On our first trip to Japan, people could tell we were Americans just by our luggage. We've noticed that many Americans attempt to travel with huge amounts of luggage. We had brought enough clothes for two weeks! One of our bags was a huge gray suitcase on wheels we called "the elephant". The other bag was a large suitcase to which I had added wheels. It had no tether with which to pull it, so I brought along a piece of dock line from my sailboat. This was gleefully referred to as "the hopeless rope".
This arrangement had many drawbacks:
- We opted for the more expensive first class JR rail pass so we could ride in the "Green Cars" which had more room for luggage.
- Some trains that we needed to ride didn't have a Green Car. Ordinary trains only have an overhead carry-on rack.
- It was hard to find a coin locker which would fit our luggage.
- Since only one pair of wheels was castered, getting out of small elevators was tricky because the suitcases only wanted to roll one direction.
- It was a major effort to get the fifty pound suitcases up and down the narrow stairs in a small minshuku (lodging in a family home).
- We were constantly in everyone's way. Crossing a stream of people at right angles, when your combined length is over 5 feet, is nearly impossible.
- Getting on an escalator without losing control was always a challenge.