information.
Domestic flights are generally accessible. As with any country, however, short charter flights often use small aircraft which may not have a baggage door large enough to accommodate a wheelchair that cannot fold. Be sure to contact the airline in advance to discuss your needs.
Low cost carrier flights should likely be avoided by wheelchair users as they often only use boarding stairs and not every airport has a boarding lift vehicle.
In many cities, side-loading taxis that resemble London Cabs are becoming fairly common and are often available at airports and large train stations. Manual wheelchair users can get in via a side ramp, however, motorized wheelchair users may not be able to fit in the door.
Rear-loading taxis that can accommodate motorized wheelchairs are available upon request from a growing number of taxi companies and are called “UD taxis”.
Full-sized lift equipped taxis are available, but will require advanced reservations and are generally run by individual operators.
While vans adapted with diving control are not available to rent, wheelchair accessible vans can be found at many rental companies.
These accessible vehicles, known as fukushi-sharyo, will need to be booked in advance and likely require direct communication with the rental company.
Nearly all buses in large urban areas are wheelchair accessible. While the accessible entrance is located in the middle of the bus, it is important to wait at the front of where the bus will stop to signal the driver. Read more here.
As with trains, mobile scooter riders may have difficulty with some bus companies.
Yes. However, the process to bring a support dog takes a long time and should be started well in advance. It should also be noted that Japan only recognizes support dogs for the visually impaired.
Please see this page for more information.
Japan has its own native sign language that is unrelated to other sign languages, therefore foreign sign languages are generally not understood.
Public transport (buses, trains, subways) often has a writing board for written communication if needed.
If you are interested in learning some Japanese sign language, you may want to check out this YouTube channel.
Staying in Japan
While hotels with over 50 rooms are required to have an accessible room, there are no firm guidelines on how an accessible room is to be designed. Therefore, there is quite a bit of variety between hotels.
In general, roll-in showers are very rare in Japan. Most rooms have a unit-bath (a bathroom constructed as a single unit) with a shower/bathtub combination. There is often a drain next to the bathtub and it can be possible to shower next to the bathtub with care.
See this post for more information.
In general, shower chairs are available at hotels with an accessible room. However, some may not have a shower chair, or only have a short (30cm) stool. It is best to contact the hotel in advance and ask for a picture of their shower chair.
The word “accessible” is not common in Japan, so you may find the accessible room listed as “barrier free room” or “universal (design) room” instead.
While the law requires hotels with over 50 rooms to have an accessible room, they are not required to advertise it and many hotels only list it on their Japanese website. Try contacting the hotel directly (but avoid using the word “accessible”), or ask in our forum.
Japanese hotels only allow the booking of accessible rooms by direct contact (phone or email). You will need to contact the hotel directly to book the room.
(We know, this is silly.)
Japan uses a different voltage than many other countries and your batteries might not charge correctly even if you have an plug adapter. Please read our page on voltage.
Cuisine in Japan
Unfortunately, you may have challenges both with entering and seating.
Many restaurants in Japan have a step or two at the entrance or are located in buildings without elevators. They are often also very small and may not have room for a wheelchair. Some restaurants, usually ramen restaurants, have fixed seats at a counter that cannot be removed.
Please read our page about finding accessible restaurants in Japan.
More and more restaurants have western cutlery and can provide a fork or spoon if needed. Most often have straws as well. However, both the cutlery and straws can be intended for children and therefore very small.
Restaurants serving noodles or sushi are less likely to have western cutlery.
Our accessible restaurants page provides some suggested solutions.
Accessible toilets, sometimes called multipurpose toilets, are fairly common in Japan.
Almost every department store or shopping mall will have one as will train and subway stations. If the toilet is on the other side of the ticket gate, the staff will let you use it if you ask.
Many accessible toilets in Japan have special colostomy/ostomy bag sinks. Look for this mark:
If you have any questions that are not addressed here, please ask in our forum. We often reply within 24hrs.