Don’t drive in Japan.
I’ve said that before and I’m probably going to say that a lot more as I continue blogging. Don’t drive in Japan. The roads are narrow, the speed limit is low, and gas is expensive. Don’t even get me started with all the extra fees (like paying $2000+ to get your car disassembled/reassembled every two years according to regulations or “car tax”). With few exceptions, it is much cheaper to just take one of the many forms of public transportation.
Plus, when you take public transportation, you don’t have to deal with heartaches like this.
And, of course, this is hypocritical of me to say, because a great number of the things I’ve blogged about are only possibly because my friends have cars.
I’ve decided that’s the distinction I’m going to make here. A good number of my Japanese friends have cars. They drive. My husband and I don’t. If we need a car, we rent it for the day (not that expensive, actually).
But, you don’t have to listen to me. In fact, on a normal day, that’s not such a bad idea. Let’s say you DO, for some reason, want to drive a car in Japan. You’re going to have to park your car eventually, and that’s when pay-by-the hour lots come in handy.
So here is a quick guide on how to use a pay-by-the hour car parking lot.
1. Find a lot. It’s not that difficult. Large department stores have a parking garage, but aside from that, most of the lots I see are small, fitting only a couple cars at most.
2. Check the prices. Make sure you are willing to pay. It’s honestly not as expensive as I make it out to be, it’s just more expensive than biking. Keep in mind, though, that if you think it is too much and want to keep looking, you might burn that extra amount in gas, and like I said before, gas is really expensive here.
Most places charge by the 30 minutes and by the hour, and occasionally by either the day or the night. For instance, this place charges 200 yen (about $2.00) for every 30 minutes, between 7AM and 9PM. Then after 9PM they charge only 100 yen (about $1.00) for every hour. A lot of the places in the city will charge like 300yen ($3) for every fifteen minutes.
If they are going to give you a day/night rate (to cap it at, so that would be the maximum you could pay) it will be listed somewhere on the sign. Check to see if you qualify.
This one says that if you park your car overnight (after 9PM but remove it before 7AM) they will only charge you 500 yen (about $6.00) for the night. How nice of them.
3. Decide you won’t find anywhere cheaper and drive into the lot. All lots are different – they usually either make you take a ticket at the gate (if it is a bigger lot, holding at least 15 cars), or they will let you park for free at a specific spot, then make you pay at the machine on your way out.
I will be introducing the latter.
4. Back your car up into the spot neatly. Be careful not to wreck your wheels or park crooked. Then again, I have yet to meet a Japanese person who does not park impeccably. My husband has only had his license for a couple years and he’s already a master at the “backing into the parking lot” thing. I am so envious.
The front of your car should be facing out, like the car in the diagram.
5. Leave the lot to go off and have fun. Seriously. Have fun. Try not to think about how much money is draining away each hour.
6. Get back to the lot. Notice that the metal bar underneath your car has risen up, preventing you from leaving.
Don’t try to leave without paying. It will mess up your car.
Don’t try to step or push down on the bar so you can escape without paying. It won’t work.
They even put little warnings on the bars telling you to be careful (and telling you not to try to mess with it).
Ryosuke was demonstrating how people used to try to trick the system and push down on the pedal so they could get out free. Seriously folks, it doesn’t actually work.
7. Find the machine. It will have instructions on it (probably in Japanese).
8. Type in the parking space number that your car is parked in. Make sure you type in the correct number, or you might end up paying for someone else.
Not that I’ve ever done that, because, you know, I don’t drive in Japan.
9. Pay. Hopefully you brought enough money. I’m joking, though. Seriously. It’s not that bad – especially this parking lot. I just hear friends complain about how much they have to pay to park every day. It adds up fast.
10. Leave. Make sure you don’t stick around for more than 20 minutes (though honestly, I don’t know why you would) because then they will charge you again and you will have to pay again.
11. Contemplate if the fun you had was worth the money. Decide it was.
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