Shinkansen to require reservations for large suitcases from next May

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

The great thing about the shinkansen, Japan’s bullet train network, isn’t just how fast the trains move, but how convenient they are to use for long-haul travel. If you’re an overseas traveler in Japan, odds are you’re going to have a suitcase or two with you, so it’s especially nice that on the shinkansen there are no baggage check-in procedures or luggage fees to deal with.

Well, it was especially nice. Unfortunately, the free shinkansen ride for all luggage is about to become a thing of the past on the most popular shinkansen lines. Starting in May, passengers planning to take “large suitcases” aboard will have to make reservations for their luggage ahead of time on the Tokkaido Shinkansen, which runs between Tokyo and Shin Osaka, and includes the stop in perennial traveler favorite Kyoto. The restriction will also be introduced on the Sanyo Shinkansen (which runs from Shin Osaka to Hakata, in Fukuoka, and includes Himeji and Hiroshima) and the Kyushu Shinkansen (which runs from Hakata to Kagoshima Chuo).

Bringing a large suitcase onto the train won’t automatically incur an extra fee, but it will lock you out of the most affordable seats. That’s because to reserve a spot for a large suitcase, you also have to be traveling by a reserved-seat ticket, which costs a premium over the less expensive non-reserved-seat tickets. Luggage reservations can be made online or at Shinkansen station service counters, but should you fail to make a reservation before getting on the train, you’ll have to pay a 1,000-yen penalty fee if you want to take your bag with you, as opposed to just leaving it on the platform and tearfully waving goodbye as you zoom off to your next destination.

OK, but what if you show up with a non-reserved-seat ticket and large suitcase? You’ll once again be asked to pay the 1,000-yen penalty, and also to upgrade to a more expensive reserved-seat ticket for an extra 520 yen. Shinkansen operators are currently vague on what will happen if there are no more reserved-seat tickets left, but the assumption is that you’ll be told to wait for the next train, while keeping your fingers crossed that it has available reserved seats.

For purposes of the new regulations, “large suitcases” are described as those with collective length, width, and depth measurements between 160 and 250 centimeters. For reference, Japan Airlines’ size limit for carry-on luggage is 55 x 40 x 25 centimeters, total dimensions of 120 centimeters, and the 28-inch suitcase from AmazonBasics pictured below has total dimensions that work out to roughly 159.8 centimeters, depending on how you round.

Shinkansen operators plan to install measuring tables near Shinkansen gates so that you can check whether or not you’ll need to reserve a space for your bag.

JR Tokai (also known as Central Japan Railway Company), JR West, and JR Kyushu, the operators of the Tokkaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu Shinkansen lines, say the change is being implemented as part of increased safety measures for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, though it’s unclear how the events will constitute a safety issue in Kyushu, on the opposite side of the country from the Games’ Tokyo venues, two months before the opening ceremony takes place.

Aside from the hassles of measuring bags, making reservations, and paying extra fees, the fact that large suitcases will be kept in a locked compartment implies a lengthier boarding/exiting process as staff members verify passengers have made reservations when getting on, and passengers wait for the compartments to be unlocked so they can retrieve their luggage before getting off. Nevertheless, JR Tokai president Shin Kaneko is confident that passengers will not only be accepting of the new system, but actually welcome it. “Under the new system, a need to make reservations for luggage will come about, but the place where the bags are kept is secure, so I think passengers with large suitcases will be happy about it.”

All those who would be happier to not have to deal with all that, though, will also be happy to know that JR East, which operates the Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen lines (which run from Tokyo to Shin Aomori and from Omiya to Niigata) has announced no plans to require baggage reservations or fees, nor has the Hokuriku line (Takasaki to Kanazawa).

Sources: NHK News Web via Jin, Travel and Leisure

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- The ultimate Shinkansen trip: Riding Japan’s bullet train network from one end to the other

-- Shinkansen travel tip: A clever way to keep your suitcase from rolling around on the bullet train

-- Japan’s newest Shinkansen is world’s fastest gallery, packed with contemporary art inside and out

© SoraNews24

©2023 GPlusMedia Inc.

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I think this is a wretched idea. A real hassle and unnecessary as there is enough space for a suitcase between rows of seats if you don’t mind squeezing your knees together a bit.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

I think this is a wretched idea. A real hassle and unnecessary as there is enough space for a suitcase between rows of seats if you don’t mind squeezing your knees together a bit.

Yeah right and what about the person sitting next to you, your luggage is going to take their space, and you are not going to sit there for hours with your knees jammed behind a suitcase.

You would rather be a pain to those around you than make things easier on everyone else!

3 ( +8 / -5 )

One thing I noticed as that a lot of people don't use the overhead shelves right above the seats and many of them have lots of open space on them even in non-reserved carriages.

I know large suitcases can be a bit tough to lift up over your head but I think JR encouraging passengers to use them is a better idea than making everyone have to pay for reserved seats if they have a large suitcase.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

You would rather be a pain to those around you than make things easier on everyone else!

I wouldn’t dream of invading a stranger’s space. I was simply thinking of when I travel with the missus.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Just in time for the Olympics!

{cough} money grab {cough}

5 ( +7 / -2 )

If the care so much about making customers happy, why not simply provide an area on the trains for large luggage as in other countries?

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Terrible idea, waste of time, waste of human resources dealing with it. If extra money is what they want, why not just keep the current process (to save time), but charge extra fee when buying a ticket for the number of large suitcase accompanying the passenger (like the budget airlines do).

I am guessing this is a halfway step to ease travellers into full paying later.

One of the most satisfying and pleasurable part of travelling by Shinkansen is how quick, flawless and expedient it is, in not having to deal with the likes of Jetstar Airline checkin staff or wait to collect luggage. I guess all that will be gone with this silly idea.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Shinkansen lines, say the change is being implemented as part of increased safety measures for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, though it’s unclear how the events will constitute a safety issue in Kyushu

Safety measures? It's all about making quick money that's it. Don't mix with safety measures.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

...the Kyushu Shinkansen (which runs from Hakata to Kagoshima Chuo)

,Most travelling international in Kyushu use Hakata airport and then the Shinkansen to points South, so there is much luggage. I think this is a good idea - the fee is low enough that it's clear it's a deterrent, not a profit source.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

How about rinko bags?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I can see luggage being a problem when the trains are very busy, but that's only part of the time on some of the lines.

Like proxy says, a concern would be bike bags. You can send a suitcase cheaply with Black Cat, but bikes cost a fortune because couriers are terrified of damaging them.

3 ( +3 / -0 )


How do you score a JR pass if you're not a tourist and living in Japan?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Total nonsense. Make train slower, more affordable and more comfortable for everybody not only for damn salarymen. All of a sudden Japan woke up as a touristic country and now it realizes he does not have the slightest touristic attitude and infrastructure... This is the nonsense of these world-wide boasted super-fast super-technologic super-luxury super-expensive Japanese transport services... they are made for rich and specific people. And then the train stops for a heavy rain, a strong wind or a fly that topped on the railway. The same happens for city transport system: every tried to go to the airport by train from Tokyo? People look a you and at your luggages just like you entered in a church nude or dressed for Halloween... Trains are made for people, not specific users! Get them ready for that!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )


Why do I get the feeling that people will just divide their "large" suitcases into "non-large" bags to avoid the charge.

Also, for any foreign tourists traveling to Japan on JR Pass, they can book seats in a Reserved (Shiteiseki) car, so they are covered. Of course, they can't travel on Nozomi trains, but....

And there is a simple explanation as to why JREast hasn't implemented this. It's called "Winter" and the bags associated with skiers / snowboarders. Which is not an issue for JR Tokai, etc.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Travelled many times on the Shinkansen and never seen any space where they could possibly store this additional luggage.

There are a lot of reserved seats on these trains, a pre-condition for travelling with over-sized luggage, so potentially you would need a lot of reserved space for this luggage.

Hopefully you also get to sit near your luggage - and not walk half the length of the train.

Guess it‘s going to make those annoying announcements on the train even longer!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Many Japanese use delivery services to transport large bags here and there in Japan.

Foreigners, with large bags, hould pay more if they want to uses a service that is as fast as a plane and more convenient!

1 ( +1 / -0 )


no it's not a misnomer, read the story again, the operative word is 'collective', ie measured with wheels and handles (to fit inside a measurement cage), and also note the example measurement of a cabin bag. My Maxsmart (made in Japan) 52L case, which is a mid size case just nudges the 159cm limit, despite official Maxsmart collective dimension of 132cm.

My take is travelling salesman with mid size case will also be caught up, whilst tourists might find it easier and cheaper to use a ta-q-bin.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just install a dang luggage rack in each carriage, for crying out loud it's not that difficult.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This is about the same as most networks. I can see the dilemma, as people travel more and take more with them, suitcases have grown from medium sized, to, in some cases enormous trunks on wheels. The railway companies in Japan have probably realised that one of these cases is surmountable to a full sized person essentially riding for free and taking up space that could be used for a fare paying passenger.  

I know how annoyed I get when your trying to find a seat on a train and all the spare ones are filled up with luggage, its a nightmare. I see no problem with this if is frees up seats. Also they did say It was going to be free so I cant see the harm!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As I read the article and then many of the posts, no question it will lead to more costs further down the line. Recall that's how it started with the airlines and now look at their bottom line profit margin. I have ridden in Shinkansen on many occasions and have seen the oversized luggage but most are all kept when boarding vs the seats. I have never had any issues even on a packed train. I see no reason aside profit margin for the additional cost on top of the 10% 1 Oct.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Knowing the tight schedule that the Shinkansen runs, it is impossible to have a storage car or large storage compartment as there will not be enough time for loading and unloading large numbers of luggage, especially big ones. It is different from a bus or the airplane and as a transportation system it was not designed for luggage but for people. That is for now what is should be. It is a people transport. The new system is opening up a can of worms.

The freeway and the luggage handling service which companies like Yamato runs a most efficient door to door delivery service. All travelers can survive with a hand-carry or a backpack between hotels. The only problem probably between harbors and airports to hotels where one needs their luggage with them or be at the hotel when they arrive. The trains from airports already have a luggage area.

Reservation system will help the rail system with the numbers of luggage and the time factor but that will open a major problem with monitoring and processing "claims" from mishandling and errors and from other riders that are hurt or disturbed by the luggage being in the way when they were expecting a nice comfortable trip.

One idea may be for Shinkansen limited the number of large luggage on certain luxury trains like Nozomi and apply the new rule to others. In that way local as well as foreign riders may enjoy a better trip. They at least know what to expect when they plan their trip.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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