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Japan Makes Public Transportation More Stroller-Friendly for Parents

Categories: East Asia, Japan, Citizen Media, Ideas, Travel
Photo of crowded train in Japan by flickr user Tom(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) [1]

A crowded train in Japan. Photo by Flickr user Tom. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Public transportation in Japan can be very crowded, especially in big cities like Tokyo, so it isn't the easiest place to be for parents pushing a young child in a stroller. With such little space, many have felt obligated to attempt the balancing act of collapsing the stroller and holding their child during the ride. 

Now, they don't have to. Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has standardized [2] [ja] the rules across its systems to allow strollers on board public transportation without being folded. The ministry has also designated a priority seat for parents, which will be marked with a special sticker.The new rules do still encourage parents to collapse strollers when transit is especially crowded, however.

According to a ministry report [3] [ja] that details the background behind implementing the new rules, there are no statistics available for the use of baby carriages on public transportation. But it is estimated that 1-2 percent of passengers are accompanied by strollers at transport hubs in big cities, a figure 20 to 30 times higher than that of passengers in wheelchairs.

The report also noted that compared to other regions, Tokyo is less comfortable for people with strollers on public transit:

The image published by Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport  symbolizing the idea that parents carrying baby stroller can keep it unfolded when getting on the train s or buses.

Image published by Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. Parents will no longer have to fold strollers when riding on trains and buses.


  • The rate of passengers who feel annoyed by unfolded strollers on crowded transit is higher [in Tokyo]
  • People who travel with strollers use public transportation more frequently, and they very frequently tend to fold the strollers on board
  • Fewer fellow passengers help baby carriage users 

Twitter user yukixxxx explained the general attitude toward parents carrying their babies on public transportation:

We should continue to bear in mind the time, place and occasion. I appreciate the government taking on this issue while some will continue to say “you should fold the stroller anyway”. Though I've never taken trains with a baby stroller because I am scared how other passengers would look at me.

Responding to the new rules [6] [ja], user meimei commented:

I appreciate that they made this a rule. I have always felt sorry for taking up extra space [with a stroller] on a train. I will refrain from taking crowded trains though.

Twitter user Momoko Maeno looked backed on her days of travelling with her baby:

Hmmm, to see how things have changed nowadays. Back when I was taking care of my baby, I disliked getting on the train with a baby stroller, and I would travel carrying my baby in front with a baby sling. The result is my child grew up to be one of those who refuses to get into a baby stroller. (laughing)

 Another user, maguro610, recalled what used to be an unspoken rule among passengers:

Glad to hear this! My children are turning 18 years old now, but back in the day when they were babies, going to hospital was tough. It was common sense to fold the baby stroller even when the train was not crowded. I had to carry the two sisters, one in my left arm and another in my right, and I would push the folded stroller with the front of my body.

Passengers with baby strollers face additional issues at stations, such as wheels becoming caught in gaps between the platform and train and moving through the station between floors. Most train stations are equipped with at least one elevator, meant for the elderly, wheelchair-bound and passengers with strollers to use. 

Some web users responded negatively toward the new rule. One mother was skeptical about it's effectiveness after reading heartless responses to the news:

I don't think making a rule will change anything. It makes me sad to see harsh comments in reaction to the news, and it keeps me from going out [with my baby]

Making public transit comfortable passengers with strollers may come as a first step in making Tokyo universally accessible ahead of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics [15].

The post was edited by L.Finch