Madame Rotin, a furniture shop in business for more than 30 years along Tokyo’s Kan-nana, the busy No. 7 loop artery in Meguro Ward, recently closed, claiming customers stopped coming because they had a hard time finding a parking space under stricter new rules to curb illegal parking.
The shop is one of many that do not provide sufficient parking space and now fear their business will suffer under the revised Road Traffic Law that took effect June 1.
Illegally parked vehicles now face immediate ticketing, a departure from the previous system in which tires were first marked with chalk and then tagged only after a certain time had passed.
Police used to be solely in charge of parking enforcement, but now private-sector patrollers are also issuing tickets, and doing so as soon as they find vehicles parked illegally.
“It has become difficult for customers, as they are always worrying about their cars,” said Toshiro Saitsu, a product manager at Kazama & Co., the parent of Madame Rotin.
Most customers used to drive to the shop, which was about 10 minutes on foot from the nearest railway station. The store has been unable to find ample parking space nearby because land prices are too high.
“Circumstances changed drastically,” said Tomoe Nakamura, the shop’s former owner.
When the shop first opened decades ago, “there was not much traffic. But now, there are lots of cars” on the street, said Nakamura, also president of Kazama. “Frankly, it was hard to make the decision to close the shop, because we had accumulated good customers over 30 years.”
According to the nearby Himonya police station, Kan-nana and the intersecting Meguro-dori avenue are two of the most tightly patrolled thoroughfares for illegal parking because both have a high frequency of traffic accidents. Police also hope the parking crackdown eases traffic congestion.
Another business along Kan-nana that saw sales slide after the new parking rules took effect is the ramen shop Setagaya.
But its owner, Tsukasa Maejima, has since seen his business rebound.
“When the law was revised, I thought I was doomed,” said Maejima, whose shop, about a 15-minute walk from the nearest train station, also does not provide parking. He added that although he now feels relieved, he doesn’t know what the future holds.
Maejima, whose ramen sales amount to about 10 million yen per month, would like to rent a parking lot for customers but noted there is no suitable space nearby. But he does not plan to relocate, saying, “We took root here.
“What we can do as a countermeasure is to make tasty ramen to lure customers even if they have to park far away or use other means of transportation,” Maejima said.
For not only street-side stores but also companies that use vehicles for work, the stricter parking rules have had an impact.
Yamato Transport Co., a major parcel delivery firm, said it has stepped up efforts to cope with the tighter rules, including renting parking spaces and making greater use of wheeled-carts to deliver packages where possible.
The consequent costs are estimated at 700 million yen for the current fiscal year through next March, said the carrier, which has about 40,000 delivery vehicles.
The tougher regulations, however, have benefited the parking lot industry.
Nippon Parking Development Co., engaged in leasing unused land for parking lots, saw a 15 percent year-on-year increase in cars in its downtown Tokyo lots.
Park 24 Co., which runs 24-hour automated parking garages, has revised upward its earnings estimates for its business year that ended Oct. 31, as well as its yearend dividends, citing growth in demand for parking stemming from the new rules.
Tomoyuki Saito, a Park 24 spokesman, said: “There is absolutely not enough parking lots. If we create a lot in the right place, it will succeed.
“I think Japan has been passionate about making cars and roads, but not about making parking lots,” Saito reckoned, adding that his firm is trying to improve customer convenience.
Park 24 provides drivers with information on the nearest parking and directions to it via mobile phones with Global Positioning System functions. It also offers corporate parking card services that eliminate the need for users to bill their companies for parking.
While the parking lot operators clean up under the new rules, the furniture firm Kazama is hoping to relocate Madame Rotin somewhere in Tokyo where it can provide spaces for at least two or three cars, or move near a railway station.
“We have to thoroughly review where we open new outlets,” Nakamura said.
Until Madame Rotin opens somewhere, aftercare service for its customers will be available at Kazama’s showroom in Yokohama, she said.
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