Tokyo Travel Diary | All about Accessibility
Accessibility Review of Tokyo
Back home since yesterday, my thoughts are still in Japan. It has been my fourth trip to Tokyo and I will always be in love with this city and its mixture of modern technology and tradition. This time I rented a mobility scooter via Marudai Motor Co. which was the best idea ever to get around easily by myself.
We flew with Air France to Tokyo Haneda Airport on October 22nd 2016 and stayed for 13 nights in a nice AirBnB home in Sendagaya. Together with our friend Sue and her two kids we had an amazing time in Nippon. As I stayed for almost two weeks, I decided to write several articles about my experiences in Tokyo. I’d like to start with the most important topic. The accessibility…!
Accessibility of Tokyo – The Basics
Tokyo is one of the most wheelchair accessible cities worldwide. The JR-East Railway Company and also the private Tokyo Metro offer an extraordinary well organized service for wheelchair users. The bus system seems to be mostly wheelchair accessible, too. There are ramps and elevators and very good wheelchair accessible restrooms everywhere. You get many discounts (only after presentation of a disability card written in English) for attractions like Ueno Zoo, TOKYO Skytree and the public gardens.
Mobility Scooter Rental in Tokyo
Renting a mobility scooter was easy and a great possibility to keep my self-autonomy. I found the Marudai Motor Co. on Google and contacted them. The service was perfect and affordable. Mr Okura and his staff, who were both very friendly and kind, delivered the mobility scooter to our AirBnB house on time. I had to pay 20.000 Yen (about 175 EUR/195 USD) for two weeks.
I think this price is very reasonable. I got some instructions but as I already use my Red Devil at home, I knew exactly how to drive this sweet litte scooter. The rental company handed me over a certificate saying that I officially rented the scooter and that I needed it due to a disability. With this certificate I could easily board JR-East Trains as well as the Metro trains. If you come with your own mobility scooter you could encounter some problems. Mobility scooters are still rare in Japan. It seems that mobility scooters are not yet quite accepted as mobility devices for disabled people, but the system constantly evolves. This precious certificate though made everything possible!
The accessibility of JR-East Trains and Tokyo Metro
When we had to take the JR trains (almost daily), we went to the station’s wheelchair counter to ask for help. I always showed the certificate to the staff. The service agent accompanied us to the train track and installed a mobile ramp to get me on the train. Once arrived at our destination, another service agent already waited for me to help me out of the train with the ramp. The agent also showed us the way to the exit.
We really enjoyed this excellent VIP service because the stations are huge and can get very crowded. The JR-East Japan Railway Company has high service standards for people with disabilities. Travelling with JR-East is a real pleasure!
I wondered if JR-East offers a discount for disabled but the agent at the customer service desk explained that a discount is only applicable for Japanese disability card holders and only on demand. Isn’t it funny how a disability kind of “disappears” when crossing borders? But anyway, the question was worth to be asked. One of the private metros offered a discount which was very kind. The Metro service agent told us to purchase a ticket for children and so we saved 50 % of the regular price.
Tokyo is worth a visit – especially as a wheelchair user! I really like the amazing Japanese sense of service and perfectionism. The public transport system surely is one of the best and most wheelchair-accessible systems in the world. Tokyo is a positive example and remarkably stands out for its great accessibility!
In the next blog post I’ll tell you more about things to do and see in Tokyo!