#1 is do not park on the street unless it's a clearly marked spot.
It's important to know that parking violations mean points on one's driver's license like a speeding ticket, etc. The fine is typically around 15,000 yen also. There are probably arcane ways to fight this ("It wasn't me driving."), but one would have to be very fluent to execute.
First, I'll cover those street spots.
There are two ways to pay for the clearly marked rectangles of parking on the street. One is a meter right at the spot. They are usually 300 yen for an hour. You need 3x100 yen coins. There is a button on the meter that will print a receipt if you need. You can only put in one hour's worth at a time. The meter shows how many minutes you have been there, including after it goes past 60. If you want to stay longer, come and move the car away from the meter and it will reset. You can't just put more money in.HOWEVER, I'm sure this is "illegal", so there is some risk of ticket. Always take note of the hours of operation marked on the meter, too.
Second way to pay are ticket machines. If there is not a meter next to the rectangle space, look up & down the street for an overhanging sign with P. You have to go there and buy a ticket that gets stuck in the window. Again, it's 300 yen for an hour and you're only allowed an hour at a time. The sequence on the machine is:
- put in money (don't need exact change)
- use keypad to put in the numbers of your license plate (only the big numbers)
- press enter
- ticket is printed out that has your license number on it and the time it is good until
- peel off the rectangle in the middle (that becomes your receipt) and adhesive is revealed to stick in the window. Recommend driver's window.
One could probably extend these spots by buying new ticket and replacing old. Though, I wouldn't put it past Japanese parking people to actually record who has parked where. You cannot put multiple tickets to achieve more than one hour's credit.
It is extremely easy to get a parking ticket, as there are dedicated 2-man teams in green roaming around just for this purpose. If you see them nearby, don't think of parking illegally. Fortunately, their procedure for issuing the ticket is so laborious, with measurements and photos, that it takes them about 8 minutes. So, theoretically, one can jump into a shop, for example and even if they appear, if you get to the car before they put their ticket on the car, you can escape. (Be sure an apologize to keep the wa.)
As for parking lots, there are many coin lots clearly marked, and there are also public parking lots in most big office buildings. If there is a big P with rates listed under it, it can be used.
In the coin lots, you just pull into the space and after a couple of minutes, a barrier will block the car from leaving until you pay at the machine. You punch in your space number and the amount to display will appear. There are often several buttons which may be confusing. Just keep entering your space number and then one of the mystery buttons. When an amount appears, you have hit the right one. They will all take 1,000 yen notes, some take larger ones. But, many take ONLY 1,000 so be sure and get if necessary.
I am partial to TIMES lot because they have a point card and since I park a fair amount, I build up points. It's that crazy psychology.
Lots in buildings are pretty simple. You pull in, take a ticket, park, and upon exiting, put the ticket in and it tells you how much to pay. One small detail in buildings is to know the kanji for "common parking". It is 一般. In a building lot, there are often some spaces for tenants and some for visitors paying by the hour. Usually, you want the spaces with this character on it. It might also say 時間帯 which means "by time".
There are several mobile apps for finding lots if you get adventurous with reading Japanese. You don't have to know that much to get them going.
Hope this is helpful.