Japan, Okinawa
Comments 15

Disabled Parking Spaces in Japan

Parking spaces for the disabled in Japan

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.

This entry was posted in: Japan, Okinawa


Travel writer and photographer living in Okinawa, Japan


  1. And the problem is, if you do this you’ll be thought of as the crazy gaijin who is just causing disharmony to everyone else by pointing out they are doing something wrong. Don’t know about mainland, but at least in Okinawa if you put your head down and don’t look at anyone while you’re doing something then it never happened at all. Of course this only applies to Japanese.

  2. Guest says

    Perhaps ‘realistic’ looking tickets to place on the windshield may deter repeaters.
    It may be a hassle to wait for people and ticket their cars though.

  3. Japan is quite hit-and-miss when it comes to facilities for disabled. This is no different from other countries, of course. For instance, Osaka subway is only now gradually installing elevators in all its stations, and Kintetsu still doesn’t have elevators in many places. Somebody in a wheelchair will experience all the dignity and safety of being carried bodily down steep concrete stairs by the station managers. On the other hand, guide tiles for blind and partially sighted are ubiquitous on the streets and in public spaces.

  4. My betting is that if he did, he’d have been told that it’s not so busy and that it’s ok. Actually confronting the person/people who have parked there will bring attention to them and cause conflict.

  5. Steve says

    The car on the right also has the “silver driver” mark on the back… they are pretending to be both disabled AND elderly…

  6. Tord S Eriksson says

    The situation is more or less the same here, with the police taking very little interest in the matter (there are fines, of course), and even a Swedish artist bragged about that he normally uses disabled parkings, because he, high and mighty, pointed out that he doesn’t have time for looking for a free parking spot!!!

    Yesterday I saw an elderly couple do the same, and they definitely didn’t have the needed disabled sticker on their windscreen! Just lazy, mightier than you, people. There were parking spaces just 20 yards away, but oh, no, right at the entrance that’s what they wanted to be!

    Quite a lot of windscreen stickers are stolen here, too, a problem for parking attendants!

    • but u know, there is no fines for disabled parking violation in Japan. and now even pregnant women, elderly and those with mild trouble walking can obtain handicapped parking privilege in Japan.

    • no, the problem is not u , is the handicapped parking permit rule.罰則なしの制度の下で、マナーに頼るなんて、難しい。しかし、今さら、罰則なしの制度が実施し続く恐れがある。少なくても、利用証が重度と軽度を区別してほしい。

  7. Ivan Munar says

    very nice article. My Mother-in-law is coming here in Japan and wants tour around, she is not that disable but she does have a problem with both of her legs and can’t handle longs walks, I was wondering where to get a special disabled parking permit/card. I sometimes see some cars have a card hanging from there rear view mirror. Where do I get one of those? does it have any requirements, medical or something to prove that she has this condition?

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