Whenever we go down to Hon-Atsugi Station we need to park our bicycles somewhere. I say “go down” because there is a monstrous hill which makes the return journey just a little less fun.
Walking the streets of virtually any Japanese town or city you will see parked bicycles everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE! Apparently the Japanese people don’t really mind too much what they do with their bicycles.
Make no mistake. There are numerous demarcated areas where you are supposed to park. Some areas you even have to pay for. (Like what we do with our cars back home). Presumably it’s for the more secure areas where attendants ensure your bike is still there and in one piece when you return. Most open parking areas also do not allow long term parking (i.e. overnight).
We normally jest about the fact that “you’re supposed to take your garbage home with you” because there are no refuse bins anywhere in public spaces – but that’s another story. The only kind of accessible “bin” you do find is at vending machines which each has a special receptacle to discard your (now empty) purchase in. By the way, it’s considered impolite to drink (or eat) while walking. You often see Japanese buying something from a vending machine, then just to stand right there scoffing it before moving on.
But I digress; the point is that if you want to get rid of the big stuff (like old bicycles), in Japan, you just park it somewhere and forget about it. There are so many thousands of bicycles that all open areas would eventually be filled with abandoned bikes if this issue was not regulated. So what the authorities do is, patrol the streets night and day and “tag” all illegally parked bicycles. If it is found that a bike has been standing in the same spot for more than the allowed time, it is promptly loaded on a truck and carted off. This obviously is helluva convenient to those who wanted exactly that!
Don’t get me wrong. You can easily be fined too. If the bikes registration nr is intact that is. (All bicycles have to be registered with the local authority, by law.) If the police stop you (and they do), and find your bicycle not to be registered, you will be subjected to serious “Japanese style” law enforcement.
So the lesson is, park your bike only in allowed areas when you plan on leaving it overnight. You may just return to find it missing.
Here is a pic of where we normally park. This is the bicycle area only. There’s a separate section for (small) motorcycles. Oddly enough it’s just as common to see abandoned scooters as it is to see bicycles.
1000 Yen to the person who counts them all.