Using a Japan Rail Pass gives you freedom to see the whole country with just one train pass. You don't need to feel tied down just because you have luggage with you. You just need to understand the rules and your options!
Shinkansen carriages are not designed with ample room for luggage storage, even though there is usually no cost for bringing your luggage with you on board. General luggage allowance is two items that would usually be considered hand luggage on a flight. These items can typically fit in the overhead racks of the train.
The problem comes when you have more than two bags or when one of them is particularly oversized. Each of these two items of luggage should have length, height, and depth dimensions that add up to a maximum of 250 cm and not weigh any more than 30kg. Such items of luggage do not include small personal effects such as handbags, umbrellas, or coats.
Oversized items need to go behind the seats in the last row of the carriage. Generally, it's expected that passengers with oversized luggage take the seats in the last row to sit with their bags. In many cases, passengers won't be required to make a reservation in advance for these seats.
However, new rules have also been introduced for oversized luggage since May 20, 2020, for services on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen. The rules state that luggage whose dimensions add up to more than 160cm is considered oversized luggage for these services. Passengers with oversized luggage on these services must make an advanced seat reservation in the last row of the carriage to use the storage there.
So, what are you to do if you have too much luggage or oversized luggage and want to travel stress-free with your Japan Rail Pass? Well, you have a few options actually.
The first option is to make use of airport luggage storage counters or coin lockers in stations to temporarily store your luggage. Here you can store items of luggage you may not need with you, rather than bringing them on the train. Luggage storage rates are typically per item and day, while coin lockers are done by the size of the locker and day. Coin lockers have a usual limit of three days though.
Another option for managing your belongings is to make use of a luggage forwarding service. Generally known as Takuhaibin (宅配便) / Takkyubin (宅急便), these services are able to independently transport your luggage for you door-to-door, with next-day arrival the standard timeframe. Deliveries can be made to hotels, homes, service centres and even airports allowing you to travel about a bit more lightly.
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