There are some very good reasons that most Tokyoites don’t have cars—primarily great public transport, and really expensive parking. If you’re considering buying a car, you may find that the exorbitant costs of parking outweigh the vehicle’s running costs. Before you head to the dealer, we recommend scoping out the costs of getting a monthly car parking spot.

Types of monthly parking

Monthly rental parking in Japan is called tsukigime-chushajō (月極駐車場). Once you’ve memorized the characters, you’ll start to notice them everywhere!

Resident parking

If you live in an apartment building or condominium, there may be an attached parking lot—either next to the building or under the building. Some may have mechanical car stacker-style parking. Whichever it is, these are usually the best option as they are often cheaper for residents, and residents often have priority over outsiders who wish to contract the parking. The downside is that they are quite popular with your fellow residents, so you may have to join a long wait-list.

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Parking lots

You’ve probably noticed parking lots everywhere right? Unfortunately, if you live anywhere central, these are likely to be “coin parking” facilities. Open-air parking lots which have monthly rental spaces are exceedingly rare in central Tokyo. If you go to the outskirts, you’ll find a lot more—often next to rivers or on marginal land which is a long way from the station. Unless you live in said outskirts, these are not available to you. See the requirements section below to find out why these far-flung parking lots are probably not a viable option for parking your car.

“Parking lot” is also a bit of a misnomer. The number of spaces can vary from a single space next to a shop, up to several hundred spaces. A surprisingly large number are at the smaller end.

If you have a large car or a car with a high roof, then open-air parking lots might be the only option available to you due to restrictions on mechanical car stackers.


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Anything this convenient is almost certainly 2,000yen/hour “coin parking”. | Photo by Gregory Lane

Mechanical Car Stackers

These take many forms, but typically your car is stored in something like a crate or a tray either below ground, or within a tower. When parking your car or fetching your car, you enter a PIN into the console. When your tray is in the loading area, the doors open and you either drive in, or drive out.

Although they may seem intimidating, mechanical car stackers can be convenient (because there are a lot of them), cheap (because people prefer open-air parking lots), and better for your car—because it won’t be exposed to the elements.

Mechanical car stackers are also less likely to be “coin parking” and more likely to be available on a monthly basis.

Entrance to a mechanical car stacker | Photo by iStock.com/Terroa

Your own garage or parking space

If you’re lucky enough to own or rent a house with an attached garage or parking spot, you probably don’t need this article. However, you’re not in the clear—skip ahead to the section about getting permission to park your car in your own garage!

Parking level: Ninja | Photo by Gregory Lane

Requirements for getting permission to park your car

So you thought you could just buy a new car and park it in your own garage? Well, no, you can’t. Whether it’s your own garage, a space in the residents’ parking lot of your building, or a mechanical car stacker, you need to get a shakoshōmeisho (certificate of parking space) first before you can buy your car. To get a shakoshōmeisho you need to meet the following requirements.

  • The parking spot must be within 2 kilometers of your registered address
  • You need to provide evidence that you have contracted the parking spot (hokansho)
  • The dimensions of the parking spot must be greater than that of your car

Issuing shakoshōmeisho is one of the main activities of your local police station. If there are multiple police stations in your area, you will need to go to the police station that is in charge of the area where your parking spot is located, so it might not be the closest station to your house!

When you visit the police station, you’ll need a certificate from your parking provider, the shakensho, and a map (see below).

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The fee for applying for a shakoshōmeisho is ¥2,000, which can be paid for at the stamp duty counter within the police station. From application to pickup may take up to one week—or longer if New Year or Golden Week gets in the way. There is also a fee of ¥500 for the certificate which is payable at pick-up.

Akasaka Police Station
Issuing parking certificates is one of their main jobs | Photo by Gregory Lane

Parking spot location within 2 kilometers of your registered address

This is something that many first-time car buyers aren’t aware of. So if you’re centrally located, you can’t just contract a parking spot out in the suburbs—it basically has to be within walking distance.

The distance is also in relation to your registered address. If you have more than one property, or you want to park it at your workplace, you’ll probably have to switch your registered address or have your employer as the registered owner of the vehicle.

When applying for the shako-shomeisho, you’ll need a printed map showing that the parking spot is within 2 kilometers of your house. A print out of a Google Map is usually acceptable for this purpose.

Evidence that you have contracted the parking spot

Unless the parking spot belongs to you, you will need a certificate from the parking lot operator to prove that you have contracted for a place to park your car. In Japanese, this is called a hokansho (保管書). It includes your name, the address of the parking spot, the operator of the parking lot, and the size of the parking space. If the space is in a mechanical car stacker, then the police will rely on the dimensions listed here rather than inspecting your parking spot.

Parking spot size

Your parking spot needs to be bigger than your car. So how do they check if you don’t have a car yet? The car you’re buying will have a shakensho (車検書) which lists the exact height, width, length, and weight of the vehicle. If your car is too big, you’ll have to find another spot or another car!

How much is a monthly parking spot?

If you live in a far flung suburb, or in a semi-rural area, then you may be able to find a parking spot for as little as ¥10,000 per month. However, if you’re in central Tokyo, then the prices typically range from ¥25,000 to ¥60,000. Contracts typically run for 12 months with a minimum contract period of 6 months. To quit your contract, you need to give notice more than one month in advance.

What other charges are there?

Unfortunately, the monthly parking industry takes its queues from Japan’s real estate industry. This means there are often unnecessary but unavoidable charges such as one month of “key money”. So with a refundable security deposit, key money, and one month of rent in advance, before you can park your car, you will need to lay down the equivalent of three months rent.

Additionally, for the issuance of certificates such as the aforementioned hokansho, there is a charge—typically ¥10,000.

How do I find a monthly parking spot?

Monthly parking search sites

There are plenty of sites online that allow you to search by train station or by distance from your place of residence such as Nippon Parking Search or CarParking. Although there may be a number of options in your area, there are many fewer operators, so some of the parking lots are managed by the same companies.

After you fill in the enquiry form, if you get a response, they will call you on the telephone. Presumably this is to prove that you are a real person and because matching people and cars to parking spots is complicated. This is also an opportunity for the classic bait and switch. The sales person may try to upsell you to a different parking space or steer you away from the cheaper options.

Directly contacting the parking management companies

If you use the search websites, the management company has to pay a fee to the website for your information. This means that the call back rate can sometimes be quite low. If you don’t want to leave it to chance, we suggest you go for a walk!

If you look out for mechanical car stackers (typically attached to office and apartment buildings) and the 月極駐車場 characters, you will notice signs with the name of the management company and a telephone number. Although the sign might say “空きあり” (spaces available) the spaces might not be in the parking lot that the sign is attached to. Since you’re calling them directly without a commission involved, the management company should be very helpful with finding a parking space that meets your requirements.

Look for signs like this | Photo by Gregory Lane

Contracting for a parking spot

When this writer recently contracted a parking spot, everything was done online and on the telephone without the need to meet in person or to sign any physical contracts. Besides providing a scan of the shakensho, you’ll need to show that you have insurance for the car and give them a copy of your drivers license. For those who aren’t Japanese citizens, you also might have to provide a copy of your zairyu card.

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