With over 88 million vehicles in Japan, it takes a little touch of maverick, precision and of course technology to fit them all in when they are off the road.
Photo by “Highway star R” (Yukihiro Miwa)
Owning a car in Japan is an expensive proposition, considering parking space certificate, automobile inspection and taxes that need to be settled. Using public transport is much convenient and cost effective compared to driving in Japan.
shako shomei – parking space certificate
Before you could buy a car in Japan, you will need to show proof of parking space certificate called “shako shomei” (車庫証明). This parking space may be your home or a parking garage within your neighborhood. There are realtors available to help you look for parking space. Parking spaces in apartment buildings are rented out on monthly basis and could cost up to 30,000 yen (USD 380) per month.
The notion of stacking cars is common in Japan due to space constraints. Cars are stacked up for effective use of scarce land using mechanical parking equipment such as multi-level circulation system, conveyor and elevators.
Here’s how parking is engineered with efficiency. All you need to do is to pull your car to the centre of a rotating platform. There is a mirror, signaling lights and even a recorded announcement as a reminder to turn off the ignition and lock your car as you leave. The platform will rotate and slide the car into a conveyor system that stores the car underground or stack it. Once the parking fee is paid, an attended will press a button and the car will slide out from a lift and rotate on the platform to face the exit.
Oversized vehicles that wouldn’t fit into these structures are parked on the ground. In big cities like Tokyo, there are automated coin parking lots where a ramp or barrier will rise when a car is parked. The ramp or barrier will be lowered once the parking fee is paid as indicated on the machine. The standard rate is at 100 to 200 yen for every 20 minutes. At tourist spots and commercial areas, each vehicle is only allowed to park for a fixed time interval as the coin slot wouldn’t be reopened unless the car is moved out.
Amazingly, people do line up for illegal parking on sidewalks in Japan. Parking tickets could cost up to 18000 yen (230 USD). There is no runaway from parking offence in Japan – thanks to sensors and cameras.