Japan travel guide




Japan Travel Guide

Disabled travellers

Albeit the condition is improving, Japan is not an convenient place to travel around the places for anyone who uses a wheelchair, or for those who find it hard to transact stairs or walk long distances. Most train and subway stations have seemingly interminable corridors, and few offer escalators or lifts; the constant crush of people can also be a difficulty at times.

It's generally viable to organize help at stations, but you'll need a Japanese-speaker to make the plans. Shinkansen trains and some other services, such as the Narita Express from Narita International airport into Tokyo, provide spaces for wheelchair users, but you'll have to do reservations well in advance. For travelling abrupt distances, taxis are a good solution, but few drivers will provide help getting in or out of the car.

Regarding the accommodation, the international chains or modern Western-style hotels, the more recent youth hostels, are most likely to offer facilities such as fully adapted rooms and lifts. Alike, most modern shopping complexes, museums and other public buildings are furnished with ramps, wide doors and accessible toilets.

Disability was an uncomfortable topic in Japan, with disabled people usually hidden away from public view. But of late years, however, there has been a particular shift in public opinion, especially following the publication in 1998 of Ototake Hirotada's No One's Perfect (Kodansha International), the upbeat, forthright autobiography of a 23-year-old student born with truncated limbs. An instant bestseller, the book looks set to shake up Japanese perceptions of disability.

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