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MaaS in Japan: Ambitious and promising plans [free access]

September 1, 2020

Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), in collaboration with relevant ministries and agencies, is leading the deployment of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) across the nation. In addition to encouraging field trials, MLIT is also highlighting the convenience of travel using MaaS and providing financial support to transport operators/ companies for the deployment of cashless fare systems and for the digitalisation of traffic information, which are essential elements in the deployment of MaaS.


Evolution of MaaS in Japan

Initiative by the ministries

In June 2019, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and MLIT launched a project called the Smart Mobility Challenge, aimed at solving mobility issues and revitalising the region through the implementation of new mobility services.


MLIT is responsible for the New Mobility Service Promotion Project, which is being implemented in cooperation with the Smart Mobility Challenge Project. Under the project, MLIT is supporting trials of MaaS in various parts of the country and building a model for solving the problems of local transportation services.


As part of the Smart Mobility Challenge Project, in June 2019, the ministries selected 28 areas and businesses. Of these, 13 areas and businesses were selected for the Pilot Analysis Areas Project conducted by METI for the social implementation of new mobility services and 19 were selected for the New Mobility Service Promotion Project conducted by MLIT for the MaaS pilot. The shortlisted businesses included four operators that were supported under both projects.


The Smart Mobility Challenge Promotion Council was established by the public and private sectors as a platform for sharing information on specific needs and solutions in regions and targeted at companies. The council has 228 members (90 municipalities, 116 businesses, and 22 groups).


Goals to be achieved through MaaS

- To improve transportation and to enhance mobility  in rural areas and in tourism spots

- To use current public transportation systems effectively to address the issue of a shrinking population and hence of declining demand

- To increase opportunities for people to go out and to ensure traffic safety in an aging society

- To contribute to the Smart City concept


Practices established by MLIT for the development of MaaS

- Data linkage: Adopt standardised data formats and the API format as well as establish necessary rules when using data (including data security).

- Cashless fare system: Improve the fare system for pre-fixed fares, enhance the subscription model, and increase cashless payment. As of 2017, around 21.3 per cent of payments in Japan were cashless.

- Collaboration with city planning authorities and infrastructure development agencies / entities: Develop nodes between various modes of transportation and infrastructural hubs for facilitating and providing new types of transportation services. Also, utilise mobility data in city and transportation planning.

- New mobility service: Ensure deployment of electric micro-mobility and artificial intelligence (AI) for on-demand bus and autonomous mobility.


Realisation of ‘Japanese-style MaaS’, a unique approach

In order to address different mobility challenges and issues in each region/area, MLIT has identified five types of regions.  The categorisation of areas helps to identify region-specific issues, to develop focused MaaS solutions, and to purse the required expansion/alteration of transport offerings.


Table 1 provides details of the areas identified by MLIT, the current issues in these areas, and plans to resolve these issues through the deployment of MaaS and new transportation services.


Table 1: Initiatives planned by MLIT for each area


Metropolitan area

Metropolitan suburban

Local urban

Suburb/ Depopulated area

Tourist destination

Current issues

• Lack of attention to diverse mobility needs
• Lack of information about potential demand
• Daily congestion

• Lack of first-/last-mile transportation services and connectivity
• Local congestion due to events, weather, etc.

• Reliance on private cars
• Decrease in convenience and profitability of public transportation
• Insufficient transportation for the elderly and non-owner cars after returning their driver’s licence

• Reliance on private cars
• Decline in local transportation
• Insufficient transportation for the elderly and non-owner cars after returning their driver’s licence

• Lack of secondary transportation in rural areas as well as tourism transportation
• Need to accommodate anticipated increase in movement of foreigners visiting Japan
• Need to regulate transport diversification to meet tourism needs and demand

Purpose of introduction

• Improve transportation convenience for all commuters
• Alleviate daily congestion

• Enhance first-/last-mile service
• Eliminate local congestion under specific conditions

• Improve  condition of daily traffic for regional revitalisation
• Encourage / support migration in the area

• Secure and maintain daily transportation
• Ensure transportation and logistics network in sparsely populated areas

• Improve tourist’s travel  experience
• Expand and improve tourism experience of foreigners visiting Japan

Implementation target

• Coordination between MaaS
• Development of transportation nodes between various modes
• Consideration for universal design
• Provision of information in multiple languages

New transportation service
Carpool taxi, ultra-compact mobility, share cycle, etc.

• Coordination with metropolitan MaaS
• Integration of core transport and first-/last-mile transport services
• Coordination with lifestyle services
• Provision of various payment and boarding confirmation procedures

New transportation service
- Car sharing, on-demand transportation, future autonomous driving service, etc.

• Cooperation with other regional MaaS
• Creation of new transfer points
• Provision of flat-rate service in multi-transport mode
• Coordination with lifestyle services
• Provision of various payment and boarding confirmation procedures

New transportation service
On-demand transportation, car sharing, etc.

• Cooperation with neighbouring MaaS, etc.
• Integration of various transportation resources / modes in the region
• Coordination with lifestyle services

New transportation service 

- Mixed passengers in depopulated areas, automated driving services centred on small points such as roadside stations, etc.

• Cooperation with MaaS, including airport access transportation and inter-city trunk transportation
• Integration with baggage delivery services
• Cooperation with tourism services, etc.

New transportation service
- On-demand transportation, green slow mobility, etc.

Direction of efforts

• Realisation of data linkage between various businesses

• Alignment with urban/transportation policies that aim for a sustainable society

• Alignment with urban/transportation policies that aim for a sustainable society

• Alignment with urban/transportation policies that aim for a sustainable society

• Cooperation/ collaboration between transportation operators

• Realisation of sustainable services from the perspective of residents

• Alignment with urban/transportation policies that aim for a sustainable society

• Sustainable cooperation and collaboration between businesses

• Realisation of MaaS interoperability in each region

Source: MLIT                                                                                                                 


MaaS pilot projects undertaken by MLIT


In 2019, MLIT conducted 19 pilots across the country and provided JPY300 million for trials. Of the pilots launched, six were regional-type, five were rural-type, and eight were tourism-type projects. Figure 1 provides details of the MaaS pilot projects in Japan.


Figure 1: MaaS pilot projects in Japan (2019)          

Source: Presentation by Yosuke Ogawa from MLIT, Japan, at Global Mass Transit’s event on ‘Contactless Fare Payments and MaaS in APAC’


Results of the trials

Fukuoka City: In November 2019, after a year-long testing period, Toyota, Nishitetsu, and JR Kyushu launched the My Route MaaS app in Fukuoka City. The app was developed by Toyota. It offers a comprehensive multi-modal trip-planning feature along with the ability to pay for rides on taxis, Nishitetsu-owned buses, and JR Kyushu’s train service.

During the testing period, the app was downloaded around 30,000 times. In a survey conducted to gauge the operation of the app, around 80 per cent of the respondents felt the app was satisfactory.


Hitachi City: The trial was conducted between November 2019 and February 2020. Hitachi Ltd. designed and developed the MaaS application (app) as well as collected the data. Around 856 people downloaded the app and 675 people registered on the app.

The app utilises Navitime Japan’s route search technology and traffic data. It enables a centralised route search to a destination that combines existing trains in Ibaraki Prefecture, buses, BRTs, taxis, and walking.


Kyoto Prefecture: Osaka-based highway bus operator Willer launched its Willers MaaS app in October 2019 in the northern, mostly rural regions of Kyoto Prefecture. The app is available across seven municipalities which are served by the company’s subsidiary, Kyoto Tango Railway. It provides a multi-modal trip-planning feature and allows commuters to book trips on buses, regional trains not provided by Japan Railways, taxis, and car rental services. Willer will charge users around JPY5,000 (USD46) per month to book rides on services offered by participating transportation network companies.


Future plans


Table 2 highlights the future plans for MaaS in key Japanese cities.


Table 2: Key cities with plans to deploy MaaS


Scope of MaaS deployment plan

MaaS platform supplier


The fourth and final stage of the Aizu Samurai MaaS project is expected to include the integration of car-sharing services in the MaaS app, along with plans to offer bundled fare and discount packages. The starting date for this project is yet to be announced.

Aizu Samurai MaaS Project Council

Hitachi City

A full-scale MaaS scheme is planned to be rolled out in 2021. The service will be more expansive and will include more transportation network companies than the trial programme that was conducted in January 2020. Plans are also in place to turn the MaaS app into an open data architecture platform.

Navitime Japan Co., Ltd.

Otsu City

The city plans to launch a second MaaS demonstration test later in 2020 which will integrate the autonomous bus service with the MaaS app. A full-scale MaaS scheme is planned to be launched in 2021.

Keihan Electric Railway Co.

Sendai City

JR East, Miyagi Prefecture, and Sendai City plan to launch the second stage of the Tohoku MaaS Sendai trial by end-2020. This stage will integrate more service providers and provide information on more restaurants and bars to form a comprehensive tourism-type MaaS app.

JR East


The city’s model development plan aims to launch a preliminary MaaS service by 2020 and a full-scale model by 2022. The first phase of the planned Universal MaaS app will offer barrier-free and easy wheelchair-access transit between the airport and various destinations in the city.

All Nippon Airways (ANA), Keihin Electric Express Railway, Yokosuka City, and Yokohama National University

Source: MLIT, Global Mass Transit Research


Moving ahead

In 2020, MLIT and METI launched the Smart Mobility Challenge 2. Under the new project, the ministries have a total of 52 demonstration areas.


MLIT will be implementing the Japan MaaS Promotion and Support Project, which is aimed at building a model of MaaS for solving regional issues. The ministry has shortlisted 38 businesses that are expected to contribute to the solution of regional issues. METI will conduct the Regional New MaaS Creation Promotion Project for ‘advanced pilot areas’ to work on demonstrative experiments and business feasibility analysis. The ministry has shortlisted 16 areas as ‘advanced pilot areas’.

(This is Part 1 of a two-part feature. Part 1 focuses on Japan’s goals, strategies and trials conducted for MaaS. Part 2 will be released in the Global Mass Transit Monthly issue of October 2020. It will cover Smart Mobility Challenge 2, planned MaaS pilot projects, key vendors and recent developments.)