China’s ride-hailing giant is revving up to service Japan, starting with its second biggest city – Osaka. A press release states that Didi launches taxi-hailing service today in Osaka and the Senshu area, including Kansai International Airport.
Didi Japan, a joint venture with Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, seeks to cater to the country’s taxi market, the third biggest in the world with 1.6 billion annual passengers. Osaka alone has 8.8 million residents and will be the biggest international city Didi has tackled so far.
The launch comes just ahead of China’s fall Golden Week holiday, which begins on National Day (October 1) and ends October 7. According to the press release, Didi Japan’s taxi-hailing service will accommodate travelers from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, who can hail taxis in Osaka, access Chinese-Japanese text translation, and get “bilingual customer support” via their apps.
Didi’s entry into the local taxi market will mean increases in efficiency as well as income for Japanese drivers, according to its statement. Japan is one of the ride-hailing giant’s “core overseas markets,” in addition to Australia and Mexico.
The launch seems especially timely in light of recent news: Ctrip.com reported that for the first time, Japan is the number one choice for Chinese travelers over the upcoming Golden Week holiday, despite a recent earthquake and typhoon. A total of 7 million travelers from the mainland are expected to go abroad this year.
After Osaka, Didi Japan plans to enter Kyoto, Fukuoka, Tokyo, and other cities in the “near future,” Didi’s press release states. It also quoted company president Jean Liu’s commitment in July, when Didi Japan first launched, to “[develop] extensive collaboration with all industry players to assist in smart city programs across Japan and Asia.”
The recent announcement is a bright spot amid news coverage of Didi over the last couple months. Almost two weeks ago, the company finished adding significant safety upgrades to its Chinese ride-hailing services following public outrage over the murders of two carpool passengers.