A peek at parking in Tokyo (via bicycle-mounted video)

Something lighter for a holiday season.

Here is some virtual parking tourism via an 8 minute video by Danny Choo of a cycle through inner Tokyo.

There is lots to think about here for anyone curious about cities. Japan's urban landscapes are fascinating, especially their really narrow streets.

But this is a parking policy blog, so where is the parking in this? Watch the video then scroll down for my parking-related comments.

Japanese parking policies are not necessarily ideal. But they ARE very different from anywhere else in the world. And that makes them worthy of much more attention than they are getting.

The camera angle was not ideal for parking tourism. But there are still various parking highlights to notice: 
  • A glimpse of a coin-operated surface micro-lot at 0:02
  • At 0:08 on the right: shuttered shops or garage doors? I am not sure. Maybe a reader of Japanese can tell us?
  • 0:19 by now we have seen many bicycles parked and no on-street cars yet ... and with the narrow streets, where would an on-street car go?
  • 0:25 some ground level garage doors on the right beneath small apartment buildings (or large houses perhaps)
  • 0:29 more parking under apartments. But it looks unlikely that every dwelling in these has parking.
  • 0:44 some parking in the frontage of houses on the left and right here. 
  • Over the next minute or so, various examples of the same patterns of residential parking as we traverse a mainly residential area. We see cars in various nooks and crannies (this cliche is appropriate here - mostly these are small spaces).  I will stop commenting on these now. 
  • At 1:14 another small commercial surface lot on the left, even though we are in mainly residential territory here. I am not sure if this is coin-operated (I think so). 
  • 1:37 and 1:47 the second and third small trucks we have seen parked in the street (presumably making a delivery or for tradespeople on a call out?). Still no on-street cars. And have we seen a moving car yet? I don't think we have!
  • At 2:03 a slightly larger surface lot. Could be leased parking for surrounding residents. A common but ugly feature of the Tokyo landscape (mercifully they are usually small). 
  • 2:09 a sunken parking space under a house on the right. Looks rather steep with a dangerous visibility problem as the car tries to exit?
  • 2:15-2:19 An institution on the left looks like it has lots of bicycle parking. Does it also have underground car parking? I thought I glimpsed an entrance ramp. 
  • 2:39 now we hit a major street and the landscape changes completely - much larger buildings front the larger streets. Unlike in central Tokyo, the buildings here have setbacks. Many of the frontages seem to have parking. This is a pattern also common in China, Korea, Indonesia and many other Asian countries. I am actually a bit surprised to see this in Tokyo. It is hard to see but many of these buildings probably also have underground parking too. 
  • 4:27 Now back on very small streets and coming into a commercial area. Another coin parking lot makes an appearance.
  • 4:50 is that the first passenger car we have seen parked on street? (illegally)
  • 5:00 to 6:10 almost no car parking (or moving cars!) visible throughout a very busy commercial area full of small shops and intense pedestrian and bicycle activity on the narrow streets. 
  • 6:10-6:32 railway level crossing! Why did you take off on the wrong side of the street, Danny? (Japan drives on the left)
  • 7:00 lots of bicycles (and some scooters) parked everywhere but almost no car parking evident in this area, at least on this shopping street.

Did I miss anything? Maybe you saw other noteworthy parking moments? I didn't spot any automated parking towers. Did you?  What are your impressions of this landscape and its parking (or the relative absence of parking)? What do you think of the parking that is there?

If this all seems inexplicable, don't worry. I will offer some slightly more wonkish comments on Tokyo parking in another post shortly. 

By the way, this is inner Tokyo but it is south of the circle of the Yamanote line, so this is outside central Tokyo.

This Google map shows a suggested walking route which may be somewhat similar to the bike ride in the video (I think!). Click though and use Street View if you want a closer look or zoom out to see the wider context.

View Larger Map


  1. It's blurry at 0:07 but the first symbol looks like the kanji for "car", which looks like a box with axles sticking out, read as "kuruma" or "sha" depending on context. The second symbol is harder to read but could easily be the one for "shed" which just so happens to look like the symbol for "car" underneath the symbol indicating "roof" (vaguely speaking). Together it is "shako".

    So yeah, I'd guess that's a garage.

    1. Let's try typing Japanese in here.

      Car garage: 車庫

  2. Many thanks for that, Matthew!

    Also, I corrected the google maps path to match the ride. So it is now possible to take a closer look with street view, which might show up a few more things I overlooked or was mistaken about.


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