Today, we are talking about the best luggage for Japan.
Japan’s train stations can get really crowded, probably more crowded than you’ve ever seen in your entire life, and elevators and escalators are not always available, so it’s important to think carefully about luggage.
Two Wheels vs. Four Wheels
Two wheeled suitcases can be quite difficult in Japan. Like I said, the train stations are really crowded. There are people walking in all directions, passing you on both sides, and whizzing in front of and behind you.
Rolling a suitcase behind you can be quite dangerous in this situation to the people around you. Two-wheeled suitcases take up three to five feet of space behind you. You’re not really paying attention to what’s happening behind you, so the suitcase can cause people to trip or fall.
It’s best to have your suitcase as close to you as possible in the busy train stations.
Four-wheeled spinner suitcases are the most common type of suitcase in Japan. They’re easier to keep next to you as you’re walking, roll in front of you to get on a train, go up escalators, or get into elevators.
Hard Shell vs. Soft Shell
Hard shell and soft shell suitcases both have their advantages and disadvantages.
The hard shell suitcase is tough and durable, and can last many years of traveling. As the most common type of spinner suitcase, they’re easy to find at stores. However, most hard shell suitcases are designed like a clamshell, which means they open from the center and have two equal sides.
This is fine normally, but in Japan, size and space matter. Unless you’re staying at a 5-star hotel, the hotel room will be quite small and fully opening a clamshell suitcase could become difficult.
The soft shell suitcase is usually deeper and has a lid that opens from the top. This design takes up less space.
For soft shell suitcases, we recommend a material made of ballistic nylon. It’s stronger than polyester or canvas and will last many years. Standard polyester or canvas suitcases are cheaper, but they tear easily, especially the way airlines can handle your luggage.
We’ve had two ballistic nylon suitcases now, and each one has lasted five to ten years. And we travel a lot! Our current suitcases are the Travelpro Crew VersaPack 25” Expandable Spinner and Global Carry-on Expandable Spinner. They both have magnets on the wheels that make it very easy to turn and spin.
We’ve tried other four-wheel spinner suitcases and have noticed that ours are much easier to maneuver because of the magnets on the wheels.
For our tours, we recommend one medium-sized suitcase that is about 25 inches or smaller, and one backpack. The 25-inch suitcase is the ideal size because it fits in the overhead luggage compartment on the Shinkansen, and it’s under the size restriction for large suitcases.
Larger suitcases are a hassle to take on the Shinkansen. You have to pay a supplementary fee and are subject to availability for reserved seats in the last row where you can store your large suitcase.
For most people, the 25-inch suitcase is easy to lift up to put in the overhead storage and carry up stairs, if necessary. Because of its size, you can’t really fill it with too much stuff and weigh it down.
However, if you’re smaller and can’t lift as much weight, then you may want to consider a carry-on suitcase, the size you would take onto an airplane and put in the overhead compartment.
If you’re traveling as a couple, then you could take one 25-inch suitcase and one carry-on suitcase, and share the space.
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