Japan Today

Airbnb, Uber woes show Japan does not share easily

By Anne Beade

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I never expected "Air B&B" to be considered "Legal" in Japan...or Uber, for THAT matter.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

"This stinks -- and that's an understatement," fumed Airbnb as it announced it was cancelling thousands of reservations with owners who had failed to obtain a registration number by June 15.

Can't really blame the people for not registering as it is not an easy process and if Airbnb wants to continue to offer services here they should find a way to either assist the owners with registration or do the paperwork for them.

"I would like foreigners that are aware of the sharing economy to make their voice heard more to change the situation," he said.

Uber doesn't get it either, THIS is Japan, and when foreigners start pushing new things the establishment here tends to push back, and rather hard too!

Uber needs to get Japanese on board with better advertising of their product!

Like Airbnb, Uber wants their cake and eat it too. They want others to do things that they should be doing, hence their inability to adapt to the market here.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Good. The sharing economy isn't valid as it always decapitates society standards such as wages or insurance. Sure, the services could use some competition but real competition not fake scam competition

1 ( +11 / -10 )

I am not surprised. The new businesses are irregular businesses.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Rules are rules, why do people think they are always above the law?

Follow the regulations, register your property, and it is done, simple. Why do people always have to overcomplicate these things or try to weasel out of it by unfairly demonizing Japan (hardly the only country to set regulations for vacation rentals).

Without these regulations, abuse of the system is ripe, with unruly vacationers wreaking havoc on peaceful neighborhoods.

How many times do we have to point this out about Airbnb and Japan on this website?

7 ( +15 / -8 )

Airbnb and Uber do anything but share. They take. Skrew 'em.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

Japan Inc monopolizes the economy. It owns the large industries and all of the large banks, and insurance companies, and through these, it controls middle and smaller-size businesses as well. And by controlling all business, directly, or indirectly, all business, it also controls the government.

I own a business, and when I needed to open a business bank account, I had to pay a visit to a Japanese “Mega-bank.” I had to submit business documents, seals, certificates, be interviewed by a manager, and then wait a considerable time before my account could be approved and opened. Had my business been something which might have been able to compete against the bank’s larger customers, I would have been declined, or gotten an eventual offer from one of these larger customers. Had I been opening a business account in America or Europe, I would have been approved instantly, and had my account opened in as much time as it takes to have a coffee at Starbucks.

6 ( +12 / -6 )

What Oldman said. Airbnb and Uber have provoked hostile, even violent reactions in many countries. Google Paris cabbies and Uber, to take but one example. I can appreciate both as a consumer and perhaps if I had an extra property I was interested in renting out, I'd be more likely to dismiss the larger implications. Aside from what it foreshadows in terms of employment, gigs over jobs and a lack of benefits or security, Airbnb in particular has already had profoundly negative impacts on communities. And it's not just unruly foreigners or--gasp--wrongly discarded garbage. This is a good write-up from The Atlantic's affiliate Citylab about what's taken place in the US:

Airbnb was raising rents and taking housing off the rental market. It was supercharging gentrification while discriminating against guests and hosts of color. And as commercial operators took over, it was transforming from a way to help homeowners occasionally rent out an extra room into a purveyor of creepy, makeshift hotels.


I'm not happy to read about Shibuya saying things like they want to avoid children having to encounter foreigners on their way to school, but I think we can acknowledge there are other worthy reasons to regulate these industries.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

I'd add that the above picture perfectly encapsulates the tech industry in Japan. I only wish he had a fax attached to his handlebars to truly demonstrate how modern things are here.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Anyone who doesn't think that Airbnb doesn't reak havoc in neighbourhoods or that neighbours don't have a stake in this are probably living in a situation where they can't see or are shielded from the results of this, or are but hurt because their own Airbnbs have been regulated out of business. I was in Yanaka last night and quite a few of the little kids parks were had groups of tourist scoffing the favourite tourist dinner: 7/11 bentos. Multiple signs all over the parks saying no to just about everything and litter bins overflowing with plastic rubbish. This is WITHOUT Airbnb,

6 ( +10 / -4 )

The footnote on Japan’s report card reads: “Does not play well with others.”

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Wouldn't want to upset the balance of inside power here in Japan. But in the end.... Japan is mainly screwing its own citizens. Over the last 30 years how many Japanese companies have gone from a "no name" to a worldwide name.... yeah, maybe UniQulo, Nintendo, and Japan's Anime. Now... look at the USA. Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Nvidia, Starbucks, AirBnb, Uber, Facebook, the list goes on. Any why did the USA do so well... because the U.S. Govt., didn't regulate them out of existence before they had a chance to grow. In Japan, the Govt only allows growth in businesses that do not infringe upon existing businesses.

4 ( +7 / -3 )


You are right. In U.S. people can buy guns also.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Hey Japan has always played by its own rules. Why is this a surprise?

Does Japan monopolize markets elsewhere?

5 ( +8 / -3 )

So basically you can't start a new business. Or be compedative because...that's not fair for existing business. Nothing like pretending to be part of the Global economy.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

thepersoniamnow - Does Japan monopolize markets elsewhere?

That's an interesting question. 30 years ago Japan did try to monopolise international markets for electronics, cars and even for real estate. However, these days, most of the electronics markets have been taken by other Asian countries and many Japanese electronics companies have folded, downsized or moved to another country due to a lose in market share. Also, most Japanese people no longer have disposable income to invest in real estate abroad. This is why Japan is resisting introducing these new businesses. They still keep the Japanese business model of the bubble era in the hope it will return. It's kind of like, Nero fiddling while Rome burned. They just won't accept that Japan has to change if the economy is to achieve some kind stability. 30 years of economic decline has not taught them anything.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Because Japan is a "Safety First Country" nothing above on that.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

While I do have issues with the likes of air b&b uber etc, Japan is getting all this way way wrong!

Japan Inc has been screwing over this country so bad THAT is why Japan is in such decline. And the  little people here never catch a break, only get BROKEN by govt & big business.

I used to think Japans problems would be huge in a decade or so, but the number of issues that are happening NOW leads me to think Japan is going to go backwards & downwards at an incredible rate over the next 2 decades...….

And you know I think MANY Japanese are content with just THAT!

5 ( +7 / -2 )

@Yubaru: "THIS is Japan, and when foreigners start pushing new things the establishment here tends to push back, and rather hard too!"

I think you missed it here. For the longest time, Japan and Japanese organizations routinely use foreigners or foreign countries as you know, 外圧 to push agendas which would not be tolerated by Japan as a whole.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Good. The sharing economy isn't valid as it always decapitates society standards such as wages or insurance. Sure, the services could use some competition but real competition not fake scam competition

honestly! How more misinformed could you possibly be?

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

it's not so much before the Olympics but After the Olympics that has me concerned-

AirB&B has many problems in N.Y.C. & Uber has the yellow cab business in a frenzy -

very lax regulations there wherein the Hotels & Taxi have to tow the mark-

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Its funny how in developed countries, such as the UK and USA it works perfectly fine and falls under fair regulation that allows people to choose. The London Taxi's compete fairly with those supplying Uber and do so very well. It has not destroyed them or made them obsolete. Just as Airbnb has not closed hotels or prevented them from operating or making a profit. Its really simply a matter of choice for the individual. isn't that what its all about. Isn't that what your government is supposed to do? In the case of Japan they are simply protecting the establishment! There is absolutely no regard for the economic welfare of the man on the street. The system here simply encourages you to go and work for one of these large corporations and disscourages entrepreneurs. As always, my sympathies lie solely with the Japanese themselves because they are some of the nicest people I have met and yet they are so blissfully unaware of how their government consistently sticks it too them under the umbrella of keeping them safe. Japanese people living outside of Japan for work such as London get along quite happily with Airbnb and Uber and the likes. That is a fact!

1 ( +7 / -6 )

very lax regulations there wherein the Hotels & Taxi have to tow the mark

Really, so why does it work in London? So Hotels in Kyoto can only operate in the low season between mid January and Mid March? or only 180 days a year for hotels outside of Kyoto? How are they towing the mark here? Level playing field?

Any monopoly runs around screaming foul in frenzy when their monopoly is threatened! I have zero sympathy for monopolies because they never self regulate! They keep on abusing BECAUSE they have the monopoly and In Japans case they have government support and backing. So who suffers? If we were never driven to compete we would still all be roaming around with clubs on our shoulders in a fur leotard! Japans legislation effectively prevents competition and with it innovation. Good luck with that attitude on the global stage today!

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Air B & B and Uber do not follow the rules like Japanese companies. For example, Uber drivers in other Nations earn much lower salary than authorized taxi. Protect Japanese wages and standards, and livelihood of the taxi drivers. keep these companies OUT.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Two things at play here. Industry monopoly and pressure groups and Japanese people island mentality. Two things that stop Japan from joining otger developed countries.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Japan is not "slow to adopt", it's different. I am happy that a culture can retain it's uniqueness. The world does not need to be culturally homogenous! This is one of the reasons I choose to live in Japan. I don't want to live in "America in the east".

3 ( +9 / -6 )

I look forward to the day when Uber drivers are considered employees under the law, and receive the same salary and benefits other full-time employees receive.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Dukeleto - London isn't a particularly good example of where Uber has worked well. It was banned for ignoring basic safety issues and has only recently been given a short-time licence having promised to clean up its act.

My take on this is it's about protecting vested interests rather than Japanese standards - I'm sure the owner of APA hotels (that one with the books denying the Nanking massacre), who is a very big supporter of Abe, and other hotel owners will have made their views on Airbnb very clear to the government.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Both companies should be closed down. They are operating on the verge of illigality. They do not offer enough protection to staff, partners or clients and they are parasite companies, taking advantage of slow regulators and loopholes.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

If Uber is ever allowed in Japan, it will mean dangerous, uninsured cars, drivers ripping off passengers, dirty cars, drivers unable to find their way in Tokyo and probably only make 500 yens/hour. Rest goes to foreign company.

The Abe Cabinet will not allow it to happen.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

My take on this is it's about protecting vested interests rather than Japanese standards

Rather simple really...whatever benefits your average Taro while providing insufficient benefits and kickbacks to Jpoliticians and rich powers to be will be made to fail

Yeah, not much doubt about it.

Contrast this anti Uber / ABB attitude with the government / institutional support for the cryptocurrencies here for example then ask yourself why.

Japan's corporate media is full of anti-Uber/AirBnB stories but awash in pro-crypto. I'm no supporter of Uber et al but Japan Inc's death grip on the throat of this country is killing it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines... corruption keeps those countries from really taking off.... in Japan, it is corporate and govt. collusion.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

corruption keeps those countries from really taking off.... in Japan, it is corporate and govt. collusion.

same thing except its classified as political donations, aka legalized corruption.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japan's corporate media is full of anti-Uber/AirBnB stories but awash in pro-crypto. yeah J business just like to bash foreign rivals, good example is the "Amazon effect" as they label it in Japan as a type of anti-inflation, where it could easily be labeled the "Rakuten effect" but that would be degrading a J company so its a no go.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The gentleman above on his shared bicycle collides with a pedestrian ?

Who is responsible for the accident, and inevitable medical expenses ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Don't be surprised if 10 years from now Japanese business started springing up with these exact same business models and are successful. Sometimes it's about whose doing the business rather than the business itself.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Are there any examples where a "Sharing" type of model works within Japan ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A good example of sharing in j-land that works is ryokan. I think ryokans are a complete ripoff and i avoid them like a plaque.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's a little bit more complex than the anti-lobby tries to paint it.

None of these business are 100% against regulations, and indeed, a lot of the real concerns that people have about these can be addressed, but the thing is, the regulation is overreaching to the point that it just crushes the competition in favor of already stablished industries.

The popularity of Uber and Airbnb has more to do with prices and accessibility than with anything else.

In the case of Japan, for example Taxis are extremely over-regulated.

You require an special 2nd license in order to be able to transport other people, and you need an special business license plate for your car. And if these were the only 2 requirements, I could see Uber trying to play by those rules, but that's not all.

The price system is also regulated. You cannot charge less or differently in any way to what the local regulation requires.

This basically means NO COMPETITION, since ALL taxies are the same, in terms of price.

The Airbnb thing is also similar, but in a different fashion.

The safety concerns a lot of people claim because of services like Airbnb are not that rock solid and up to debate, which is talk about how to solve the safety concerns, and not just ban it, or making it so that it's almost imposible to rent.

Things like the "180 day" limit, is nothing more than a gift to the hotel industry, since it really doesn't addresses any of the concerns that people have.

Also, if you have read the local regulation, they are full of misconceptions and outright bigotry against foreigners.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I thought the "Ryokan" was just a small hotel (a business), but I guess Hotels in general are sort of "Sharing" example, but establish rather than transient.

Any other examples ? or is that it ?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yep, we saw the same in the 90s when Motorola tried to break into the mobile phone market, govt kept them at bay & Japan ended up with those crappy J-handy phones & then they tried their damned best to keep smart phones out as well for many years!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Japan may be the world's third-largest economy and a high-tech hub but it has been surprisingly slow to warm to the sharing economy that has disrupted markets across the globe."

Surprisingly slow? More like unsurprisingly slow, for anybody familiar with Japan. The country has been led for the last 3 decades by a group of people who can best be described as "status quo junkies." Who was under the impression that Uber and Airbnb would have an easy time getting established and accepted in Japan, of all places? Just look at how long it took the foreign "big-box store" retailers like Costco and Ikea to find operating in Japan worthwhile.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I am not too surprised by these. When you know "Cash is still king in Japan" , you should have some idea that Japan society is kinda stuck in the past.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In this, like most things, Japan has it right. These companies cause more harm than good in NYC

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"confusion among the public" .... Well we have established that this author of "Japan Today" knows NOTHING about Japan or it's people.

The Japanese have this crazy habit of CONSIDERING THE EFFECT OF THEIR OWN ACTIONS ON OTHERS, putting safety first and READING A TOS PAGE before agreeing to use an app.

It states very clearly in Uber and Lyft's TOS pages thet neither company will cover with insurance or be liable for bodily injury and NEITHER company requires their own drivers to get any such insurance either. Which is why over 98% of them world wide are ENTIRELY UNINSURED. Which makes each of those Uber and Lyft rides an automatic cost to the general public, other drivers and those not even using the service when one of them gets into a wreck.

Currently in the US our insurance market is seeing it's largest inflation in decades because of uninsured rideshare wrecks that tax payers and the rest of us who actually honor our insurance and leasing agreements end up paying for. The same is happening in the UK and Australia and again, specifically because of Uber inflating those markets with more uninsured wrecks and a MASSIVE spike in assaults on customers by their drivers.

Japan is a society based on mutual respect and community.

They understand what Uber, Lyft and AirBNB are perfectly and they are simply far to mature and considerate to ever use or promote services that can not provide basic insurance or vetting for those providing the services.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I've stayed in many AIRBNB listed sharehouses where I've met plenty of Japanese natives who lived in them to avoid expensive apartments so they can live in proximity to work, university, relatives, etc. Did they even stop to consider the non-foreign individuals who actually LIVE in these establishments?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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