News has come out of some of the Japan Railways companies that I think warrants special attention. Starting in May 2020, if you plan on bringing large luggage onto the Tokaido, San’yo and Kyushu Shinkansen lines, you will be required to make a special reservation.
The Tokaido, San’yo and Kyushu Shinkansen are among the most important bullet train lines in the country, stretching from Tokyo all the way to Kagoshima in southern Kyushu. Major stops along the way include Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima and Fukuoka.
The relevant JR companies state that the changes are being made in response to an increase of overseas visitors, especially as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics approach.
Starting in May 2020, if you plan to bring large luggage onto one of these lines (defined as total combined length, width and height between 160 cm and 250 cm, or approx. 63-98 inches) you must make an advance reservation at the same time that you book your ticket. This will book you into the last row of seats in a particular car, and allow you to use the area behind the seats to store your luggage.
If you do NOT make an advance reservation, you will be charged 1,000 yen on board and will be asked to move your luggage into an area designated by the conductor.
As this is a free service when booking your ticket, this sounds like a good idea. But until the details of this new program become clearer, I personally still like the idea of paying for a luggage delivery service and traveling light.