By Anne de Ridder

In June 2023 I took my first trip to Japan. It was also my first international trip traveling with my three-wheel Pride GoGo Traveller Elite mobility scooter and only the second trip where I’ve taken my mobility scooter with me. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004 and have had decreasing mobility on my left side. I am able to walk, but not over sustained distances and now only with the assistance of Bioness thigh and knee cuffs and a walking crutch.

My husband and I have wanted to visit Japan for at least 20 years and had an opportunity to join a nine-day educational tour as participants along with our son. My mobility isn’t going to improve, and in the wake of the global pandemic, I’ve embraced a “no time like the present” attitude. For those of you who are avid travelers, I hope the information I’ll share here about my experience with accessibility in Japan helps you, and for those of you hesitant to travel, I hope it inspires you to give it a try.

During our trip we visited Tokyo, Yokohama, Hiroshima, and Osaka, and traveled by plane (to/from), tour bus, bullet train (shinkansen), ferry, and boat. Overall, I found all of the cities and sites we visited to be extremely accessible. You can find a full list of sites I visited with notes at the end of this blog.

Japan felt both familiar and completely foreign at the same time. Everyone was polite and everywhere we went was noticeably clean. With the assistance of Google translate and knowledge of a few key Japanese phrases, we were easily able to get around on our own. We weren’t ready to leave at the end of nine days and can’t wait to go back.

A few notes:

  • Transportation: As we were with a tour, we had our own bus for getting between major locations; so, I unfortunately didn’t get experience with taxis, car shares, or local transportation options.

  • Hotel accommodations: I also did not request an accessible room at any of the hotels we stayed at. Non-accessible rooms had a bathtub/shower combination, and the bathtubs had very high sides. It was especially tricky to get out once I got in! All hotel elevators easily fit my scooter and at least two other people, and it was easy to navigate hallways, lobbies, and breakfast rooms. I rolled my scooter into the entrance of our room every night and charged the battery nightly.
Anne de Ridder in her mobility scooter with her husband in a Japanese garden

Getting to and from Japan

The most complex aspect of traveling with a mobility scooter is air travel and, if you’re prepared and give yourself extra time, it isn’t really all that complex. The top suggestion I can offer here is to bring a spec sheet about your scooter with you, specifically one with details about your battery including battery type and amperage. Going through security in Osaka to return home, I spent about thirty minutes waiting as the security team evaluated my dry cell battery (actually a sealed lead acid battery) to deem that it wasn’t a risk. I did not have a spec sheet with me so I spent quite a bit of time Googling battery specs to answer their questions.

Here are a few other tips about traveling with your scooter.

  • Two or more days ahead of your trip, call the airline to notify them that you’ll be taking your scooter and have them add it to all legs of your trip and reservation.

  • When you arrive at the airport visit the special assistance ticketing desk for your airline. Here they will tag your scooter for the trip and talk to you about any requirements for boarding and retrieving your scooter. You will need to know your scooter dimensions (length, width, height), weight of scooter with battery, and battery type and amperage.

    If you have a connecting flight and need your scooter during a layover, tell them here so they can have your scooter ready for you at the door when you get off the plane. The airport in Narita, Japan, has a lift to help airline personnel transport your scooter to/from the plane during loading. The Osaka, Japan, airport does not. We were able to talk with the Air Canada supervisor in Osaka, and he was incredibly helpful, figuring out a way to support all of my needs and his operational challenges. My scooter even got its own crate under the plane on the way home!

  • Be sure to check in at your gate about thirty minutes before your flight. The gate agents will double-check the tags on your scooter, ask for all the same scooter details again, and then call you to the gate for pre-boarding. I rode my scooter right up to the plane door. I did have to disconnect my battery, but did not have to take it on the plane. It and my fully assembled scooter, both tagged, went under the plane.
Anne de Ridder in her mobility scooter with deer from Miyajima in Hiroshima

Getting Around in Japan

In every city we visited, we had several hours each day where we could explore freely. Navigating city sidewalks in Japan was incredibly easy. The sidewalks were fairly wide, all had curb cuts, and I was able to move at the same pace as everyone around me. People were aware of me, but I was just another person in the city going about their day.

In all major shopping malls we visited, there were designated priority elevators for those of us who need more physical space and time to get in/out. People did give me priority at these and other elevators we encountered around the city.

Every attraction we visited had accessible entrances and pathways, and almost all of the locations we visited also had docents or staff dedicated to helping anyone with accessibility needs.

There were clean, dedicated, fully-accessible public bathrooms everywhere, not just at the attractions we visited. It was a welcome surprise!

Navigating Terrain and Battery Life

My GoGo Elite went everywhere! I easily navigated paved, cobblestone, and unpaved, packed earth paths with ease. My scooter was challenged by very steep hills, which also used a lot of battery power, but it did make it everywhere I wanted to go, and the battery was able to last all day. I recharged the battery every night in the hotel room, with the exception of one night when I accidentally sent the charger ahead to Osaka with our luggage. That first day in Osaka was stressful because my battery level was low to begin with, and my husband did push me around while I was in neutral in several places so we could conserve battery power.

Taking the Bullet Train (Shinkansen)

During our trip we took the bullet train from Tokyo to Hiroshima and then from Hiroshima to Osaka. Here are a few takeaways from that experience:

  • Anne's mobility scooter behind the last seats in the Shinkansen bullet train carriageYou are allowed to drive your scooter on the main levels of each station, but not on the platform level where the trains are. You’re allowed to stay on your scooter while on the platform, but must be manually pushed. I did not ask, but I believe this is for safety reasons. Once I got off the elevator at the platform level, I put my scooter in neutral and steered while my husband pushed me to our gate.

  • You have a very short time window to get on/off the train, and our first trip from Tokyo to Hiroshima was very stressful because we didn’t know what to expect. However, after that we felt like pros, and it wasn’t stressful at all the second time.

  • Be sure to reserve seats on the train. Supposedly people with tickets but not reserved seats have to “stand,” but I didn’t see anyone do that. This came up in a discussion about what would happen if we got separated from the group and missed our train.

    The bullet train does have a dedicated accessible car and then certain seats in other cars with extra storage space. I did not see or experience the accessible car as our tour group had reserved seats in another car. My seat included the extra storage space area, and I was able to easily roll my scooter into that area. Overall the train car aisles and seats are well-spaced, but the overhead storage area isn’t intended for large luggage, which is why we sent our luggage ahead.

  • In Tokyo, there was a height difference between the platform and the train, while in Hiroshima and Osaka there was not. As I didn’t go in the accessible car, I’m not sure how they accommodate this difference. I have the luxury of being able to walk, so I navigated getting on/off the train by foot, and my husband helped to lift and roll my scooter on/off the train. A Japanese passenger did try to help us get my scooter on the train in Tokyo only for us to discover we were getting on the wrong train! Ah, travel adventures.
Anne's mobility scooter behind the last seats in the Shinkansen bullet train carriage

Looking Forward to My Next Adventure

I was incredibly anxious about traveling with my mobility scooter because the whole experience was new to me. I actually did a short domestic trip with my scooter several weeks before our trip to Japan to understand what I was getting into. I also reached out to the wonderfully supportive The World is Accessible Facebook group ahead of my trips and am so grateful to everyone who shared their experiences and tips about traveling with a mobility scooter. The trip itself was an incredible, positive experience. I could not have enjoyed my trip to Japan without the assistance of my scooter (and my wonderful husband!). We can’t wait to go back and now have the global travel bug, with lots of grand ideas about where we should visit next.

Places and Attractions I Visited in Japan

Overall I found each city we visited easy to navigate on my scooter. In addition to the attractions listed below, we spent time exploring different neighborhoods in each city on our own. There were also some activities that our group participated in that I did not list here including a traditional japanese tea ceremony and a taiko drum lesson.


  • Odaiba: DiverCity Tokyo Plaza
    • This is the location of the unicorn gundam statue, which is outside of a large shopping mall. The plaza and mall were fully accessible.

  • Shibuya: Harajuku District
    • Sidewalks and streets were easy to navigate. I did not take my scooter into any stores or restaurants here. When I did go into a restaurant I parked my scooter along with bicycles or in open spaces close to where we were and out of the flow of traffic.

  • Taito:
    • Asakusa District; Senso-ji temple
      We spent time in the temple courtyard and neighborhood around the temple. I did not go into the temple, so I cannot comment on accessibility inside.
    • Uneo District; Tokyo National Museum
      The museum grounds and museum were extremely accessible. I rode my scooter throughout our visit without issue.

  • Koganei: Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum and Garden
    • The paths at this park were unpaved packed earth that was easy for my scooter to drive on. The main entrance is accessible and they offer manual wheelchairs for anyone who needs one. As you move through the garden you encounter relocated historical buildings, many of which you’re allowed to go in. The majority were not accessible except by foot, though there were docents throughout the park that led me to those where I was allowed to bring my scooter. One “street” in the garden was the inspiration for Studio Ghibli’s movie, Spirited Away.


  • Yamashita Park: The park and path along the waterfront were beautiful, easy to navigate, and had dedicated accessible bathrooms. The park is also the location of the Hikawa Maru ocean liner. I missed the boat and museum tour with our group. However, entrance is free for people with disabilities and one caregiver. My group said accessible access on the boat itself was limited due to the nature of the ship’s structure.

  • Cup Noodle Museum: The museum supports self-guided exploration of several different floors. It offers elevator access, wide and easy to navigate walkways throughout the museum exhibits, and accessible bathrooms.


  • Peace Memorial Park: The park and museum are fully accessible and easy to navigate.

  • Miyajima Island:
    • Ferry: The ferry to Miyajima Island offers an enclosed, air conditioned, accessible seating area on the main level. I chose to leave my scooter down on the main level and make my way to the upper passenger levels.
    • Miyajima Island: This was one of the highlights of our trip. The town, shops, and monuments were easy to navigate by scooter. There were also public accessible bathrooms. The main road is paved, and my husband and I followed it up and deeper into the nature park. The road was a bit steep in parts pushing my scooter to its power limits, but I made it with no issues and even chose to do a bit of trail navigating in designated spots.
    • Itsukushima Shrine: The walkways through the shrine were wide and easy to navigate; sloped ramps enabled easy movement between offset walkway levels.

  • Mazda Museum: I was able to use my scooter throughout the entire museum and manufacturing tour. There is a special elevator that a staff member will help you take up to the manufacturing level.

  • Hiroshima Shukkeien Garden: This beautiful garden has many accessible paths, though none go completely around the garden.


  • Osaka Castle: The paths into the castle and the plazas were a combination of stone pavers and unpaved packed earth. There is a very steep entrance into the main castle grounds that took a lot of scooter and battery power. Once at the castle, there is a special elevator outside for those needing assistance getting up to the main level. Then within the castle itself, there is another elevator to take you to each floor. A staff member operates both elevators, which are only available to people needing assistance.

  • Osaka Castle Boat Tour: This tour is not accessible by scooter or wheelchair. I ended up leaving my scooter at the admissions office and walking down to and on/off the boat with assistance from my husband due to the steep grade.

Join Anne on further adventures by following her on Facebook at, or on Instagram at

Be sure to leave a comment (below the giant Gundam 👇).  If you have any questions about bringing a scooter to Japan, or anything else, come join the Japan group on tabifolk and ask!

Anne de Ridder in her mobility scooter with a giant Gundam
Categories: Uncategorized

1 Comment


dass · September 21, 2023 at 9:20 pm

Going to Japan next week for the first time, with my mobility scooter. Your write up was helpful and comforting. Thanks for doing it.

Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Have a Question? Ask us on Tabifolk

Skip to content