The recently privatized Metropolitan Expressway Co., Ltd. of Japan, formerly the Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation, has opened it's first "Eco Parking Area" in Yoyogi, north west of Tokyo.
Metropolitan Expressway operates the toll roads in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area, and provides "parking areas", similar to rest stops in the US but allowing you to leave your car and navigate the city by other means, around important on and off ramps in twenty locations. The company recently refurbished the Yoyogi parking area, apparently paying particular attention to environmental impact and universal design. We visited the site to see just how serious they were, and were pleasantly surprised.The parking area is located at the edge of a bit of forested parkland known as "Meiji Jingu" while providing a good view of the famous Shinjuku skyline from it's second floor coffee shop, making this a perfect spot for a little urban-nature coexistence. We noticed a few points where eco shift efforts are being made.
Renewable energy use: You can recharge your cell phone for free using electricity generated by solar and wind power, solar power is also used for some of the energy needs of the facility and the vending machines are heat pump based and non-chlorofluorocarbon. The entrance to the parking area has Matsushita (Panasonic) Ecology Systems' "Kaze Kamome" (Wind Seagull) hybrid wind and solar tower system, with a 30-watt vertical "Savonius" wind turbine topped by two 84-watt solar panels, making it cool looking eco monument in addition to the power generation.
Energy conservation: Urinals automatically adjust the amount of flush water to the amount of the liquid deposit, the free rest lounge uses low emissivity (Low-E) glass which keeps heat in during the winter and out in the summer, and non heat retaining insulated pavement is used in the parking lot.
Greenery: The parking area is bordered by a wall garden consisting of volcanic rock embedded with ivy (more plants will be added in the future), there is greenery on the roof and veranda, and the trees and plants are arranged to show the changing of the seasons.
Food: The restaurant on the site, "Yoyogi no Mura" (Yoyogi Forest), serves dishes that use low pesticide, low fertilizer and locally grown vegetables. The chopsticks are also reusable, rather than the common pulp wood "waribashi" (snap-apart chopsticks) which are used and discarded every day by restaurants all over Japan.
If you happen to be driving through Tokyo one of these days, why don't you come by, park your car, get some rest and enjoy a nice walk in one of the many parks in the area.
Brought to you by Chris Harrington of greenz.jp