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Japan bullet trains ask large-bag carriers to reserve luggage space

This photo taken inside a shinkansen bullet train at JR Tokyo Station on May 20, 2020, shows a space reserved for extra-large luggage under a new service that started the same day. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- New rules requiring passengers to reserve spaces for their extra-large luggage free of charge on some of Japan's shinkansen bullet train lines took effect on Wednesday, in response to an increase in foreign tourists in recent years.

The step introduced on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu shinkansen lines, which connect popular tourist destinations such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Fukuoka, came in response to an anticipated increase of visitors to the country due to the Tokyo Olympics that were scheduled for this summer before being postponed to 2021.

The new rules will put the oversized luggage in the empty spaces directly behind the last row of seats, and there will be no extra charge when booking tickets for bullet train rides, according to operators of the shinkansen lines.

The new policy is aimed at ensuring travelers with large luggage do not block the aisle in the shinkansen.

Currently, if the storage area is filled up and luggage cannot fit the overhead storage, passengers have to sit with their luggage or place it in the aisle.

Travelers with oversized luggage, defined as measuring more than 160 centimeters in the sum of length, width and height, must store it in the reserved spaces, or else pay an extra 1,000 yen should they fail to book, the operator said.

Exceptions include baby strollers, sports equipment such as bicycles, and musical instruments.

As in the past, any luggage with the total of length, width and height exceeding 250 cm cannot be brought inside the shinkansen, while smaller luggage up to 160 cm can be stored in the overhead storage compartment.

Reservations can be made online or at the station. There are measuring stands for luggage near the ticket offices or wickets.

On Wednesday, Shigemitsu Tamada, 44, who was on his way from Tokyo Station to Hiroshima Prefecture for a business trip, booked a space for his luggage. "I am grateful for the new system, because I had always struggled to find a space for my baggage," he said.

The new rules came into force despite the games' postponement and a sharp decline in passengers due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

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