Japanese parking lots

So, just got back from my 4 week vacation to Japan, so I'll probably have a few more Japan themed posts coming up.

Here's something I noticed when I first went over there, and it struck me as odd again this time around. Everyone does back-in parking! It's eerie almost. I've seen a few cars here and there that park "normally," but the vast majority, are backed-in. I of course asked people why they do this, and the typical response is "Well, it's easier to just drive away when you leave." 

In America, we seem to focus more on the present, and go for the quick gratification of straight-in parking. Maybe this reflects some sort of general cultural difference. Maybe the American fast-food, spendy, instant gratification lifestyle is also reflected in our parking methods. Maybe the Japanese, with their #1 life expectancy, are always thinking of the future, and about how a little restraint now can pay off in the long run.

Nahh, on second thought it probably just has to do with driving on the left side of the road 🙂

Comments (9)
  1. bilbo says:

    In Jamaica they do back-in parking as well. The reason they do it, I was told, is to make a fast get away if a crack head attempts to rob you.

    I guess you have to think like a criminal to see the disadvantages to straight-in parking.

    It’s a comprimising/difficult situation to get out of if someone is bothering you / robbing you and you have to put the car in reverse to get away.

  2. Brian Duff says:

    Funnily enough, there’s a lot of back-in parking in the UK too, perhaps this is further evidence for your left side of the road theory 😉

    It’s not universal though (I’ve always been far too lazy for back-in parking, preferring the "drive through two opposing parking slots so that you end up facing outwards without all the effort of reverse parking" approach)


  3. Kyle says:

    I don’t buy the "it’s easier to get out" theory. Yes, it’s easier to get out in the end, but isn’t it easier to back out of a parking spot than to back into one wedged between too cars? Most of the time, there’s more room to maneuver when you back out.

    Don’t have that problem in the Bahamas, though. Parking is wherever you stop your car over here.

  4. Jeffrey Sax says:

    There may be a linguistic bias here, too. A sentence like "go get some bread" usually implies that you ‘go’ to some store, ‘get’ the bread, and then ‘come back.’ The third part, the coming back, is omitted in English.

    In Japanese, the same idea would be expressed as "get the bread and come back." In other words, they may think less about the "going" and more about the "coming back."

  5. vbNullString says:

    I’m Japanese myself living in United States. I backup everytime I park in my apartment complex. Jeffrey, you are right about the language part, but I don’t know how much of it is influencing the way we park! LOL

    Well, "go find" more things in Japan!

  6. Dave says:

    I did a quick search on the net to see if someone else has discovered a reason for this, but all I could find is this:


    Looks like it’s not just Japan, and that safety is the motivating factor.

  7. Dave says:

    For those of you that are curious, a coworker came up with a good explanation. When you do straight in parking, if you come in at any sort of angle into the parking space, you’ll need some room to pivot the front of your car around to be squarely in the parking space. The greater the angle you come in at, the wider the parking space needs to be in order for you to successfully pivot.

    When you do back in parking, the same does not hold true. As long as you can fit the back end of your car into the space, you can pivot the front of the car around to get the correct angle, but the back end of the car stays pretty much stationary. So, this method works well for narrower parking spaces.

    Japan has more narrow parking spaces than the US, so they probably just teach the back in parking method, since it will be used more often. Japanese living in the states are probably just doing the back in parking out of habit.

  8. Kevin says:

    As a consultant, I spent nearly a year onsite at the headquarters of a railroad cleanup company (they handle things like derailments and wrecks). Being a safety-centered service company, they mandate that all vehicles back into the parking spaces. For them, employee arrival in the morning is typically staggered. Whereas, most of the company picks up and leaves at 5:00 on the dot.

  9. Chad Thiele says:

    I’ve been living in Japan for 7 years now. Back-in parking is so much easier in the small parking lots they have here. And, it’s rare to see any angle parking at all, they’re all 90 degree.

    Trust me, if you come to Japan and try to do straight in parking on some of the smaller parking lots here, you’re in for some frustration. Backing in allows you to pivot the car around, just as Dave said above. In fact, the parking space for my apartment *requires* that I back in. If I don’t I simply *can not* get my car in the spot. If I tried straight in parking in my spot, I would look like Austin Powers (in the first movie, when he had that little tranport cart wedged sideways in that hallway and was backing up, going forward, backing up, going forward…).

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