By Jon Ostrower, CNN • Updated 16th April 2015
(CNN) — You don’t necessarily have to be a master of disguises to fool the eye.
At least it doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars, as it might in other countries.
This week, Japanese editors at The Asahi Shimbun and Japanese language portal RocketNews24 discovered a new sort of scam that seems like a strange twist on the familiar Ocean Spray chewing gum thing.
There’s a weird signage poster for a free “Green P Line” at the intersection of Tokyo’s busy Shiodome and Shibuya thoroughfares.
The Green P Line will serve customers who are pregnant and older than 80 (in fact, it’s not clear who is actually going to get these free spaces).
The Transportation Development Bureau (TDB) said the signage was part of an urban renewal plan for the area, and provided no further details.
You can find one of the signs in Shibuya and Shiodome below.
There have been complaints, but not about the sign, rather the parking spots that it’s meant to trigger.
The 11 spaces were free over the weekend, prompting some drivers to expect the free lot with wheels, which caused extra cost for those who didn’t park there.
The sign, which is simple but clearly aimed at tricking drivers, directs them to TDB offices in Shiodome, where there are 29 street parking spaces available — and a t-shirt and pin.
“Sorry, for the inconvenience,” said the text written in both Japanese and English.
Lurking side benefit
Getting drivers to park there for free would be a huge financial benefit to the city, so the plan is clearly doing its job.
The TDB says it covers about 10% of the total number of parking spaces in Shiodome, which is likely a well below the actual number.
But it’s a reminder that in the nearly 50 years since the Nakano Line extension launched by Central Japan Railway in 1969, the transportation options in Tokyo have changed little.
Open-air trolleys, free bus and subway lines and floating commuter boats remain today.
Some call it a fad. To others, it’s a mistake, like few others.
The whole thing seems at odds with Tokyo Metro policy that it subsidizes bus and train rides and build out surface parking in downtown areas, as shown in a Tokyo Times article in 2010.
“Oddly enough, TDB’s Shiodome parking construction operations are the only option available in the area to these motorists,” wrote the paper at the time.
The free “Green P” sign will only be there through mid-June, while the TDB has yet to offer a launch date.