Why Japan’s sharing economy is tiny

AIRBNB, an American platform for booking stays in other people’s houses, can barely conceal its frustration. A law passed last year for the first time legalised minpaku, or home-sharing, in Japan, but also sharply restricted it. From June 15th hosts can rent out their property for a maximum of 180 days each year, provided they register with the local authorities. Most hosts will not meet that deadline because they are still obtaining their registration numbers, and on June 1st Japan’s main tourism body unexpectedly decreed that any without them had to cancel reservations at once. Airbnb accordingly eliminated four-fifths of its roughly 60,000 listings in Japan. Holidays are at risk.

The experience illustrates the country’s hesitant approach to the sharing economy, in which people rent goods and services from one another through internet platforms (a broader definition includes companies renting out goods they own, such as bikes, for a short time). A generous estimate of...



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