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My friend uses a wheelchair and would like to visit Japan with his wife (who is not in a wheelchair).

Since I have been to Japan several times, he is looking to me to help plan or arrange a trip.

I am mostly concerned about getting around within Tokyo, although shinkansen travel to Kyoto is likely on the agenda.

So, I know that many Tokyo-area subway/train stations have elevators, but they seem too narrow for my friend's 34 inch (86.4 cm) wide wheelchair. I don't have any measurements currently handy, but I seem to recall around 70-75 cm wide for the typical station elevator door.

This SE question does discuss the elevator situation, but not in enough detail to answer my question about the size of the elevators.

Japan has been working on their "Barrier Free" aspects for years, and this seems to be getting more details as the 2020 Olympics approach. For example, there are now Barrier Free trip guides, at least in Tokyo.

Should I just try to find a (Japan) local tour company that specializes in travel for wheelchair users? These travel companies exist, but their customers seem to be native Japanese (only?). This could work, if I could find a tour that visits places a typical American would like to see and then get our own translator.

Or maybe I try to convince him to try a narrower wheelchair. He is not a small person and is quite used to his wheelchair, so I am not sure how this will be received.

TLDR:

  1. How wide are the elevator doors in Tokyo-area train stations?
  2. How easy is it to get a taxi big enough to hold a wheelchair in the back?
  • Some elevators do have larger doors than 70cms but they are usually limited to hotels, department stores (Mitsukoshi etc.) and certain places within major train stations (Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka etc.). Also note that not all train stations are equipped with elevators and ramps (even some of the busy ones). Barrier free taxis are almost always available (usually van-type), however as @jptokal states, you do need to call for them. – The Wandering Coder Sep 12 '16 at 2:58
  • Also note that the biggest problem your friend may have, is getting through the ticket barriers. Staff are usually more than helpful with trying to help wheelchair-bound passengers, but there are also limitations in the infrastructure itself that you may not have planned for. – The Wandering Coder Sep 12 '16 at 3:00
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    Fixed archaic language with edit. The appropriate term is wheelchair user. – RoboKaren Sep 12 '16 at 3:43
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    @RoboKaren On the 3rd line "concerned" was correct. The word you have corrected it to "concered" does not exist. – The Wandering Coder Sep 12 '16 at 4:06
  • @The Wandering Coder, good points about the the larger stations and department stores and even ticket barriers (although I have seen wider (maybe not wide enough) gates at most Tokyo area stations that I have used (but small fraction of all available). I have also seen where there are stations that are "almost" barrier free, where just a single flight, or even just a few steps, are not covered by an elevator or even escalator. – Jake Peters Sep 12 '16 at 13:23
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1) Japanese "barrier free" standards assume wheelchairs are under 80cm in width. So, no, your friend's wheelchair will not fit into many elevators etc.

2) Most larger taxi companies can send a "barrier free" taxi on request, bit you're highly unlikely to be able to hail one of the street.

  • This is a good point. I did some searching, but did not find the definition of barrier free. I did find this link that mentions "size of elevator doors is 80cm". Maybe I need to do a search in Japanese for the canonical definition of Barrier Free (I assume there is one). – Jake Peters Sep 13 '16 at 21:46
  • Wikipedia has a summary of the law that entrances must be 80cm, but "should" be 90cm. bit.ly/2cqxd3U (URL shortener because the link doesn't work well with the comment format) – Kent Sep 13 '16 at 23:08

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