Traveling In Japan By Wheelchair With Ashley Olson


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  • How accessible is Japan for someone traveling in a wheelchair? With its crowded sidewalks and endless stairs, is Japan closed off to someone in a wheelchair?
  • Ashley Olson runs the website Wheelchair Traveling and joins the show to talk about her recent trip to Japan. Seeing how surprisingly accessible it is, she is eager to come back and recommends Japan as a place to go for people with special needs.

Getting around Tokyo with Tokunai Pass

Anthony is back after a short break and has been shooting more videos lately on business and office workers’ lifestyle in Tokyo. His latest video is about exploring the city on the Yamanote Line. Looping around the metropolis, it is a lifeline that grants passengers access to many parts of the city. He also shared a tip on visiting tourist attractions more efficiently using the Tokunai pass. A one-day pass for all of the stations, it costs less compared to buying the ticket for every stop one wants to go to. Check out the video below and feel free to send Anthony any suggestions for future videos.

Wheeling around Japan

Interested to know how people on wheelchairs go around Tokyo, Anthony interviewed Ashley Olsen who runs the website Wheelchair Traveling. She recently wrote an article about traveling around Japan in a wheelchair. She considers it to be one of the Top 5 places to travel to for those in a wheelchair.

Traveling for the first time in the country, she was impressed by the helpfulness and service given by attendants from the airport to the train stations. The train stations impressed her with the quality of their service; they would call the next station’s attendants on which car train she was in and the ramp would be set up when she arrives at the next stop. They also had rails and paths paved with braille dots to lead blind people to the elevator and ticket gates.

She decidedly stayed with people who knew some English but also communicated with others by drawing pictures or maps. She found a lot of Japanese who surprised her with their fluency in English and even other languages. People would also try their best to speak in English and even escort her to where she wants to go

She didn’t try the bus due to her tight trip schedule but these also reportedly had ramps. There were also taxis for those who use wheelchairs but these need to be booked a day in advance. These special taxis are often taken by those who had medical appointments but can also be taken when touring around. She also tried taking a normal taxi. She was impressed that the driver immediately figured out how to put back her wheelchair after she demonstrated how to take off its wheels and load it. There are also great accessible vans that do not require users to get out of the wheelchair.

For accommodations, she stayed at Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo which was quite expensive and probably best for those on business trips or retreats. She also stayed in the Tokyo Inn which is convenient for those traveling all over Japan. Their bathrooms offer a shower and bathtub in the same room. While many hotels offer wheelchair-accessible rooms, tourists may not always find the bathroom sizes or height of beds right for them since their wheelchair types and sizes vary.

In public places, the best place to find bathrooms is in the train stations since these are scattered around the city. Shopping malls, food centers, theatres, and museums also have good facilities.

Tourist sites outside the city may not have elevators, but some built ramps without altering the original structure. Compared to other countries, elevators in Japan are used by those with children or those carrying big pieces of luggage. Old people would walk up the stairs. In Roppongi, even an old little lady offered to push her wheelchair over the hill with her strong legs!

Heading out to a shrine in Nara Park, a Japanese gentleman and his family saw her plight on a paved road and offered to push her wheelchair. Arriving at the bottom of the temple where there were hundreds of steps, a Texas guy offered his help as well. They then proceeded to carry her up to the temple! The Japanese family also offered to take her by car to other places she wanted to go to. Japanese people once more showed their generous spirit to help someone experience their country better. Everybody wants to be sure everyone is ok and nobody is lost.

Ashley only hoped for more accessible restaurants within the city and near the train stations since many of these have small, multiple stairs. She appreciated other people offering their assistance and advised fellow travelers like her to keep an open mind when traveling. With its services and accessible amenities and transportation, Japan is a great destination for all kinds of visitors.

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