Luggage: A Guide to Traveling Light in Japan

japan travel luggage

When it comes to traveling in Japan, packing light is highly recommended. Not only do most trains lack space for bulky luggage, but some stations also have limited accessibility with no escalators or elevators. Traveling with less baggage also means you won’t have to rely on large coin lockers, which are not as readily available as smaller ones at many stations.

Luggage on Transportation

On Trains

Urban and long-distance trains in Japan don’t have much room for large suitcases, especially during rush hours. However, there are some exceptions. Airport trains like the Narita Express and Haruka, as well as certain shinkansen trains in eastern Japan, have designated storage spaces for larger luggage. To avoid any inconvenience, it is best not to bring large suitcases, strollers, musical instruments, or sports equipment onto trains.

According to JR regulations, each passenger can bring up to two pieces of luggage onto trains, not including smaller bags. The weight limit for each piece of luggage is 30kg, and the dimensions (length, width, and depth) should not add up to more than 250cm, with the length not exceeding 200cm.

The airport trains are some of the few trains with dedicated storage space

Most trains have overhead shelves for luggage placement. Shinkansen trains typically have shelves that are about 40cm high and 60cm deep, accommodating larger items. However, on other trains, the shelves can be smaller. Some shinkansen trains also have surprisingly spacious legroom, which might be enough for your legs and a mid-sized suitcase, although it might not be the most comfortable solution.

Lastly, in most long-distance trains, there is space for two or three large suitcases behind the last row of seats in each car. However, for security and convenience reasons, only passengers sitting in the last row of seats are allowed to place their luggage in this space.

A special rule applies for oversized luggage along the Tokaido/Sanyo/Kyushu Shinkansen and the Nishikyushu Shinkansen, which connect Tokyo with Kyoto, Osaka, and Kyushu. If your luggage exceeds 160cm (63 inches) in height, width, and depth, you are required to make a seat reservation for specific seats with nearby storage space. Oversized luggage is not allowed in non-reserved cars.

Passengers without a reservation for oversized luggage will be asked to move their luggage to a space designated by the train conductor and pay a 1000 yen surcharge, which is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. Reservations can be made in advance at ticket offices, ticket machines, or online. It’s important to note that this oversized luggage rule does not apply to other train lines.

On Buses

Most airport and highway buses have separate compartments for large luggage, but there is usually a maximum limit of one or two pieces per person. However, smaller bags can be carried onto the bus. On city buses, there is no designated space for luggage, and it can be inconvenient to board with large items, especially during busy times.

On Airplanes

The luggage policy for domestic flights varies depending on the airline. Conventional airlines generally allow passengers to bring a reasonable amount of check-in and carry-on luggage for free. However, low-cost carriers tend to have strict luggage rules and charge fees for check-in luggage.


Taxis in Japan can usually accommodate multiple large suitcases in their trunks, making them a convenient option to avoid uncomfortable walks or crowded train and bus rides to your hotel.

Rental Cars

Outside of large cities, renting a car can be a convenient way to free yourself from the hassle of carrying around bags and searching for storage options.

Interior of a shinkansen car

Luggage Storage

There are several options available for luggage storage in Japan.

Luggage Storage Counters

Airports usually have luggage storage counters that charge between 500 and 1000 yen per piece per day, depending on the size. Some larger train stations also have manned storage counters, which typically charge similar fees for luggage handling. However, it’s important to note that storage counters at train stations often require same-day pick-up.

Coin Lockers

Coin lockers are widely available at train stations and the entrances to tourist attractions. However, larger lockers might not always be available. There are three common types of coin lockers:

  • Small: Approximately 35cm x 34cm x 57cm (13in x 13in x 22in). These are the most common lockers found in large numbers at almost all stations.
  • Medium: Approximately 57cm x 34cm x 57cm (22in x 13in x 22in). These are available in moderate numbers at major stations.
  • Large: Approximately 117cm x 34cm x 57cm (44in x 13in x 22in). These are available in smaller numbers at major stations.

The cost of coin lockers is based on calendar days, typically costing 300 yen for small lockers, 400 yen for medium lockers, and 500-600 yen for large lockers per calendar day. For example, if you use a small locker overnight, you will be required to pay an additional 300 yen when picking up your luggage the following day. Lockers are emptied by station staff after three days.

To use a coin locker, follow these steps: 1) Find an empty locker, 2) Put your luggage inside, 3) Insert 100 yen coins (sometimes IC cards like Suica and Pasmo are accepted), 4) Close the door and turn the key, and 5) Take the key with you. It’s always a good idea to keep some 100 yen coins with you if you frequently use coin lockers.

Coin lockers that can be used with IC cards

Luggage Delivery

Door-to-door delivery services, known as “takuhaibin,” provide a comfortable alternative to carrying around your luggage. These services are available nationwide and can be used for delivery to/from airports, convenience stores, hotels, service centers, and private homes. In most cases, delivery is guaranteed on the next day, except for large distances or remote areas where it could take up to three days. You can specify the date and time frame for your delivery.

Baggage delivery services are also offered at some popular tourist spots, such as Kyoto, Hakone, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, and the Kiso Valley. The cost varies depending on the location and ranges from around 900 to 2600 yen per piece.

Delivery service counters at Kansai Airport

In conclusion, when traveling in Japan, it’s important to pack light to ensure a smooth and hassle-free journey. Follow the guidelines for luggage size and weight on different modes of transportation. Take advantage of luggage storage options such as counters and coin lockers when needed. And if you prefer a more convenient option, consider using luggage delivery services to transport your belongings to your desired location. By traveling with less baggage, you can fully enjoy your trip and navigate Japan with ease.

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