Parking in Tokyo's narrow, crowded streets is even more problematic than in most of the world's big cities. Space is so limited that potential car-buyers must first prove to police that they have a parking space or garage nearby.
None the less, a survey released by Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department last month found that about 85 per cent of all cars parked on Tokyo streets were there illegally. Traffic wardens cannot cope.
Enter the 'Voice Patrol', an electronic screeching scarecrow made by Gondola KK, a Tokyo-based company. The machine picks up the sound waves of a car being parked in front of it and emits a loud buzz. Then a female voice commands: 'Don't stop here' or 'This is a drive-way, please move your car immediately.'
According to Hachiro Ishi kawa of Gondola KK, the Voice Patrol, which costs pounds 350, was developed to stop illegal parking in front of its own building. 'Our salesmen couldn't move their cars. We got annoyed . . . and finally we developed this device.'
Gondola put it on the market in July. They have sold several hundred, mostly to companies with similar problems.