Booking Wheelchair Seats on the Shinkansen

  • Booking Wheelchair Seats on the Shinkansen

    Posted by Josh Grisdale on February 22, 2022 at 4:10 pm

    To book the accessible seating on the shinkansen always meant going in person to the ticket window, telling staff your time/destination and waiting often an hour for them to “check availability”.

    As the former transport minister said after hearing about it – it was outrageous.

    I’m not sure when it happened (since I haven’t been riding the bullet train much!), but when checking the other day you can now book those tickets on the Tokai Line with the SmartEX app!

    Woohoo!

    However, I’m not sure this will help foreign visitors. It has been ages since I came here as a tourist, so, I assume ordering with an app is pointless if you are using the JR RailPass. What would tourists do to book tickets in advance?

    @ohayotravel or @therealjapan do you know?

    Josh Grisdale replied 1 month, 2 weeks ago 3 Members · 9 Replies
  • 9 Replies
  • Joan

    Member
    February 22, 2022 at 7:25 pm

    I’m really interested in it! When I was in Japan, I spent ours waiting in person at Midori Madoguchis to book for wheelchair seating and sometimes I had to come back the next day to finish the reservation, to pick up the tickets or whatever…

    Unfortunately, if it’s with an app, it will most probably not work with foreign phones as apps are sometimes only available in a specific country’s App Store (the one that your phone is registered). At least, I had that problem when trying to download apps to book seats at certain restaurants (Kura Sushi), to buy other tickets, etc.

    As Josh points out, it’d be nice to know if it works with the Japan Rail Pass for tourists. I may get one next time : )

  • Josh Grisdale

    Moderator
    February 22, 2022 at 7:34 pm

    I should mention that I booked with this site/app: https://smart-ex.jp/top.php

    No English.

    You can book via the web, so, even if the app isn’t available you could use your phone’s browser… however, you do need to register a credit card and it must be one with second-step password verification – which may be another barrier if your card doesn’t support that.

  • Josh Grisdale

    Moderator
    February 22, 2022 at 8:14 pm

    Oh, found the English!

    https://smart-ex.jp/en/index.php

  • Josh Grisdale

    Moderator
    February 22, 2022 at 9:19 pm

    Even better, I found the instructions for the wheelchair seat reservations in English!

    https://smart-ex.jp/en/reservation/reserve_smart/wheelchair/

    But, unfortunately, it explicitly says: “This service cannot be used with other tickets such as the Japan Rail Pass, etc.” (https://smart-ex.jp/en/reservation/reserve_smart/attention/)

    • Joan

      Member
      February 23, 2022 at 1:52 am

      Thanks for all the info! It’ll come in really handy when I come if I’m not using Japan Rail Pass. Too bad you can’t use it if you’re traveling with another wheelchair user, but it’s still a huge step forward from the previous method! Thanks again!

  • schroth-sensei

    Member
    February 23, 2022 at 3:04 am

    Only time I used the Shinkansen was with a JR RailPass. At the time I didn’t even think of booking it ahead of time (could of been an issue because we were trying to get to my hotel in Osaka the same day), and even though Tokyo station was busy we didn’t have to wait long in line at the ticket booth. We ended up getting tickets and we were told something like the accessible space may be taken, if so then I’d have to transfer and stow my wheelchair away (wouldn’t of been a big issue if I had to at the time, because my wheelchair was collapsible and my brother who was my helper can transfer me easily). Luckily, the spot was open and we didn’t see anyone else in a wheelchair for the whole trip, so I guess maybe the previous booked guest decided not to go? Next time I’d either plan to get my tickets at the booth really early (if using a JR RailPass), or definitely try to use the site you mentioned to ensure I have an easy ride. Thanks for sharing!

    • Josh Grisdale

      Moderator
      February 23, 2022 at 4:37 pm

      If you can transfer and stow your wheelchair you are likely ok, but if you need to sit in the wheelchair area and stay in your wheelchair you need to confirm since it is reserved seating and the conductor checks tickets. Tokyo to Osaka has trains every few minutes so you often can get something without much of a wait. Lines to other areas have more time between them though.

      Also, you can always sit in the deck area between cars – but it is noisier for sure!

  • Josh Grisdale

    Moderator
    March 3, 2022 at 4:38 pm

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem you can book tickets with an app for JR East (North-east of Tokyo).

    Instead, you can request tickets via a form now (instead of going and booking in person). However, you still must go in person to pay for and pick up the tickets in advance. (Though, I suppose if you are buying them at the same station you plan to leave from, you could arrange to pick them up the same day you leave.)

    Another unfortunate point is that it seems the form is currently only in Japanese:

    https://form.qooker.jp/Q/auto/ja/wheelchair/form/

  • Josh Grisdale

    Moderator
    April 1, 2022 at 10:12 am

    Just a short update to say it went very smoothly.

    I needed to change trains due to timing and could do it easily on the app.

    This morning I arrived at the station 20min before my train, tapped my phone at the gate and got my boarding pass/ticket and told the staff I needed the ramp and was on the train a few minutes later!

    Very happy.

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