”Ladies floor” implies that men should park their cars elsewhere.

For many years, Japan has had women-only train cars, which came into being as a countermeasure against men using the crowded condition inside the carriages as cover to grope female passengers. In general, rail operators that have women-only train cars do so during the morning and evening rush hours, with those carriages reverting back to being open to both genders at other times.

But while the concept of special spaces for women on trains isn’t anything new, Japanese Twitter user @nakatsu_shizuru recently shared a snapshot of the concept making an inroad into car travel, something that’s not at all the norm in Japan.

The photo was taken in the parking structure of a department store in Kanazawa, the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture. The text written on the sign attached to the support pillar reads “Ladies floor. Priority parking spaces for women.”

“Isn’t this discriminatory??” tweeted @nakatsu_shizuru, eliciting responses such as:

“This is a little excessive.”

“Gotta say, that’s messed up.”

“I understand having special parking spaces for disabled or elderly people, but this is just pointless.”

“What’s next? Preferred roads for female drivers?”

Multiple commenters pointed out, however, that the word used in the notice is yusen/”priority,” and not senyo/”exclusive use,” the word used to designate women-only trains.

Yusen does show up in trains too, where it indicates the “priorty seats” for injured, disabled, pregnant, or elderly passengers. These seats can be used by anyone, with the understanding that someone not in one of those four demographics will vacate the seat if someone who is from one of them enters the carriage.

So technically, the department store @nakatsu_shizuru visited isn’t barring male drivers from parking in spaces on the ladies floor, but asking them to give preference to female drivers who want those spaces. However, there’s a big difference in trying to dictate behavior of this sort in a parking lot and a train, which is that once people park their cars, they leave them and go somewhere else, so how would they know if a female driver just pulled in and wants their spot?

There’s also the fact that cars hold multiple people, and sometimes their roles can switch on the drive home. If, for example, a family goes to the department store with Dad behind the wheel, but Mom is going to be driving on the way back since Dad is planning to have a couple of beers while they’re out, does that qualify the car as “female-driven” in the eyes of the parking structure?

There aren’t any clear answers for these vagaries, and with Japanese society’s penchant for avoiding direct confrontation when it can, the implied message seems to be that the store would like male drivers to park on the women’s floor only if every other space in the structure is full.

Source: Hachima Kiko
Top image: Twitter/@nakatsu_shizuru