Shinkansen Luggage Rules: Guide to Baggage & Reservations


Embarking on a journey on Japan’s famed Shinkansen bullet train? Grappling with questions about luggage rules and reservation procedures? You’re not alone.

Understanding the Shinkansen luggage rules is crucial to ensuring a smooth and stress-free travel experience in Japan.

This article delves into the latest Shinkansen regulations on oversized baggage and reservation processes. It’s a comprehensive guide designed for anyone, whether you’re an experienced traveler or making your maiden voyage to Japan.

One key aspect we’ll cover is the type of luggage you can bring on board the Shinkansen. This includes a wide range of items such as suitcases, backpacks, and strollers. However, it’s important to be aware of size restrictions. For example, each piece of baggage, must conform to the dimensions of 120 cm (length) + 80 cm (width) + 40 cm (height).

For those items that exceed the maximum size, there are procedures to follow. Oversized items need to be checked in at the ticket counter. We’ll delve into this process and more in the guide below.

It’s worth noting that some Shinkansen lines, like the Sanyo Shinkansen, require passengers to book a separate space for their luggage. You can do this at the ticket counter, where you will be charged an additional fee.

Finally, wheelchair-bound passengers, pregnant women, and those travelling with small children can ask for priority seating. If available, these seats will be located near the lavatories and other facilities.

Knowing the Shinkansen luggage rules can help make your journey more enjoyable and stress-free. Be sure to check the regulations in advance so you can plan your trip accordingly.

Understanding the New Shinkansen Luggage Rules

Recently, the Shinkansen trains have adopted new luggage rules to manage the surge in passengers traveling with large baggage. These Shinkansen Luggage Rules aim to improve the travel experience by ensuring enough luggage space and reducing issues due to oversized baggage.

So, what is considered oversized baggage according to Shinkansen Luggage Rules? Any item exceeding 160 cm in overall dimensions fits the definition. If you’re planning to book Shinkansen tickets, remember, each passenger can bring two pieces of luggage on the Shinkansen. Each piece should weigh 30 kg or less and measure less than 250 cm in total.

The Purpose of New Oversized Baggage Regulations on Shinkansen Bullet Train

The Shinkansen trains recently adopted new regulations, known as the Shinkansen Luggage Rules, due to the surge in passengers traveling with large baggage. These regulations aim to make travel more comfortable for all passengers by ensuring adequate space for luggage and minimizing inconvenience from oversized baggage.

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Defining Oversized Baggage on Shinkansen Bullet Train

So, what is considered oversized baggage on Shinkansen bullet trains under the new Shinkansen Luggage Rules? Any item exceeding 160 cm in overall dimensions fits the definition. This is comparable to the maximum Japan Bullet Train Luggage Size for checked luggage on many airlines.

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It’s crucial to note that the rules regarding the weight limit (30 kg or less) and amount of baggage (two pieces with total dimensions of 250 cm or less and a maximum length of 200 cm) on Shinkansen trains remain the same. Luggage with a total length of 160cm or less can comfortably fit in the overhead luggage racks.

Luggage with a total length of 160cm or less can comfortably fit in the overhead luggage racks.

Suitcases stacked neatly, representing the luggage rules on Shinkansen trains"

For more details on the definition of oversized baggage, you can visit JR official website.

Routes and Trains Affected by the New Shinkansen Luggage Rules

These new regulations affect Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu Shinkansen, primarily traveling between Tokyo and Kagoshima-Chuo. If you’re planning to book Shinkansen tickets on these routes, keep these Shinkansen Luggage Rules in mind.

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What If All the Tickets with Oversized Baggage Space Are Sold Out?

According to the official website, in such a case, you will need to take the next available train. Therefore, if you anticipate carrying oversized baggage, ensure to purchase your tickets early. The available seats vary depending on the train model, time, and destination. Therefore, it’s advised to make your Shinkansen reservation early, especially if you plan to travel with large luggage.

Seat TypeClassNo. of SeatsCars
Seats with an oversized baggage areaOrdinary cars45Cars 4 to 7, and 12 to 16 (5 in each car)
Seats with an oversized baggage areaGreen cars12Cars 8 to 10 (4 in each car)
Seats with an oversized baggage compartmentOrdinary cars8Cars 4, 6, 13 and 15 (2 in each car)
Seats with an oversized baggage compartmentGreen car2Car 9 (2 seats)
On the Tokaido Shinkansen, seats are designated from both ordinary reserved seats and Green car seats on Nozomi, Hikari and Kodama trains.

Shinkansen Luggage Rules: Oversized Baggage Reservation Procedure

When to make a reservation

You can reserve your oversized baggage concurrently with your seat reservations. It’s beneficial to note that during peak seasons in Japan, which typically occur during the spring (late March to early April for cherry blossom viewing) and autumn (November for fall foliage), as well as during the New Year, Golden Week (end of April to early May), and Obon holidays (mid-August), the seats might fill up quickly due to high demand. Therefore, we strongly recommend booking early. These seats, like all reserved seats, become available one month in advance.

Booking Oversized Baggage Seats on Shinkansen

Making reservations for oversized baggage seats on the Shinkansen bullet train is a straightforward process.

Using the Japan Rail Pass for Whole Japan (7, 14, or 21 Days)

1. Online Purchase of Japan Rail Pass

If you opt to buy the Japan Rail Pass online through a dedicated website (even before arriving in Japan), you can reserve a seat for your oversized baggage directly on the site.

2. Purchasing Japan Rail Pass from an Overseas JR-Designated Sales Office or Agency

If you have acquired your Japan Rail Pass from an overseas JR-designated sales office or agency, you can secure your seat reservation by visiting a Travel Service Center, a “Midori-no-madoguchi” (ticket office) at a JR station, or at the sales office of a JR-associated travel agency.

3. Important Shinkansen Guidelines for Japan Rail Pass Holders

An important note for travelers planning to navigate Japan via shinkansen (bullet train) is that holders of the Japan Rail Pass, including the JR Pass Shinkansen, are not permitted to ride the Nozomi and Mizuho trains on the Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu Shinkansen lines. These trains are known for their speed and frequent departures, but they are not covered by the pass due to their premium status.

Fear not, though, as there are plenty of other train options available to Japan Rail Pass holders. The Hikari, Sakura, Kodama, and Tsubame shinkansen trains also offer comfortable and efficient travel betweenmany of Japan’s major cities and are fully accessible with the Japan Rail Pass.

Using Regional JR Pass

For those utilizing a regional JR pass, reserved seat tickets can be obtained at a green ticket-vending machine or a “Midori-no-madoguchi” (ticket office). This is another effective way to abide by the Shinkansen Luggage Rules when using the JR Pass Shinkansen.

Not Using JR Pass

If you’re not using a JR pass, there are a few ways you can book a seat for your oversized baggage:

1. Online Booking

Visit the official reservation website here. You will see options for “Seat with oversized baggage area” and “Seat with the oversized baggage compartment”. If you are making multiple seat reservations (e.g., an ordinary seat plus an oversized baggage seat), make sure to book them separately.

2. Using a Ticket-Vending Machine

Ticket-vending machines are available for seat reservations.

Shinkansen bullet train ticket office at a station - understanding the Shinkansen luggage rules
3. Visiting a Ticket Office

You can also reserve your seat at a station ticket office.

It’s important to note that reservations for oversized baggage seats cannot be made through after-hours or pre-sale requests. They should be made on the date tickets go on sale, which is one month before the departure date.

Fees associated with oversized baggage reservations

There are no extra charges for making a reservation for oversized baggage. However, boarding the train with oversized baggage without a reservation will result in a carry-on fee. In such a case, you must store the baggage in a space designated by the conductor.

Passengers using a JR Pass

Passengers using a JR Pass, including the JR Pass Shinkansen, are also subject to these regulations. Note that you can reserve a seat with an oversized baggage area or compartment if your ticket allows for seat reservation.

For JR passes that only offer non-reserved seats, you need to pay an additional fee to upgrade from a non-reserved seat to a reserved or Green Car seat, and request a seat with oversized baggage space. Keep this in mind when purchasing your JR Pass or Rail Pass.

Consequences of Not Following the Oversized Baggage Regulations

Potential Fines or Penalties

Not following the new Shinkansen oversized baggage regulations and reservation procedures may result in fines or penalties, throwing a wrench in your travel plans and schedule.

If you opt for a non-reserved seat ticket and bring along oversized baggage, you will face two charges:

  • A 1,000 yen luggage handling fee.
  • An additional fee to change from a non-reserved seat to a reserved or Green Car seat.

Alternative Choice: Affordable Domestic Flights in Japan

If you’re planning to travel extensively within Japan, and are concerned about the new Shinkansen baggage regulations, considering domestic flights as an alternative might be a great solution. Notably, affordable options like the JAL and ANA Foreigner Discount Tickets offer an excellent balance of cost and convenience.

These discount tickets, available to foreign residents, provide access to numerous cities across the country at competitive rates. As an added bonus, both airlines offer a generous baggage allowance – two pieces of free check-in baggage, each up to 23kg or 50lbs, allowing you to travel with ease and flexibility.


In conclusion, understanding the Shinkansen luggage rules is a crucial aspect of your travel preparation. The specifics of handling oversized baggage on the Shinkansen might seem daunting at first. However, with a bit of preparation and understanding, you can navigate the system seamlessly.

These regulations are designed to ensure a comfortable and efficient travel experience for everyone on board. Following these rules helps avoid surprises and makes travel smoother for everyone.

So, before you embark on your Japanese adventure, take a moment to familiarize yourself with these rules. Then, you can fully enjoy the experience, appreciating the speed, comfort, and efficiency that the iconic Shinkansen bullet train provides.

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