Japan’s legislature today approved a new law allowing Airbnb hosts to rent homes and apartments in the country.
While Airbnb said “thousands of Japanese residents” were already acting as Airbnb hosts, the new rules clarify what had been a legal gray area. The rules, which gained initial approval from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet in March, allow landlords to rent properties for up to 180 days annually, and require that landlords register with local authorities who can implement their own rules.
Airbnb says that Japan is its most popular market in the Asia-Pacific region, and claims that Airbnb hosts boosted the Japanese economy by $8.3 billion in 2016.
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It’s no surprise Airbnb has been successful in Japan, whose picturesque landscapes and electric cities are only matched by its enduringly pricey hotel and real estate markets in urban cores. Japan’s legislative approval of Airbnb was driven in part by an ongoing tourism boom that is likely to further heat up during the 2019 World Rugby Cup and the 2020 Olympics there.
Thanks to an aging and urbanizing population, Japan also has a growing problem of underutilized or abandoned homes in outlying areas. Airbnb says that it has helped spread tourism to farther-flung destinations—which are also some of the country’s most beautiful.
The Japanese government’s stamp of approval may also have important symbolic significance. Japan’s culture is still sometimes insular, and there have been signs of resistance to Airbnb’s cosmopolitan ethos. In 2015, for instance, a New York Times reporter noted that many Tokyo listings insisted that guests not speak with neighbors.