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Lugging luggage in Tokyo
September 15, 2010 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Tokyo trains: how inconvenient is it to lug luggage on the train/subway system?

My wife and I will be traveling in Japan next week. We're landing in Narita in mid-afternoon and going into Tokyo. I've never been there before. I've read that it can be "really inconvenient" to take suitcases on the subway. Is that true? We have one small-sized suitcase (under the overhead-bin size limit, if that helps) and one slightly larger. I'm actually more worried about inconveniencing others than ourselves, e.g. taking up too much space or bumping into people all the time. I can hold the small suitcase on my lap, but the bigger one probably has to be on the floor.

I've read that there are luggage delivery services, but I don't think that will work for us since they deliver the next day and we're going to a different town the following day anyway. Some people recommend taking the "Limousine Bus" from Narita instead of the trains, but for various reasons we would prefer the train.

Advice? Especially if you've done something similar in the past! Thanks.
posted by Maximian to Travel & Transportation around Tokyo, Japan (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Friends and I did just this last fall- Keisei line from and to Narita, all over Tokyo and around the country with moderately large rolling suitcases, one case per person. It was a bit of a pain in the ass but we never had any real trouble, even on crowded subways, and if we inconvenienced anyone significantly, they were too polite to say so.
posted by moonmilk at 12:06 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've traveled to Japan twice, both times taking a couple of fairly large suitcases. It can be a bit annoying when you are using a subway entrance/exit that doesn't have an escalator, so make sure you are able to physically lift your suitcase and carry it up a few flights of stairs if you have to.

Once you get onto the subway you should be fine, as long as you're not travelling at rush hour. There's no reason taking suitcases on the subway in Tokyo would be any less convenient than taking them on any other subway system.
posted by Gortuk at 12:13 PM on September 15, 2010


Traveled through Tokyo, Hiroshima and Niigata with an overly large backpack a smaller backpack and tent by myself. The Express train from Narita has luggage racks similar to an Amtrak train, the subway will be a a bit of a pain but if it's not the height of rush hour it's not that big a deal.
posted by kanemano at 12:14 PM on September 15, 2010


In cities where public transportation dominates, people are used to folks lugging big stuff on the subway from time to time. It's kind of annoying, but people deal with it. I regularly went back and forth on the Keisei line with big suitcases (mid-morning and late evening) and it was okay.

If you really want to take the train, maybe the only advice is to learn how to say "I'm sorry" (go-men-nasai) and "Excuse me" (sumi-ma-sen) and smile?
posted by *s at 12:29 PM on September 15, 2010


Thanks for the advice. I do speak some Japanese, so hopefully that will help smooth things over if necessary. Mostly I wanted to make sure I wouldn't be the jackass foreigner making others' lives unnecessarily difficult.

We pack fairly light and can carry our stuff up and down stairs, so I think we'll be ok.
posted by Maximian at 12:34 PM on September 15, 2010


You'll be fine. You have to be virtually psychic to detect outward signs of inconvenience to others in Tokyo (save for fierce old ladies).

As a side note, I had a friend who incorrectly learned sumimasen as yomimasen (I can't read) and spent 3 months telling Everyone of his illiteracy (on the train, at restaurants, etc) before he was finally corrected.
posted by ejoey at 1:27 PM on September 15, 2010


The luggage delivery service was great for getting my folding bike to the airport - with the padding it was bulky, heavy, and I seriously couldn't have managed that plus my other luggage all by myself. Otherwise, everyone takes the subway trains, it's normal to see people with suitcases in there.
posted by lizbunny at 1:34 PM on September 15, 2010


Recently a lot of Japanese people (especially younger women) have started using carryon sized luggage to carry their stuff for the day. In just this past week, three different teachers in my office have come to school with the wheeled bags, and they're travelling at the height of rush hour, so you don't need to worry about it.

There are things you can do/not do to make it better. There are luggage racks above the seats, but there are also rails in front of them, with straps hanging from them for handles. This makes it pretty awkward to put larger/carryon sized bags up, or to take them down. If the train is crowded, and you try to put a bag up, or take it down, you'll probably hit someone in the head with it, so you should avoid that. If at all possible, to take up the least space, see if your carryon will fit on top of your larger suitcase. If it's not stable, forget it, but if it works, it might help.

The other thing you might try is to avoid rush hour. That would be the hands down easiest way to do it. Still, people have bags on the train at all hours. You should be fine.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:05 PM on September 15, 2010


Did it last fall. It was really no big deal.
posted by Eshkol at 2:34 PM on September 15, 2010


Having returned from my trip, I can report that there were no problems. The turnstiles are wide enough to admit normal-sized suitcases, there are plenty of luggage racks, and the transit system was less crowded than I had anticipated. The least convenient maneuvers involved pulling the suitcases behind us on crowded, narrow sidewalks.

If anyone else is reading this in preparation to take their luggage on Japanese trains, make sure to take smallish suitcases and pack light, because you will have to lug things up and down staircases. I'm glad we left the big hard-sided suitcase at home and went with two smaller ones.
posted by Maximian at 9:53 PM on October 2, 2010


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