Thursday, January 24, 2013


There are times when I'm not really sure if what is normal in Japan is unusual in the rest of the world or not.  There are big things like "Is this the way educators do it all over the world?" and there are little things, like... parking the car.

I went to the kindergarten as usual on Wednesdays.  The kindergarten has a couple of parking lots for parents and teachers.  There is the daily dropping off and picking up of the children and when there are event days, like the Christmas program or the bazaar or Sports Day, then there is hardly enough parking to go around. A couple of years ago the kindergarten had a new parking lot put in at the corner of the grounds and it is asphalted and well marked.

The kindergarten, trying to get the most out of the very small amount of land that they have (well, they have land and that in itself is something!) marked VERY NARROW parking spaces.

"How many spaces can we squeeze in here?  15 cars easily?  Okay then let's mark 16 spaces."

I am rather proud of my rear parking skills (of course everyone else can do it too... but as a Southern Californian driver that is used to being a road hog I think I have developed a great maneuvering technique.) Still... it takes a lot of glancing in both the side mirrors and rear view mirror and opening my driver's door to lean out and check before I can get my car into a narrow space.  And once parked!  I carry lots of stuff with me to the kindergarten.  Computer, book bags, white board etc. etc. Trying to get all that in and out of a car door that is only open a few inches is a bit time consuming.  I am also not a petite Japanese lady, so even getting myself out of the car takes a bit of maneuvering!

BUT... this parking situation is not unique to just the kindergarten, the majority of parking lots in Japan require some skill on the driver's part.

And that is why Japanese cars all have retractable mirrors.  Here's my question.  Do all cars in the world have retractable side mirrors?  I don't remember.... If my brother's car, which I drive when I'm in the States, has the retractable mirror button then I've probably never used it.  The parking spaces are so much wider in California!

But in Japan.  It is... park the car, retract the side mirrors and then shimmy yourself out of the car and the parking space.  It would be inconsiderate to park your car without retracting your side mirrors!  The next driver would have quite a time getting back into his car or even driving out of the parking space.  Thus retractable side mirrors are a must in Japan.

I admit.  I occasionally get back in the car and drive half a block or so before I realize my side mirrors are still retracted. I guess I'm not THAT great a driver.

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