Country: Japan 
Getting Around Japan

Time to read: Approximately 6 minutes

This information is specific to travelling around Tokyo/urban areas. If anyone has other experiences, please share them on the TravelPaws Facebook group

You can get around Japan on flights, buses, trains and taxis. We have listed some tips below for all these modes of transport.
We have also identified some general points to consider.

Crowds

Watch out for bicycles ahead and behind you, cars ahead and behind you, crowds, crowds and more crowds.

Be prepared for small spaces, narrow paths and no paths, people looking down at their feet — basically go with someone sighted and avoid peak hour if you can!

A lot of places in Japan have just escalators (not lifts or stairs) - do your homework before you go out if your dog doesn't travel on escalators

Your dog's seatbelt harness can be used in Japan.

Large crowd in Tokyo
Massive crowds in Yokohama, Tokyo . This shows the extreme version of crowds in Japan and why getting around with someone is a good idea if possible!
Busy crowd in Tokyo
Heaps of people to dodge in Tokyo if you have a dog

Flights

If you fly into terminal 2 at Narita airport, the closest patch of grass for toileting is between the terminal and the carpark (it's over 2 lanes of busy traffic without a crossing so you will need to go with someone sighted).

I don't have any experience to draw on for domestic flights. Next mission! Would anyone else like to share something in our Facebook Group.

Be prepared for a tired puppy at the end of the flight.

Guide Dog Nixon asleep on a blanket
Guide Dog Nixon flat out asleep after a big flight from Australia to Japan. He is out of his harness.

Buses

Space is a premium on Japanese buses- for you and your dog. Also if you can find a spare seat, you will discover that they are not made for Western sizes!

  • I tried many ways of positioning Nixon, to be safest for him, and out of the way of others
  • If you can train your dog to sit down either between your legs or by the side of your legs that would be a plus, rather than lying down, where they take up more room in the aisle
  • The best position I found was turning in my seat to face the aisle with Nixon between my legs under my seat.

See the gallery below for examples and visual descriptions.

It is the last seat before the stairs up into a new level in the bus. This way I could protect his paws from being trodden on and he was taking up the least amount of room. He is a big dog, so it was a challenge. I was also near the exit door here, so it was easy to disembark.
Nixon laying down by Nina's feet on the bus with Nina and nearby passengers smiling
This space was also not bad on the bus with Nixon lying down alongside my seat opposite the disabled seats. However, I was glad I knew the people in front and behind as he hung over both seats.
Nixon sitting by Nina on the bus
I tried this back seat on the bus just before the stairs with him sitting next to me, but his tail was in the way of the stairs and could have been trodden on.

Train travel

  • Ask the staff for help embarking and disembarking the train as there are usually masses of crowds to deal with and it can be quite stressful
  • If you ask the staff for help (see Japanese Handy Language), they should have someone to meet you at your destination when you disembark.
  • Stand or sit where you have good access to the doors to disembark when you need to — it's a bit of a rush. There is a disabled seat not far from the exit on all trains
  • If there are spare seats, it is best to sit your dog in between your legs or on the side of your legs not lying across your body taking up three seats
  • Be careful not to burn your dog with the heater that blows hot air from underneath the seat in winter
Nixon sitting in between Nina's legs on the train
Nixon attentively sitting by Nina's feet on the train

At the station

Should you choose to forego the assistance of platform staff:

  • When it's available, you need to either show your ticket to the staff at the ticket window, so they can let you through without going through the turnstiles
  • Otherwise use the widest turnstile available. Put your ticket in the slot as you approach, walk-through with your dog and pick the ticket up on the other side - then the gates won't close on you or your dog
Nina and Nixon standing with the platform master
The platform master meeting Nina and Nixon on disembarkation from the train for assistance.
Nina and Nixon sanding at the exit of the turnstiles in front of the customer service area.
When it’s available, show your ticket to the staff at the ticket counter at your destination train station, so they can let you through without going through the turnstiles. Image shows.
A busy train station in Tokyo
Alternatively, use the widest turnstile available at the train stations. Put your ticket in the slot as you approach, walk-through with your dog and pick the ticket up on the other side - then the gates won’t close on you or your dog.

Taxis

In Japan, the taxi door opens and closes automatically by the control of the driver. Don't touch your door - that is their gig!

  • You will enter the taxi at the left rear side of the car (the door will automatically open)
  • Sit in the back of the taxi with your dog
  • If you are travelling alone, get in first and then shuffle your legs over to the right foot-well leaving a space for your dog to hop in, in front of you on the left
  • If you go with someone else let them slide in first behind the driver
  • There is usually plenty of room to leave the dog harness on, because the front seat is usually pushed right forward by the driver
Guide Dog Nixon (A palomino coloured Labrador) sitting in the rear of taxi on the left facing the right back seat. The front left seat is moved forward so there is plenty of room (I took his harness off in this photo but there was plenty of room to leave it on). My feet are in the left footwell because of the other passenger.
Nixon going for a ride
Image description below
An illustrated picture of TravelPaws puppy mascots Nixy and Wally sitting side by side. Wally cheekily has his tongue poking out. Nixy is a golden Labrador and wears a green shirt bearing his name. Wally is a black Labrador and wears a purple shirt bearing his name.

Respect for Elders

The elderly in Japan are highly respected by everyone. Their needs are considered at all times.

Because of this, they are not accustomed to getting out of the way, so I recommend you walk with a sighted person wherever possible.

We share priority seats with the elderly - you might not get a seat!