Man Files Lawsuit Against Reduced Highway Tolls

May 1, 2009

In a nutshell, a 67 year old Japanese man is suing his country because the weekend and holiday reduced tolls are only applicable to cars that pay by ETC (the Japanese equivalent to EZPass or other automatic toll paying systems).

He claims it’s unfair that he has to pay full price on weekends just because he doesn’t have ETC. He filed the lawsuit after recently driving from Tokyo to Gunma and paying 3800 yen roundtrip instead of the 2000 yen it would have cost otherwise. The 1800 yen difference inspired his 1,500,000 yen law suit.

This is a man who is either horrible at math, or drives between Tokyo and Gunma at least 1000 times a month, only on weekends and holidays.

His argument is one often heard in Japan… if it’s not for everyone , it’s unfair, if it’s unfair it’s got to be done away with.

Let me give another example…

A lot of schools in Japan host little singing contests among the classes in a given grade level. If the students in a certain class want to do something a little unique (say use an instrument other than a piano, put some original lyrics into the song, practice somewhere else, where special clothes…) often the school will go against it. The only logic is that the other classes aren’t doing that so it’s unfair. Nevermind the logic that says “Good job, innovator.”

Interestingly, there are two different concepts that will come head to head in the case of this particular litigant. The only thing we have protecting our economy-stimulating inexpensive vacation drives is a little thing you hear in staff rooms and teachers rooms and homes all over Japan…


…meaning that if this guy wins the law suit, the government will have to pay every non-ETC having driver in Japan when the case goes class action.

There are plenty of frivolous lawsuits like this in Japan but most of them get settled quietly and swept under the rug. I’m going to try to watch and see where this one goes. The bulletin board denizens are ripping the guy apart, so hopefully that serves as advice for the judge to throw this out. Maybe they should settle with him for a cheap ETC box, a high interest credit card, and a kick in the pants.