Saturday, September 01, 2007

parking in Japan

Travel in Japan has given me a whole new appreciation for parking. In this country, you may not purchase an automobile unless you can present a certificate showing you have a place to park it, so you see some pretty amazing parking jobs, and some rather tiny cars. (A Toyota Prius is a large car here.)

For instance, consider this parallel parking job. That's a foot deep trench between the rear wheels.

This structure is a vertical parking lot.

It holds one or two cars per floor. There's a turntable at the bottom to rotate the car to the proper position and an elevator to lift it to the floor with the parking place.

They typically rent out spaces by the month, about 2,000 yen per month (around $200) in Kanazawa. More in Tokyo.

Or how about this arrangement to let you put four cars in two spaces?

As I mentioned, the cars are also smaller. Some of them extremely small. There are two classes of general passenger cars, the normal-sized ones and the "lightweight cars" which have an engine smaller than 1000 cubic centimeters. You can recognize the lightweight ones by their yellow license plate. A Honda Fit, which is one of the smaller cars available in the U.S., is too big for the "lightweight" class. Here's a lightweight van next to a tour bus for comparison:

This is what one looks like close-up: very small wheelbase and tall seating position (so you can see over the other traffic).

They're not much bigger than a motorcycle.

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