When you need to go around downtown Tokyo by car and park your car for a little while there, you can find an hourly parking lot convenient. The usage of that type of parking lot is quite simple – Park your car and pay a fee per time of use, that is all. However, the problem is that each parking lot has a slightly different system, which may confuse first-time users and those unfamiliar with written Japanese. So, here you find information about types of hourly parking systems available in the Tokyo area and tips on using them.
How to use an hourly parking lot
Hourly parking lots, often called in Japanese “Koin-Parking” (coin-operated parking lots), are paid parking facilities for temporary use, and the rate is per unit time, such as a few ten minutes or hours. For example, in Tokyo and the central part of the city, many hourly parking lots charge several hundred yen per 15 minutes or every 20 minutes. The system of each is not always the same, but it is generally for payment in arrears. Users are to pay a fee at the pay station in the parking just before leaving.
How to make payments at a pay station
The parking lot usually has a pay station near the entrance/exit. The payment machine has brief instructions on how to use it so people can use it at ease. Although most instructions are in Japanese, some of the devices have extra explanations in English. The major operating companies provide the information in English on their websites, which you can check beforehand if you are not comfortable with Japanese.
The payment system and the rate
Rental parking companies provide different services, and the rate range varies depending on the location and time of day to use, such as 100 Yen per 20 minutes in the city center, 500 Yen per 5 hours in the suburbs, etc. The rate particularly varies by location, tending to be higher than average in downtowns and districts near the train station. The rate and time setting should be checked before using the parking service.
Parking fees are paid in cash only at most parking.
Most pay stations only accept cash in Japan, and some machines only take coins or 1,000 Yen bills. Although more machines may accept credit cards and e-payments lately, you will still need to carry some money in cash if you plan to use the parking service.
Pay stations reject stained paper bills.
When you put a bill into the machine, you may sometimes get a read error that rejects inserting. That error happens if the device cannot detect a bill due to dirt, especially oil. Also, the machine may refuse a wet bill with rain. A paper bill swells and deforms by water, which causes the device to misalign the scanned print, resulting in an error.
How to use an hourly parking service;
The hourly parking services available in Tokyo come in different systems based on the facility’s size and location. Although the payment is in arrears at most parking lots, it is advisable to check it beforehand as the pre-payment system has been increasing lately.
Small hourly parking facilities
Parking with flap-locks
This type of small parking lot is often available in the city. Each parking slot in the parking lot has a flap-lock plate on the ground, where it automatically locks a vehicle. If you pay a fee at the pay station, the device unlocks to release your car.
Park your car at a parking slot. The flap-plate rises to lock your car. (Remember the parking slot number)
Pay a fee at the pay station. Enter your parking slot number and pay the fee, then it will unlock your car.
After the payment, do not spend much time before moving out your car from the slot. Otherwise, it will lock your car again, causing damage to your vehicle if you try to move out without noticing it.
Be sure to check the rate and time setting. Parking lots near popular spots may charge higher fees during a particular season, such as the new year holidays. The rate change notice will be in Japanese in most cases, and the rate can be from 600 Yen/hour to even 2000 Yen/hour.
Parking without flap-locks
This parking lot looks similar to it in the locking system, but it is no flat-lock plate on the ground. Instead, sensing cameras monitor and record the entry/exit of vehicles.
Park your car at a vacant slot (Remember the parking slot number)
Before moving your car, pay a fee at the pay station. Input your parking slot number and pay into the machine.
This type of parking is found in the area far from the city center. It charges fees in advance while customers can get their vehicles out without any procedure. The rate is usually set to a long-time unit, such as charged per 12 hours.
Park your car at a vacant slot, then purchase a ticket from the pay station there. Leave your ticket in your car, usually put around the front screen, so that it can be seen from outside.
Move your car out of the parking lot while your ticket is valid.
An hourly parking lot is for temporary use. You are not allowed to park your car for days in a row, and if you do so, you will be charged a penalty.
Large hourly parking facilities
Gate system parking
The parking lot has a gate and ticket machine at the entrance/exit, where customers use a ticket to get in and out.
This type of parking lot at commercial facilities usually offers discounts for their customers. For example, a parking fee can be free for the first 3 hours of arrival and paid every 30 minutes after that. Another system is that a customer who shopped over 2000 Yen is allowed to park a car for 4 hours for free. To be entitled to a discount, you are to show your ticket (Chuusha-ken 駐車券) a cashier or at a service counter, where you will receive a discount, commonly a validation coupon called “Service Ticket” (Service-Ken サービス券).
At the entrance, press a button on the ticket machine and get an entry ticket to open the gate. Go into the parking lot and park your car in a parking slot.
If there is no ticket machine at the entrance gate, the machine is inside the parking lot. To get an entry ticket, press the button “発券” (Hakken) on that machine.
Pay the fee before moving your car. The payment is made in two different ways, which are;
1) Pay a fee at the pay station before moving your car.
Put your entry ticket (and service tickets, if any, one by one) into the machine and pay the fee, then the machine returns the ticket, so you use it at the exit when leaving. The exit gate opens when you put your ticket into the collecting machine aside.
2) Move your car and go to the exit gate, where you are to pay the fee.
Put your ticket and pay the fee into the payment machine at the exit gate, then the gate opens and lets you go out. Note that most machines accept coins only.
Check the sign “満” (No Vacancy) and “空” (Vacancy) before getting to the entrance gate.
Be sure not to lose your ticket. Otherwise, you may be overly charged.
If your car is left-hand drive, don’t forget the parking brake while stopping at the entrance to get a ticket. The machine is always on the right side of the gate.
Smart parking is the system recently replacing the gate system. Cameras in the parking monitor vehicles there and scan each license plate for parking validation. You don’t need to receive a ticket at the entrance.
As with the gate-operated parking, smart parking at commercial facilities offers discounts for customers. To be entitled to a discount, you need to ask a cashier at the register/service counter for parking validation, where you will receive a validation ticket with a QR code printed on it. The discount will be applied to a parking fee when you scan it at the pay station.
Go into the parking lot and park your car in a parking slot. A camera detects your license plate.
Before moving your car, visit the pay station. If you enter your license plate number, it will display your vehicle and your number for confirmation. Identify your vehicle and the number shown on display, and complete the payment. Then, you can leave from the exit.