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Thread: Accessibility in Japan?

  1. #1

    Default Accessibility in Japan?

    So my sister is planning to visit me this upcoming year while I am on JET. She has a severe neurological disease with a very long name that is similar to multiple sclerosis. It essentially means that her limbs basically stop working intermittently. Sometimes it is so severe that she needs to use a wheelchair and she almost always needs to at least use a cane. Having only been to Japan once before and only seeing major cities, I don't really know how much difficulty she might have traveling around Japan.

    When I think about it, I just see tons of issues such as:
    -Difficulty navigating busy train stations in a wheelchair due to congestion.
    -Inability to see a lot of the natural sights since walking is hard (no Mt. Fuji climbs, no Fushimi Inari past the base, etc.).
    -My apartment building is so old it likely won't have an elevator.

    Normally she doesn't have huge problems on vacation as we can stick to bus tours or get a taxi, but I found that Japan was very much a walking/public transport country and many of the sights would be impossible on a bus. Are there accessible taxis in Japan for handicapped people? I don't know if she'll require a wheelchair for sure when she comes, but it would definitely be nice to have done a bit of research in the case that she does.

  2. #2
    Feckless Manchild Otaku word's Avatar
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    Default Re: Accessibility in Japan?

    Most taxi drivers would probably be extremely accommodating of a handicapped person--might even be accustomed to it, given the large population of senior citizens (although her foreign-ness might throw 'em). Japan is a mixed bag when it comes to accessibility, but in a way that I think lots of handicapped people in the 'States would probably appreciate: it doesn't infantilize them. It tends to expect the handicapped to meet them halfway. I think you'll find that she'll be just fine.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Accessibility in Japan?

    I'm on my phone right now, so I'll have to edit this when I get to my computer, but I lived outside of Tokyo (and traveled to Kyoto/Osaka) a few years ago and relied on a wheelchair about 90% of the time and used crutches if I wasn't in the wheelchair. For the most part I was able to get around pretty easily. I have a lot of bookmarks with the accessibility for train stations and subways for most major cities that I'll post here. Also not sure where you'll be traveling but I also have sites of cultural attractions and their accessibility levels.

    Aside from small shops/restaurants that I had to leave my wheelchair outside to go in, most places weren't terrible to navigate in a wheelchair.

    For trains, there are 2 options. You can ask for assistance when you go through the ticket gates and let the attendant know your destination. This option takes longer because they'll call ahead to the station you'll get off at and make sure they'll be ready with a ramp, as well as getting the ramp for you to get on the train. This usually adds about 30 min to the trip in my experience.
    Option 2 (what I normally did), when they ask if you need assistance at the ticket gate just say "jibun de daijoubu" or "I'm fine on my own". With this option you won't have access to the ramp, but except for Osaka, the gap between the track and the train was never too much for me to pop a wheelie and jump up/down it. Obviously if it's crowded having someone to help push helps.
    Also at the very front or back of the train there's usually more room for a wheelchair, otherwise you pretty much have to sit next to the doors which isn't horrible unless it's rush hour.

    Sorry if this is rambling, if you have any specific questions feel free to ask. I'll add the links to all of the resources I found once I'm at my computer.

    Edit:

    Here are the sites I was mentioning:
    Japan Accessible Tourism Center - Lists the accessibility of major cities and areas, also has some information on accessible transportation for each area.
    Wheelchair accessible station guide - List of JR stations around Tokyo and if they have elevators/wheelchair lifts. From the site above, they probably also have similar lists for the other regions/major cities.
    Tokyo Metro Barrier Free PDF - All in Japanese (couldn't find the English one again) but this has accessibility info for all of Tokyo Metro Subways.
    JR East Station Accessibility / Map PDF - Again in Japanese, and same as above but for the accessibility of JR East stations/trains.


    If I find the English maps I'll post the links.
    Also as you can see, "barrier free" is basically the same as handicap accessible, so searching for/asking about that will probably help.
    Last edited by Elysi; July 21st, 2015 at 12:49.

  4. #4
    read half. react. BifCarbet's Avatar
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    Default Re: Accessibility in Japan?

    I nominate this post for Most Useful Post of 2015.
    車庫 B1F

  5. #5

    Default Re: Accessibility in Japan?

    Quote Originally Posted by Elysi View Post
    I'm on my phone right now, so I'll have to edit this when I get to my computer, but I lived outside of Tokyo (and traveled to Kyoto/Osaka) a few years ago and relied on a wheelchair about 90% of the time and used crutches if I wasn't in the wheelchair. For the most part I was able to get around pretty easily. I have a lot of bookmarks with the accessibility for train stations and subways for most major cities that I'll post here. Also not sure where you'll be traveling but I also have sites of cultural attractions and their accessibility levels.

    Aside from small shops/restaurants that I had to leave my wheelchair outside to go in, most places weren't terrible to navigate in a wheelchair.

    For trains, there's 2 options: asking for assistance when you go through the ticket gates and letting the attendant know your destination. This option takes longer because they'll call ahead to the station you'll get off at and make sure they'll be ready with a ramp, as well as getting the ramp for you to get on the train. This usually adds about 30 min to the trip in my experience.
    Option 2 (what I normally did), when they ask if you need assistance at the ticket gate just say "jibun de daijoubu" or "I'm fine on my own". With this option you won't have access to the ramp, but except for Osaka, the gap between the track and the train was never too much for me to pop a wheelie and jump up/down it. Obviously if it's crowded having someone to help push helps.
    Also at the very front or back of the train there's usually more room for a wheelchair, otherwise you pretty much have to sit next to the doors which isn't horrible unless it's rush hour.

    Sorry if this is rambling, if you have any specific questions feel free to ask. I'll add the links to all of the resources I found once I'm at my computer.
    That's actually very helpful. It doesn't sound as bad as I thought it would be.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Accessibility in Japan?

    On of my predecessors had ACL reconstructive surgery here. As a consequence, he got to know the local taxi driver pretty well. Since then, a taxi van for the disabled has started running in the area. There are taxis that operate fairly far out into the boonies for people who use wheelchairs - however, they might be more of a scheduled service rather than a call service. (I don't have much experience other than seeing them out on the road.)

    One of my Japanese friends uses crutches due to MD. As long as there isn't more than a single flight of stairs he's fine. Although some of the stairwells that don't have proper banisters/handrails give him trouble.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Accessibility in Japan?

    Edited my post to add the links. Also just for something that's a little better worded/put together, here's a post I made on another site a few years ago in response to someone asking about visiting Japan in a wheelchair.

    For the most part getting around, even on my own, was fine with a little bit of planning. I'd say planning, and some good upper body strength are two musts for traveling Japan in a wheelchair. The hills were sometimes a killer/deal breaker when I was alone.

    For trains, it's a must to know where you will be getting off at. The attendants will want to call ahead to let the station know you will be coming, which usually results in waiting an extra 30 min or longer to be helped on and off of trains. I mostly avoided this by having people with me to push my chair on the train (after I've stepped on if needed), or after a while I just got used to jumping on and off by myself. There were only a few cases where the step was too high for me to get on without getting up and lifting my wheelchair on. And only once did I almost get stuck between the train and the platform because I let my casters down a little too soon over a larger gap.
    If you are comfortable jumping on and off trains like I did, a useful phrase will be "jibun de daijoubu", basically I'm fine by myself. When going through the ticket gates there's usually an attendant and here you can either ask for assistance if you need it, or let them know you're fine on your own. Sometimes I got a few curious looks from the locals, and when I did need a little help there was always more than willing, but I found this method a little more liberating and definitely saved some time. And trains were definitely more accessible than the subways in my experience, but I didn't ride very many subways either.

    Also if you are traveling in the bigger cities I would strongly recommend avoiding rush hours. I would mostly sit in the door area on trains if I couldn't find/make it to the car that had a space for a wheelchair (usually in the very front or back of the train), but during rush hour this was a nightmare. On the few occasions I couldn't wait for it to pass or take one of the local trains (Tip: learn which trains are local, semi-express, or express, this will save you from missing a stop or saving a lot of time) I would often be in the way of several people pushing their way to get off before the doors closed or missing another train. And getting off to let the others get off and then get back on is never really an option. So if you aren't in a hurry, and you need to get somewhere during rush hour take the local trains (stop at every stop) takes longer but they are absolutely dead during rush hour.

    Not sure how good your Japanese reading skills are, but these are some good resources for the accessible train stations and subways in Tokyo: JR trains: http://www.jreast.co.jp/setsubi/pdf/...r-free-all.pdf
    Main page: http://www.jreast.co.jp/setsubi/
    Subways: http://www.tokyometro.jp/safety/barr...arrierfree.pdf
    English version of the map: http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/subwayma...outemap_en.pdf
    As far as site seeing, I found this website to be useful as a general guide: http://www.japan-accessible.com/index.htm
    Also there are these: http://www.japan-accessible.com/transport/jr/kanto.htm
    for pretty much any major station, great if you can't read the jumbled Japanese maps.
    And of course a necessity for anyone visiting Japan: http://www.jorudan.co.jp/english/ a guide to navigating the railways. Having this, plus knowing which stations are accessible made all the difference in the world. Pretty much takes the hard part out of navigating Japan in a wheelchair.

    Other than the trains and some inaccessible shops, there weren't any major things that I noticed. Granted this was mainly in large cities, so the country side is probably vastly different.
    Also in regards to hotels, I wouldn't be able to comment since I stayed in a dorm, and then a youth hostel when I traveled to Osaka. But I would say it should be pretty accessible. The only thing that might cause an issue is any traditional hotels/places where you are required to take your shoes off. At my dorm, I had the choice of cleaning my wheels each time I came in if I wanted to use my wheelchair inside, but instead I just used crutches. At the hostel, they didn't mind me using my wheelchair straight from outside.

  8. #8
    Gizmoduck - blatherskite Gizmotech's Avatar
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    Default Re: Accessibility in Japan?

    Elsy just for clarification is this coming from the perspective of a temporary wheelchair user or a full time wheelchair user?
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  9. #9

    Default Re: Accessibility in Japan?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gizmotech View Post
    Elsy just for clarification is this coming from the perspective of a temporary wheelchair user or a full time wheelchair user?
    I no no longer use a wheelchair now. So I guess this POV is from a temporary wheelchair user, as I could get up and walk a little when I needed. However I didn't know that I would no longer need a wheelchair a few years later, so I guess you could say it was also permanent? Not sure entirely how to explain it because my situation is kind of different. I was a full time wheelchair user except for short distances for ~3 years before going to Japan (and used crutches full time for 10-11 years before that). Now I just very occasionally use a cane.

    Hopefully that answers your question.

  10. #10
    Gizmoduck - blatherskite Gizmotech's Avatar
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    Default Re: Accessibility in Japan?

    Basically ya. The point is you were familliar with using a wheel chair as an expert user, rather than perhaps a temporary user. It adds contexts if someone else reads this so they can understand your perspective
    Quote Originally Posted by Cytrix View Post
    Organising anything with ALTs is like herding cats on catnip

    Quote Originally Posted by Antonath View Post
    We Jeeperneez are express all emotion through money. Wedding is happy money. Funeral is sad money. Izakaya is friendship money. Girl-bar is almost-sex money. But babby-borning is bery happy money, as no babby in Japan. All babby is special so we is givings much money as presento for babby.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Accessibility in Japan?

    Ah I understand what you were asking now. Apparantly reading comprehension at 3 in the morning isn't my strong suit.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Accessibility in Japan?

    Thanks again for all the help Elysi. It sounds like it won't be as hard as I expected. She should be fine on her own most of the time. On bad days when she needs the wheelchair, all her limbs are non-functioning so she can't even move herself around effectively herself. I guess I'll just have to go around with her to push when those days show up.

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