Japan Accessible Tourism Center

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There are plenty of clean public toilets in Japan, including spacious and well equipped “multipurpose toilets” that are wheelchair accessible. They used to be for “ disabled people ”, but now they are widely open for everybody including elderly people and parents with baby strollers. Some are located in the regular toilet space, but many are built separately.  You can find toilets everywhere, so do not worry and enjoy your trip.

Japanese roads are narrow even in areas with heavy traffic, so it could be dangerous.  Moreover, in urban cities, many people ride their bicycles on the pavement ( no cycling road in Japan ), so they could hit pedestrians. And due to the rainy weather in Japan, pavements are built higher than the street level, and are slightly tilted like slopes for cars crossing the pavement to get in and out of parking lots. This makes it difficult for wheelchair users to balance themselves when trying to go straight. The edge of the pavement is curve-cut to reduce the step between the pavement and the street, but still they leave 1cm step. This is for the visually impaired people to recognize the border between the pavement and the street. Yellow textured paving blocks (two types: one for guidance and the other for warning) is very commonly installed. But these can become barriers for wheelchair users, so there is an ongoing discussion whether we really need to have these blocks.

In Japan, people are recognized as “person with disability” when he/she possesses a disability ID certificate. Three types of disabilities are identified: physical, intellectual, and mental disabilities, and number of ID holders account for 6% of the total population. With this ID, you are entitled to various welfare services; one of them is disability discount applied for transportation fares, admissions, etc.  Foreign disabled tourists without this ID will basically not get discounts. And if you do, that is thanks to the individual facilities. In the past, many barrier-free facilities and services were open only to disabled people carrying this ID. But now, people have started to accept the idea that anybody with difficulty, or who wants to enjoy the facility can do so, whether they have the ID or not.

When you visit Japan on an electric wheelchair, and especially if you have a steering wheel type ( scooter type ), you may encounter some problems in JR (Japan Railway). They may ask you to show evidence that your wheelchair is a basic necessity, otherwise they may refuse boarding. Other railway companies and Metros are OK.  Joystick types will not be a problem.
Doors and passages at hotels and stores are relatively narrow, so you may find it difficult to get around in big electric wheelchairs. Electric voltage in Japan is 100V, and we used to have voltage conversion issues for chargers, but less nowadays. Please do not forget to bring your transformer. In case you need an urgent repair during your trip, contact the welfare office (public office) in the region to introduce you to the local dealer. In Tokyo, there is a trader called "Saito Kobo", located near Tokyo Sky Tree and Asakusa area.

You can rent wheelchairs free of charge in public facilities , major railway stations, airports, shopping centers, art museums, tourist sites, etc. In some cities, they offer wheelchair rental service at stations and tourist information centers. Allowed to use it inside the facility only. They can even guide you around pushing your wheelchair. This is a convenient service for elderly people or injured people who cannot walk long distance. It is still very difficult to find a rental wheelchair for travelers.

All Japanese take off shoes in their house. That is Japanese culture. You also need to take off shoes at some Japanese traditional inn and restaurants. There is a place to store the shoes at entrance hall and they offer slippers for the guests. If you want to get in on wheelchair or with canes, ask them possible or not. They may request you to clean up your wheelchair wheels and shoes. However, never step on tatami room wearing the slippers, shoes and wheelchairs without any permission.

Useful Item " Pointing Conversation for Accessible Tour in Japanese ".  PDF download free.