Wary of regulatory hurdles, Uber is registered as a travel agency in Japan

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Tak Shiohama, president of Uber Japan, led a well-attended talk at the 9th Samurai Venture Summit this past weekend. At the event, organized by Samurai Incubate and held in Microsoft’s Tokyo office, Shiohama gave some insight into how Uber Japan avoided regulatory fights, modified the service for the Japan market, and how Uber might expand outside of Tokyo. Uber arrived in Tokyo last November and has been working to expand its market share ever since.

During the question-and-answer session, Shiohama revealed how Uber Japan managed to avoid some of the regulatory battles that have plagued its launches in other countries. “Generally speaking, prior to launching, Uber examines the local regulations very thoroughly to determine if there is a problem or not, after careful talks with the local government,” he said (translation ours). In America, this has resulted in Uber filing with the SEC as a non-specific “Other Technology” company. For Japan, however, Shiohama stated, “After talking with various government agencies in Japan it was determined that we could offer the service…in fact, in Japan we are registered as a travel agency. And as a travel agency we provide car service to customers who hire us.”

Regarding potential further expansion outside of Tokyo, Shiohama said, “While America is getting ready to expand into cities with populations of only 200,000 to 300,000…for the Japan countryside, although the need [for Uber] might exist, the key question is not whether or not there is need but whether or not local conditions can support our service platform.”

Uber is sure to face some stiff competition in Tokyo. Local taxi services are similarly priced and have long been celebrated for their top-notch service. However, if Uber adds Tokyo to its list of success stories, then citizens in Japan’s other metropolises will have something to look forward to in the near future.

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