Nanzenji Temple in Kyoto, Japan
Photo by: Makio Kusahara (Stock Exchange)

Konnichiwa, all! Today on the Disabled Travelers blog we’ll be heading east to learn more about accessible travel around Japan. I have to admit, I’ve been working on this for a while and it’s a real challenge finding comprehensive information for us English-speakers. But believe me, folks, I’m on the case; I’m going to attend a wedding in Nagoya this December, and I’m every bit as interested in figuring this country out as you are! So rest assured, there’ll be more posts as more handicapped travel info comes in … for now, let’s get started and see where this takes us!

Accessible Japan is the best all-around access guide I’ve discovered for Japan so far. It includes information on accessible hotels and sites of interest all around the islands. There is also a general information guide that discusses accessible transportation including buses, ships, and the country’s famous bullet trains. Contact information for “special reservations” and the disability service desks of various airlines can also be found here. Domestic city-to-city flights are commonplace in Japan, and you may wish to familiarize yourself with the airlines if you plan to visit several major cities or islands. There’s also Accessible Tokyo, which focuses on the capital city and offers a lot of info on accessible attractions and different ways to get in and out of town.

Though the information is a bit aged, coming from way back in 2002 and 2003, it’s worth mentioning there’s also Accessible Kamakura and Accessible Kyoto/Nara to look through. Most of the information should still be good, though specific companies and other details may have changed, so take it with a grain of salt.

Disability World is a great bi-monthly e-zine that offers international news from the disabled travel perspective. If your intended destination is exotic, then it’s a great place to start mining for info. In this case, they have a great article from Japan; it’s from a few years back but still lots of useful things to say: “Japan Travel Companies Just Discovering Disabled Clients.” Obviously, things have gotten better since then. Check out this more recent article from the Japan Times: “Barrier-Free Tours Gain Popularity.” And who’s behind the growth in accessible Japanese travel? Check out the JTB Group, one of the main proponents of universal design in Japan.

For more disabled travel resources, check out the National Tourism Organization’s accessibility page. According to their statistics, over a third of the nation’s rail stations are completely wheelchair accessible. I would definitely recommend checking out the NTO’s website, since it offers a lot of help with logistics and cultural information that everybody would find helpful. To locate accessible hotels, try the useful Hotels of Japan page provided by Travel Japan, another general travel guide for the country. The only tour operator I’ve been able to find so far that explicitly welcomes wheelchair users is Japan Deluxe Tours, which requires that your chair be non-motorized and collapsible.

On a parting note for today, I don’t usually link to resources that aren’t provided completely in English, but since there are so gosh darned many of them in this particular case, and since many people traveling to Japan will pick up some language skills either before or during, do check out bfree, which bills itself as a wheelchair accessibility map for Japan. It has a lot of good resources for readers of Japanese, some of which may (according to the site itself) provide “limited” English.

That’s it for today’s look at Japan, but if you’ve got anything else to share, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll incorporate it in future posts. Also, if you’ve commented recently and I haven’t answered you, please don’t think I’m ignoring you: I’ll be looking through recent comments and responding with posts or answers just as soon as I can. Thanks for visiting with us, and adventure on!


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