Tollgate cheat pays 259,537 yen bill

Japan Highway Public Corp. said Friday it has collected 259,537 yen in unpaid toll charges and fines for late payment from a Saitama Prefecture man who allegedly ran expressway tollgates 116 times since February.

The man, part of a protest movement against the high tolls charged by expressway operators, on each occasion handed tollbooth employees a copy of his “freeway declaration” instead of cash, according to Japan Highway.

The expressway operator said it is the first time such action has been taken against such protesters.

As of July, there were around 15,000 reported cases of vehicles submitting similar declarations at tollgates on national expressways. The operators are facing growing public criticism over the exorbitant tolls they charge and the mounting debts they have accumulated.

Japan Highway said it will heighten its efforts to collect fees from protesters.

The campaign was initiated by Hidenori Wago, a company owner in Saitama Prefecture who established the Freeway Club. The club has around 2,300 members nationwide, Wago said.

Wago said Friday he has not heard who the man is, but added that if he is a Freeway Club member, the club will consider taking legal action against Japan Highway.