Using strollers in public transport can be a pain in Japan.
Here is a guide on how to ride public trains, like JR and subways in Japan with your stroller. Useful tips included!
How to SMOOTHLY get on public trains in Japan with a stroller
Things to check before using the train
1. Get a SUICA card!
Waiting in line at the ticket booth is a waste of time. Get the SUICA card!! It is a deposit type transport card that can be used on JR, subway, buses, and almost any other public transport in Tokyo and other areas of Japan. Using the SUICA card, you don’t need to check the transportation fees every time, don’t need buy paper tickets, and don’t have to line up for fare-adjustment. Everything is so much easier. So just get it!
2. Check width of stroller
An average width of a ticket gate is 55 to 60 cm. There is also at least one wider (90 cm width) ticket gate available at most stations.
Double strollers (side-by-side type) will not fit through ticket gate, so if you have one of those, it is a good idea to be ready to fold it.Most typical strollers will fit in the normal gate, but if you have a large one, make sure you go through the wide one. The wide gates are usually the one closest to the counter.
3. Check elevator availability
Although most stations in Tokyo, and other tourists-popular areas in Japan are barrier free, some stations do not have an elevator. In that case, you will either need to get someone to carry the stroller with you, or fold the stroller.
Note that opened strollers are not allowed to use the escalator. Some people do it, but it’s extremely dangerous. Please don’t do it.
Elevator availabilities can be checked on official transportation websites.
Useful tips on riding trains with a stroller in Japan
Avoid rush hours in Tokyo
If you are in Tokyo, don’t even think about using the stroller during rush hour. It’s impossible. It’s dangerous, and your baby can seriously get hurt. It’s really life threatening. Don’t try it.
Instead, reschedule your time to avoid rush hour. Use a taxi instead. Walk. In fact, I would never ride a train during rush hour in Tokyo with a baby, even without a stroller.
Fold stroller in crowded trains
Even if you aren’t riding a jammed train, still it is a good idea to fold your stroller in crowded trains. Crowded means there are still some space between people, but not enough to move. Many Japanese people do not like strollers taking up so much space in crowded trains.
But I understand that sometimes you just need that space (like if you are travelling alone with your baby with bunch of luggage). Then, it’s fine. But understand that there are people who might think you are in the way (I know, it’s pretty sad).
Use stroller friendly spaces
Many trains (like JR and subways) have space available for strollers and wheelchairs. There are signs on the window. Those spaces are priority seats, so feel free to keep your strollers open. If that space is occupied by standing people, you may ask for that space.
Koko ni beh-bee-kah oitemo iidesuka? （ここにベビーカー置いてもいいですか？ May I place my stroller here?）
If the stroller space is just not available, sit near the regular priority seats. These seats are usually set on one end of each train car.
Get on non-crowded train cars
Usually, train cars near the stairs and escalators are the most crowded. So try to avoided these areas, and move to the far end of the platform. The cars at the very front or very end are usually the most non-crowded. Also, those are the cars where the train operator/staffs are, so in case you take time to get on and off the train, they will see you and won’t close that door on you.
Don’t block the door
When you get on the train, move away from the door. The space by the door is very busy with many people getting on and off. Move out of the way as much as possible.
Use the elevator, not escalator!
As I mentioned previously, if you have a stroller, use the elevator! Never use the escalator because it is very dangerous for both the baby and surrounding people.
Many stations have only one elevator in the platform. It might take time for you to get there, you might have to wait in line. But that is the safest way.
Don’t make a mess
Many Japanese people are strict about mess. Whether it’s a baby drooling or a toddler eating snacks, be careful you don’t leave mess behind. In fact it is a good idea to avoid giving snacks in trains, because people don’t like bits of food left on the floor, or greasy hands touching the seats. If you have to feed kids in trains, give them unmessy food.
Of course, babies cry and toddlers scream. Sometimes that can’t be helped. But try to calm the kids down as much as possible. It’s just the manner in Japan – keep quiet in public places.
That’s it for today! Hope these tips help and good luck travelling!