Back in the day when Tokyo Fox was just getting up and running I often used to write about the everyday quirks and behavioural norms of Japanese society. Whether it be the terrible tv, the moronic cyclists or the behind-the-times smoking rules it’s pretty much all been covered before but one thing that I’ve never ranted about is the many, many drivers who leave their car engine running whilst they park up on some side road.
Crime-wise, Tokyo is a relatively safe city and people tend to sleep anywhere and everywhere and that certainly includes their cars. No problem with that. Why shouldn’t one being able to pull over and take a rest from the often stressful rigours of modern daily life. Besides, if they’re tired then its probably a good idea to take a break and not risk their life or someone else’s. However, the major problem with this is that they leave their engine running with fumes pumping out into the environment. People are seemingly aware of being eco-friendly but many don’t seem to realise that leaving their vehicles idle for a few minutes is wasting costly gasoline and releasing harmful greenhouse gasses.
One of the reasons for this happening may be that there’s just not enough free space for people to relax in. Tokyo in particular is an overly crowded and congested city with space at a premium which is why the locals feel they desperately need to find their own “bubble” to exist in within the existing environment. This is why you see people engrossed in their smart phones all over the place or spending hours with a solitary cup of coffee in a fast-food restaurant. Remember that this is the country where people go to Love Hotels for a bit of intimate privacy as its just not possible to have their own space!
For those with cars (many don’t have their own vehicle in Tokyo as it’s just not needed due to the reliable and efficient train service and the busy roads make the decision of giving up on a car a bit easier) the interior is their own space to relax in and this could possibly be an explanation as to why there are so many drivers compulsively and obsessively fiddling with cellphones, tablets, portable games consoles, TV’s and radios rather than actually opening the door and getting out to stretch the old legs.
It’s probably due to the aforementioned lack of crime that drivers feel comfortable in leaving their motor running whilst they pop into the convenience store, take a toilet break in a park toilet or wait to pick someone up at the station. On that note, the many taxi drivers lining up outside stations usually all have their engines running as is of course the norm in many countries.
So what can be done about this? In a country where change tends to come about very slowly I really don’t know. Confrontation is something that is rarely ever done in Japan so walking by and banging on the window is probably out of the question! Clearing my throat loudly as I pass by may wake them briefly but doesn’t really change much. It’s surely up to the government to start clamping down on this and fining those responsible for letting their engines idle but I won’t hold my breath on that one. Future generations may have to hold their breath more and more when out on the streets if this pollution of the environment continues.
With an ever declining population rate, Japan needs all the help it can get in readdressing this trouble but if it’s tired drivers don’t turn the ignition off whilst taking a well-earned nap then the problem will continue to accelerate.