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Access to transport in Tokyo

Blog by TfA member, Lianna Etkind. This blog and its content reflect the views of the author only.

Last month, I was privileged to spend two weeks in Japan, as part of the Young Core Leaders of Civil Society Development Program, organised by the Japanese Cabinet Office. It was fantastic to meet colleagues from Japan, Austria, Germany and the UK working towards equality for disabled people. But as a self-confessed transport access geek, one of the aspects of the trip that I most enjoyed was seeing aspects of Japanese transport access, on the trains, buses and streets.

Here’s 12 transport access features from Japan.

1) Audio visual information is throughout the Tokyo Metro – every stop is announced, both in English and in Japanese. Tokyo has Talking Buses as well.

Tokyo Metro

2) Tactile paving in Japan isn’t just by crossings, it links crossings so visually impaired people can follow tactile paving along the pavement. On the downside, there are very few cycle lanes in Tokyo and lots of cycling on the pavement.

Blind Paths

(photo credit –

3) At some stations on Tokyo Metro, I spotted units with an audio and tactile map of the station, so that visually impaired people can understand the station layout.

Audio and Tactile Map

4) I don’t know if this is typical, or if the Tokyo Metro is in the middle of a public relations campaign about transport access, but I spotted THREE posters featuring disabled transport users.

Poster for Disabled Transport UsersPoster for Disabled Transport Users” /><p>And I was tickled by this poster, urging passengers to offer their seat to someone who needs it.</p><p><img src=

5) Even better, signage for Priority Seating on the Tokyo Metro explicitly includes a symbol for people with an invisible impairment, or in their words, ‘people with internal disabilities, heart pacer etc.’.

Priority Seating Sign at Tokyo Metro

6) I don’t know how many of Tokyo’s stations have step-free access. But I saw plenty of lifts

Tokyo’s Station’s Lifts

7) And metro carriages have wheelchair spaces.

Wheelchair Spaces in Train Carriages

8) Some stations are step-free from platform to train,

Step-Free Access From Platform to Train

But, like London Underground, they use manual boarding ramps where there is a gap between train and platform. You can see one in use here:

Video Preview

9) I took one journey on a Tokyo bus.

Tokyo Bus

Inside, there’s no wheelchair bay, but if a wheelchair user wants to board, the driver extends a ramp and folds back some of the chairs to make room. You can see the process here:

10) I’m told that the sign on the window says that buggies must be folded at busy times!

Tokyo Bus Sign

11) Pedestrian crossings have surprisingly musical audio signals to assist visually impaired pedestrians.

Musical Audio Signals to Assist Visually Impaired

12) Finally, the TOILETS. Oh, the toilets. At most of the stations, there were accessible toilets (as well as standard). Clearly signed, immaculate and free. And with a warmed toilet seat. London, you have a lot to learn.

Accessible Toilets

You can find more information about access on Tokyo Metro here, courtesy of Google Translate.