There are a growing number of parking spaces for the disabled around Japan. In fact, with the exception of historic buildings, Japan seems to be quite accessible for those with limited mobility. Car rental companies usually have a variety of vehicles specifically designed for wheel chairs or even with seats that rotate and lower the passenger. As would be expected the train system in Japan is excellent for disabled travelers. Hotels, likewise, have disabled parking and many hotels have disabled accessible rooms. (I believe it is mandatory for larger hotels.)
One thing that some people in Japan have yet to understand or value, is that disabled parking spaces are only for people who need them. Unfortunately, they are used by able-bodied people when car parks are almost full, to reduce the time walking to the front of the store, or when the disabled parking space is in the shade. I’ve seen it done by both men and women, old and young, rich and poor.
The repercussions for using disabled parking in Japan appear to be non-existant. People aren’t punished financially through fines, or socially by having other people point out that what they are doing is repugnant.
The photograph above is a case in point. I’m walking into the Sports Depo store, having parked in an almost empty large car park. As I approach the door, the vehicle on the right zooms into the disabled parking space by the doors and out pops a young Japanese man and woman in their twenties. They begin walking away from their car towards the store. As they come near me I ask them in Japanese if they are okay. They look confused. I tell them if they want I can go and ask the staff at the sports store if they have a wheel chair they can borrow. More confused looks. I point out that they are using the disabled parking space, and that I assume they’re disabled. They realize what I’m going on about, but are seemingly unaware of sarcasm. They say, no we’re fine, and carry on into the store.
Clearly sarcasm wasn’t the right way for me to have handled this, but maybe the guy will think differently next time. He may not care about the morality of the situation, but he might not want to risk the chance of being hassled by someone.
I’m not advocating dressing up in a Batman costume and becoming a vigilante, but if the general public pointed out to other members of the community that things like dumping trash in the bushes or parking in disabled parking spaces was unacceptable we might make where we live just a little bit better for everyone.