Another unique automobile related experience in Japan is ‘mechanical parking’. These are mystical parking machines located at many large buildings, malls, etc. where space is a premium.
So, here’s what you do… You pull your car into a big glass-ended box and stop when the indicator lights tell you to (this part is somewhat similar to gas station car washes). Then, you shut off the car, fold in the mirrors, grab your stuff, close up the car, and get out of the box.
Once outside the box, a side panel inside the box opens up, your car slides sideways, and disappears. You are then given a little ticket, which indicates the time and a code (which presumably indiactes where the machine is going to sort/index your car).
When you come back to get it, there are machines that resemble ATMs. You slide your ticket in, pay the applicable parking fee, and get your receipt. Then you head to the waiting lounge area. There, you watch the video monitors which display indicator numbers for the cars that the machine has queued up for retrieval and an estimated delivery time.
Eventually (and surprisingly quickly), that side panel in the box opens up and slides your car back out. It then unlocks the door leading into the box and you are on your way!