It goes without saying that one should try very hard not to lose a parking garage ticket. Especially at the end of a night out. You never know how much of a hassle it will be when trying to exit, who you might have to track down to let you out, or how much extra you might have to pay. But Japan just might be the worst.

After a work (well, other work) related get together last Friday, I made my way back to the parking garage where I had parked my car. It seemed like a decent deal. It wasn’t the closest parking—I still had to walk a bit. But it was about $7 for the day, versus amounts closer or even over $10 next to my actual destination.

I was pretty sure I put the ticket in my wallet. This was probably my first mistake, as in retrospect, I probably should have left it on the dash of my car. After all, why did I actually need to take it out of the car? I didn’t. And I definitely know what I’m doing next time. Leaving it in the car!

So when I get back to my car, I can’t find it. I rush back to the place where I had the meeting. Everyone starts looking for the ticket. No joy. I retrace my steps for a good two hours back and forth between the parking garage and the meeting space. There was no wind, and if I had dropped it, I felt fairly certain it would have stayed where it had fallen. Unfortunately, no luck.

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After carefully examining the automated gates (because of course, there were no people present), I found some phone numbers with times attached. I called the evening number and was connected to a very polite woman on the other end. I explained my predicament. She said she would need to call the owner of the parking garage, as she was just an agent at a call service, not an actually employee of the garage itself.

Unfortunately she failed to get ahold of the owner, and told me I would need to call them myself if I wanted them to come let me out—during normal business hours. Or, in approximately 10 hours. On a Saturday. If they were even there. There was nothing she could do except suggest I look for a small button at the bottom of the machine, because that might give me an option of paying a higher fee, but at least I would be able to leave.

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I found the button. The fee? Oh... only about $80. Which still feels like $100 to me, since prices haven’t fluctuated to match exchange rates. To my extreme embarrassment, it did not take me long to find a sign with a posted warning about that very eventuality. A sign I drove right past and did not read, and in fact, wouldn’t have been able to read if I didn’t already know the context to which the sign referred, because the characters used were largely beyond my ability to read without the aforementioned context.

Still, I said that such a fee was ludicrous for a lost ticket, warning or not. I mean, I could understand paying some small multiple of the daily rate, something I would still have groused about, I am sure, but I was definitely not expecting that. I said it seemed very unfair to charge such a high fee, and the agent agreed with me that she also thought it was unreasonable. Alas, she again reminded me that she was simply an agent for an independent call service and as ridiculous as the exit fee was, there was nothing she was able to do about it.

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So I paid it and came away with a much too expensive lesson about being more careful with my parking tickets in Japan, and to always attempt to read all signs at a parking garage, and if I can’t, take my business elsewhere. Preferably somewhere with an actual staff person on duty, just in case my less than adequate literacy once again gets the better of me.

Something to consider if you choose to drive in Japan as a tourist and end up using a parking garage.

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Images via Kat Callahan/Jalopnik.


Jalopnik East is your daily dose of the latest automotive news out of Asia, covering domestic developments and car culture in Japan, Korea, China, Southeast Asia, and beyond. Just because you can’t drive it, doesn’t mean we can’t share it with you. You can usually catch us every day between 5am and 7am ET, but not always!