The really surprising thing is that some people actually took them up on the offer.

Audacity broke out in northern Japan in Aomori City recently when a privately owned parking lot began to charge an exorbitant rate of 5,000 yen (US$45) per hour. Although perhaps not a shocking price in some of the most densely packed urban areas of Japan, in the relatively spacious and rural city like Aomori, it’s quite a premium.

The rate hike coincided with the Nebuta Festival that ran from 2 to 7 August. This is one of the more famous festivals in Japan, known for its gorgeous illuminated floats depicting images of Japanese and Chinese historical culture… and sometimes Star Wars.

Although the festival is a big draw for tourists from Japan and around the world, 5,000 yen for an hour of parking is still pretty hard to justify. You could probably save money just by parking illegally and paying the fine.

According to the lot’s management, the objective of the obscene price was not to make money but to save the spaces for guests of a nearby hotel that they struck a deal with. Anyone renting a room at the Hotel JAL Aomori or dining at their restaurant would have gotten a discounted price by presenting a receipt.

▼ I mean, the sign does specifically say,
“Anyone not staying at the hotel, please be aware of the special high price.”

The lot was said to be especially close to the festivities — and proving either that you can’t put a price on truly convenient parking, or that some people can’t be bothered to read signs — there were some customers aside from the hotel guests who chose these spaces.

One customer reportedly spent 65,000 yen ($586) for what appears to have been an extended stay. Another man was said to have spent 20,000 yen ($180) after a four-hour park and was none too happy about it when speaking to media, suggesting he as well as others may not have noticed the sign in the first place.

It’s a tricky situation. On the one hand it appears the lot had put up adequate signage announcing the hike. On the other hand, in the rush to find a decent spot it’s all too easy for motorists to park first and ask questions later, while assuming an even remotely reasonable range of potential prices for their particular area.

▼ A quick news story on the parking lot,
where you can see all the surprised reactions from interviewees.

However, comments online where largely taking the side of the parking lot and believed that anyone who felt mislead into parking there should have been more careful. The second most popular opinion is that everyone is nuts up there.

“Extremely reasonable.”
“Simple supply and demand, good for them.”
“People are crazy in Aomori.”
“Even in midtown Tokyo that’s a little steep.”
“That’s per month right?”
“Those are like hostess club prices!”
“Even if people didn’t notice the sign, I wouldn’t blame the management. You have to watch where you park.”
“It’s a free world, they can charge as much as they want.”

Despite the support, the management seemed as if they really weren’t expecting anyone to take them up on the offer, telling media, “We made a sign notifying everyone of the price, so use by non-guests was surprising. We will consider [refunding them] after consulting with the hotel.”

While it’s true that prices such as the one offered by this parking lot eclipse those of Tokyo, even the ones with built-in hair salons, it does seem like this parking lot company was genuinely trying to do the right thing. Their refreshing consideration for people makes me wonder if all those zany teen comedies from the 80s that indoctrinated me to hate evil parking lot developers were wrong this whole time.

Source: Livedoor News, Itai News
Top image: Pakutaso