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.