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Tokyo Station turns to umbrella rental service to cut waste

Service promises to trim refuse in nation that goes through 130m umbrellas a year

Umbrellas with a design based on an ancient map of the Tokyo Station area can be unlocked with a dedicated app or with the Line messaging app. (Photo by iKasa and Yuki Kohara)

TOKYO -- Japan's capital, where umbrellas are just as likely to be forgotten as reused, has attracted a small rent-an-umbrella service around Tokyo Station.

The new service will rent umbrellas for 70 yen (64 cents) per 24 hours. They can be unlocked with a dedicated app or with the Line messaging app at 41 rental stands near station exits, at nearby facilities and around the Nihombashi area.

Many commuters in Japan don't fuss about umbrellas because they are inexpensive. Flimsy ones made of translucent plastic can be had for around 500 yen ($4.50), and small ones can often be found for much less.

People leave their umbrellas behind on trains, at restaurants, in fitness centers and other places. According to East Japan Railway, umbrellas are the second most common article left on trains, after clothing.

Between 120 million and 130 million umbrellas are consumed every year in Japan, according to an estimate by the industry's Japan Umbrella Promotion Association, based in Tokyo's Taito Ward.

After it rains, lost-and-founds at train stations across Japan can quickly fill up with unwanted umbrellas. (Photo by Kento Awashima)

The idea behind the new rental service is that it might help people reuse these rain shields.

The Tokyo Station City Management Council, property developer Tokyo Tatemono and their partners have contracted Nature Innovation Group's iKasa umbrella rental service to run the project.

Nature Innovation Group has prepared 1,000 umbrellas for the service that feature a design based on an ancient map of the Tokyo Station area.

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