Japan: Meter is running on taxi reform

Younger, female drivers could help save Japan’s traditional cabbies – if they are allowed to, says Theo Beal

The World Today Published 1 April 2022 Updated 27 April 2022 3 minute READ

A well-polished saloon stands gleaming in the sunlight. Its driver sits suited, clean shaven, white gloved and wearing a chauffeur’s cap. This is the traditional image of the taxi driver beloved of the Japanese. 

Yet the Japanese taxi industry, estimated to be worth between £11 billion and £13 billion, has been in steady decline this century with reduced passenger numbers and an increasing shortage of drivers. 

The deep-rooted Japanese concept of unadulterated quality service, omotenashi, is central to the traditions of the taxi industry. As a highly regulated sector, it is shielded from the growing popularity of cheaper, more flexible, digital ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft. 

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