Photo/IllutrationThe umbrella-sharing service, called iKasa, is launched on Dec. 9 at Tokyo Station. (Aki Sato)

  • Photo/Illustraion

For unlucky commuters caught in one of Tokyo's sudden downpours, a venture firm is offering them a chance to stay dry for a few coins.

The company, called Nature Innovation Group, started the “iKasa” umbrella-sharing service at JR Tokyo Station on Dec. 9. Under the service, users can rent an umbrella stored at a stand for 70 yen (65 cents) per day.

The Tokyo-based company will start placing about 1,000 umbrellas at the station, exits of the station’s underground malls and nearby commercial facilities, including Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi and Nihonbashi Takashimaya.

Users scan a QR code attached on the handle of an umbrella on the stand using the Line messaging app to unlock an umbrella. When returning it, they scan a QR code on the stand.

The company first started iKasa in December last year in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward and has expanded the business to the rest of the country with stands installed at about 700 locations throughout the Tokyo region, Yokohama, Mito, Okayama and Fukuoka, among other locations.

As of Dec. 5, some 64,000 people are registered as users, and the company aims to offer the service to all parts of the country.

This time, seven companies, including Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd., Takashimaya Co., Mitsui Fudosan Co. and Tokyo Tatemono Co., are cooperating with Nature Innovation Group in the venture at Tokyo Station.

About 10,000 umbrellas are lost each year at Tokyo Station. The Japan Umbrella Promotion Association estimates that 80 million plastic umbrellas are sold annually.