I travelled to Japan in 2016 . This was my very positive experience…
Japan was absolutely fantastic. As someone who depends heavily on the availability of an accessible toilet, I found huge freedom from the fact that every single station has an accessible toilet. They call them universal toilets because they can be used by males, females, parents with multiple young children, wheelchair users and other PRMs and probably a whole host of other people with whose needs I am not familiar.
I was really impressed with Tokyo. I found it a great city, very accessible, and the fact that every station had a universal toilet which was accessible made a huge difference because it meant that wherever you went you always knew where the nearest disabled toilet was. I also found that the only time I had to queue for the toilet was when there was a cleaner inside it! The toilet was spotless, not stinky and dirty as they often are in the UK! I stayed at the Vessel Inn Hotel which was located by Iriya station. One of the platforms was immediately wheelchair accessible but if you are going in the opposite direction you had to take a special conveyor down the stairs. If you’re in the least bit self-conscious, this would not be ideal,
but the station staff were very quick to help always and I got this experience at every train station in Tokyo. Even the stations that weren’t immediately accessible had been made accessible so I had no problems at all in Tokyo.
In this hotel as in all the hotels in which I stayed throughout Japan, the bathroom was accessible but the shower was not a roll in shower.
From Tokyo, I travelled to Kyoto on the bullet train. There was a wheelchair accessible space although I chose to store my wheelchair in
the space at the end of the carriage and sit on a regular seat. It was difficult to get the girl working on the ticket desk to understand what I needed even though I was in a wheelchair. However, when we arrived at the bullet train there was somebody to help us on with a ramp and the toilets and the width of the bullet train were fine for my wheelchair.
Kyoto is an endlessly fascinating city. There are so many different parts to it that every time you turn a corner you will find yourself in a different style of area. The train station staff are a lot more indifferent to wheelchair users than those in Tokyo – they needed to be prompted to assist rather than in Tokyo where they immediately assisted you. In Tokyo, they would always walk you to the elevator/way out , but in Kyoto, they often disappeared very quickly with a dismissive wave towards the direction in which you should go.
However, all stations were accessible, there were dropped curbs everywhere and there
was good level access to many restaurants.
I stayed in the Kyoto Garden Palace hotel. The room was massive,
with 2 double beds and a sofa and plenty of extra space. As in the majority of Japanese bathrooms that I saw the bathtub had no shower curtain! I found this rather problematic when using a shower chair in the bathtub. Other than this The bathroom was also enormous.
There is level access to the reception and the restaurants are also on this ground floor. There is an accessible toilet on the ground floor
this hotel is very nice and it is right opposite the Imperial Palace. It is in the middle of 2 train stations and a good 5 minutes from either one. There are bus stops by the train stations. The food at the hotel was fine although the Western style breakfast came with a potato salad (?) And the bowl of fruit contained 4 very meagre slices of fruit. Not really an appetite quencher!
Trains were fine, although I did find the train station staff in Kyoto not anywhere near as helpful as they were in Tokyo. In Tokyo, they knew that you would need a ramp at your destination and it would be there as soon as you arrived. In Kyoto, they had to be prompted if you wanted a ramp. In Tokyo, they would always walk you to the elevator/way out, but in Kyoto, they often disappeared very quickly with a dismissive wave towards the direction in which you should go.
Buses were accessible with a manual ramp at the back door and a wheelchair space created by tipping up a couple of chairs. After seeing a wheelchair waiting at the bus stop, the bus driver would rush around to get the ramp out and lift up the chairs. Sometimes they also had special blocks to put on your wheels to ensure your chair stayed steady when the bus moved suddenly. I found the bus drivers very efficient and helpful.
Gion Corner Theatre had a designated wheelchair space and came with complete level access. The show itself was interesting in the fact that you saw different elements of Japanese culture, but you also had some god-awful Japanese music!
Nijo Castle was my 1st encounter with the dreaded gravel. I really didn’t realise how much of a problem it would be for a manual wheelchair. It is very difficult to wheel through. Once inside the compound. There is a separate entry for wheelchairs and if possible you transfer into one of their indoor wheelchairs.
Philosophers walk – I read that there was a side Street, which was better for wheelchair
users, however, I would not call this a side street, it is a parallel path! When I visited, there were far more pedestrians on that path than on the actual philosophers walk pathway. There are temples with accessible bathrooms at both ends of the pathway.
Higashiyama District. This is an area with a lot of temples, not all the temples are accessible, but they are nice to look at from outside, and you will find
some that are accessible and they have accessible bathrooms.
Day trips from near Kyoto
I stayed near Kyoto at the Royal Oak Hotel Spa and Gardens so that I could still get into Kyoto and also visit to nearby Nara and Iga Ueno. I enjoyed both of these visits, although the park that we visited in Iga Ueno was not very accessible! We went there on a whim because our visit coincided with the Ninja festival
The adapted bathroom at the Royal Oak Hotel Spa and Gardens was quite bizarre, the bath tub seemed to slide out although I am not sure how this is useful.
The toilet seat could be used as a shower chair and it had a very high back and a shower curtain rail around it. Between the bath and the toilet. There was an alternative lowered shower head and something that might have been some sort of shower stool.
It was not a particularly large room and The sink was outside of the bathroom and in the 1st section of the bedroom, which could be closed off.
Overall, it felt like there were adaptations that I have never seen before, but would be of valuable use to some people.
While the hotel inside is accessible, to get from the station to the hotel, you must use the shuttle bus, which is not accessible. To enter it, you have to climb up 3 steps and it does not have space to accommodate a wheelchair.
On arrival at the hotel, the shuttle bus parks by the main entrance and there is no dropped curb.
I did not see any way to accommodate a wheelchair user who is unable to climb a couple of steps.
The main negative of this hotel was the final shuttle bus was at 9PM. This meant that the last train from Kyoto you could catch was around 845 PM (the journey takes 11 minutes) so you need to be a Kyoto station by 8:30 PM to ensure you have enough time to find somebody to get you a ramp for the train. This means you can never have any evening meal out. And the hotel restaurants, all close at 9 PM, so if you are catching the last shuttle bus you need to eat beforehand! Also, if you go back to the hotel early so you can eat there, you may find that the restaurants do not have space because they are all reserved in advance!
I did however one time, eat in the hotel steak restaurant which had the Japanese chef preparing your food in front of you and it was really excellent.
After the quiet elegance of Japanese decoration, I found this hotel gaudy and tacky, for example in my room . The curtains are one type of fabric. They did not match the carpet at all and the sofa was flowery. Some of the furniture was wicker, other elements were wood, and the bedding had nothing to do with anything! Normally I would not pay attention to this, but in somewhere like Japan, it bore a very sharp contrast to other hotels.
I didn’t really like this hotel, but it was a lot cheaper than the other options in Kyoto.
Train-the trains are all accessible, but you will need a ramp for many of them as there is sometimes a larger gap between the train and the platform was sometimes there is a height difference between the train and the platform.
Nara – this is a city but the key temples are handily located within the confines of one park. The famous bowing deer are there too.
You have to do take a bus from the train station to the park, but the buses accessible and all of the temples that I visited were accessible with accessible toilets.
PS, the deer are not remotely perturbed by w
heelchairs and are more than happy to investigate you!
Iga Ueno – This is apparently the birthplace of Ninja , but it took almost 3 hours to get there from Kyoto station, and even though we were there when it was the Ninja Festival, it was rather a random affair in a park which was not really accessible because it was hilly, had no accessible toilet and had demonstrations of ninjas throwing stars in an outdoor auditorium which had no wheelchair space and believe me you did not want to be in the front row with all the children and spitting distance from the ninjas and their stars!
I came here hoping to see Mount Fuji, but it was rainy and cloudy so we did not see Mount Fuji.
We originally booked hotel Manatei but I found out that it was not accessible, even though it said it was on every hotel booking website (I got email confirmation of this inaccessibility directly from the hotel), so we were moved by Expedia with whom we had booked, to the Hyatt hotel which is definitely wheelchair accessible, although I am not sure how you get to the hotel. If you are unable to board the hotel minivan.
The adapted bathroom was fine, although it did not have a roll in shower, but it did have the shower curtain!
There is level access to the reception area, but you need to take a shuttle bus from the train station to the hotel and this minivan is not wheelchair adapted.
There is a disabled toilet in the main area, though.
They have complimentary drinks (literally anything) between 4 and 7, which is great, but we were also hungry so we made the mistake of ordering something which we thought would be an awful lot bigger than it was when it came! Crazy expensive bar snacks!
Public bus, which was accessible. I saw a lot of Private tour buses which did not immediately appeared to be accessible, so check this. If you are booking a tour.
lake boat tour – the boat has accessible toilet, but I am not sure how you get on and off the boat as there was a ramp, but I was immediately lifted onto the boat in my manual chair, so I was unable to see how difficult this would be. They were not able to lift the chair.
HOTEL MYSTAYS Haneda
I stayed here for one night before flying from Haneda airport very early the next day
the room was very small and the bathroom was equally small but adequate for one night with standard rails on the toilet. I did not use the shower or bath.
There was an accessible toilet in the general area