Powerchair or manual chair?

  • Powerchair or manual chair?

    Posted by juliafein on March 19, 2024 at 3:59 pm

    Hi- I’m visiting Japan for the first time from the US. I use a powerchair but am unsure whether I should bring my manual chair instead. I will be visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, and some smaller cities.

    Thank you for any advice you have!

    Stargo replied 2 months, 3 weeks ago 6 Members · 8 Replies
  • 8 Replies
  • Kelvin13

    March 19, 2024 at 4:37 pm

    How will you be travelling between the cities?

  • Carlos

    March 19, 2024 at 4:43 pm

    Keep this in mind: Hundreds, maybe thousands, of residents in Japan, including the owner of THIS site, use a power wheelchair every day in those cities. Why couldn’t you?

    Also, don’t sacrifice your mobility needs to travel. Wheelchairs, as you know, are not optional. So, why change that for a trip?

    • juliafein

      March 20, 2024 at 1:01 am

      I would still take a wheelchair. I would just be using a manual chair instead but that does sacrifice independence

  • Josh Grisdale

    March 19, 2024 at 6:43 pm


    I live in Tokyo and use a power wheelchair.

    I would recommend taking your power wheelchair because you will likely be covering more distance than expected and Kyoto is hilly.

    The only benefit to a manual wheelchair would be getting in smaller restaurants or up a step at some restaurants/stores.

  • juliafein

    March 20, 2024 at 12:59 am

    I’m worried about the restaurants/ shops that have 1-2 steps or if we run into a situation where something isn’t accessible. We’re traveling by train between cities

  • schroth-sensei

    March 20, 2024 at 4:22 am

    Hello Julia,
    If you’re getting around by trains, I’d just stick to using a motorized wheelchair because it is so easy to use the trains (the train rides are so smooth, I used them nearly every day of my trips). I recently stayed in Yokohama for a 90-day stay, I brought my motorized wheelchair and as Josh said it was nice to have it for hilly areas. Sidewalks and station access wasn’t an issue either for my big motorized wheelchair (some subway elevators were tight, but worked). For the areas trains don’t quite reach, you should be able to get around using city buses without any real issues as well (I only had to use them a handful of times).
    As for restaurants and shops, no doubt there are those that are not accessible because of steps or even very skinny hallways. I wouldn’t count on it to be a 1-step-outside-only issue either, if the outside isn’t accessible then chances are the inside may have additional challenges no matter the wheelchair you use. I don’t recommend being dead-set on going to a particular place without a little accessibility research beforehand (Google street view helps a lot). However, in a place like Tokyo, you usually don’t have to go far to find a store/restaurant selling virtually the same things that may also be accessible. In this case, newer malls/department stores are a good spot to find accessible options, especially for dining options where food courts or entire floors are full of restaurants.

  • juliafein

    March 20, 2024 at 9:25 am

    Thank you so much for the information! I’ll take my powerchair and can’t wait to visit!

  • Stargo

    April 1, 2024 at 11:28 pm

    this site is so helpful…

    I use a (larger) power wheelchair that is approx 74 cm wide.

    That is slightly larger (4cm) than the size listed on the JR Rail site. I plan to visit Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and possibly Hiroshima using the Japan Rail Pass and Suica Card.

    I want to make sure I can get to each city and around once there on the Shinkansen and city lines.


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