Japan Taxis タクシー
In Japan, Taxis are expensive, yet very useful when you've got heavy luggage or you missed the last train. Here are Japan Experience's tips and advice for taking a taxi in Japan.
Taking a taxi in Japan
Japan has an estimated 260,000 taxis operating nationwide, with Tokyo alone having around 35,000 taxis working from 333 different taxi companies. Kyoto also has a large number of taxis, probably more than is economically viable for many cab companies.
The first taxis in Tokyo, a fleet of six Model T Fords, appeared in 1912.
All Japanese taxis can be hailed on the street, from virtually anywhere you like, at most times and in most areas. However some areas, like Ginza in Tokyo, do not allow taxis to stop anywhere but taxi stands, requiring passengers to line up at a taxi stand. Taxi stands are also the rule at railway and subway stations and major hotels in Tokyo, and can be especially crowded on Friday and Saturday nights, especially after the trains have stopped running, meaning quite a long wait. You should take the taxi waiting at the very front of the line.
Taxis can also be booked for a period of time and called by telephoning the cab company. The hotel you are staying at will be able to help you book a taxi.
Taxi Fares in Japan
Japanese taxis are not cheap. Flags fall for the first 2 km (1.25 miles) varies by city and region, and sometimes by the kind of taxi. In Tokyo since 2017 the starting fare is 430 yen and covers the first 1.059 kilometers. After that, the fare increases 80 yen for every 237 meters traveled. This is a change from the previous 730 yen for the first two kilometers. In some smaller cities and rural areas the starting fare is around 500 yen. After that it costs up to 90 yen for every further increment of distance traveled: which, depending on the city or region, ranges between about 250 and 300 meters (270 - 325 yards).
Then there is the waiting fare which is charged instead of the distance fare whenever the speed of the taxi drops below 10km/h (6 mph), such as in heavy traffic or if the passenger makes the taxi wait: 90 yen per 1:45 min in Tokyo and slightly less for similar lengths of time in other areas.
In Tokyo, there is an added nighttime surcharge of 20% after 10pm, and 30% 11pm - 5am.
The taxi passenger is also responsible for paying any highway tolls incurred during the journey.
All Japanese taxis have fare meters and the left rear passenger door will open and close automatically as you enter and exit. Most Japanese taxis are now non-smoking, can carry 4 passengers and may display some form of in-cab advertising, especially in Tokyo. Tipping is not a custom in Japan. A receipt can be printed on request. Traveling in a group of four will obviously reduce travel costs. Most subway lines close at around midnight in Japan's cities and demand for taxis rises at this time.
Credit cards are often not accepted by taxi drivers in Japan. Cash is the preferred means of payment. Let the driver know in advance (i.e. before the ride starts) if:
- you intend paying with a credit card
- you have nothing smaller than a 10,000 yen note in your wallet, as the taxi might not have credit card facilities or sufficient change for large notes.
Do not try to negotiate the price.
Example of Tokyo taxi fares
An example of a Tokyo taxi ride is between the Shinjuku and Ginza districts. At a distance of about 7km (4 1/3 miles) a taxi ride would typically take about 25 minutes and cost between 2,690 and 2,960 yen during daylight hours. Other example fares provided by the Tokyo Taxi Hire Association include Tokyo Station to Akihabara 1,450 yen (4.5km), Tokyo Station to Ikebukuro 3,790 yen (11.4km), Tokyo Station to Shinjuku 2,620 yen (7.6km), and Tokyo Station to Ueno 1,990 yen (5.8km).
You can use this website to estimate the cost of a journey: taxi auto fare.
*Please treat these fares as approximations
In Japanese, taxi is タクシー written in katakana characters. A vacant taxi displays the sign 空車 (kuusha or "empty car") in red in the front window, if occupied 賃走 (chinso or "running a fare") in green. (Think red: the taxi will stop to pick up passengers, and green: the taxi will not stop.)
A Japanese taxi cab can readily be identified by a distinctive company symbol or taxi crest displayed on the roof, and is illuminated at night.
Taxi Drivers in Japan
Most Japanese taxi drivers do not speak English, so you should try and show the driver a name card showing your destination in Japanese characters, or point out the place you wish to go on a map. Japanese cabs also now often have SAT NAV which will aid finding your destination if you know the telephone number of the place you want to go.
The driver is also also responsible for opening and closing the automatic door with a control near the steering wheel. So do not slam the door on your way out.
There is no uniform color for taxis in Japan, instead each company uses its own design, with the drivers dressed in the company livery including a hat and white gloves, and maybe a surgical mask, which is considered a "courtesy" in Japan. For many taxi companies, the driver's wearing a surgical mask is company policy.
Most taxi drivers in Japan tend to be middle-aged to older men but there are a number of women working as cabbies. Many retired workers also take up cab driving to supplement their pensions or just to keep busy. Some taxi drivers own their own vehicle but the majority drive company cabs.
Taxi Safety in Japan
If hailing a taxi from the street, choose where you hail from wisely. Taxi drivers will slam on the brakes almost anywhere when flagged down, often without adequate regard for traffic conditions around them.
All Japanese taxis are required to be fitted with effective seat belts for all passengers. Be sure that the taxi has a usable seat belt, especially in the back seat where sometimes the latch can be inaccessible, i.e. lost in the crevice between seat and seat back. While taxi accidents in Japan are uncommon, taxi drivers are under pressure to make money and can often take risks when driving (such as driving through amber lights). So do not ride a taxi without wearing a seat belt. If a taxi's seat belts are not in working order, take a different taxi.
Taxis To The Airport
A number of taxi companies have special plans for taking passengers to the airport. MK Taxi in the Kansai region runs a minivan service called the Skygate Shuttle to both Itami and KIX (Kansai International Airport) in Osaka. From Kyoto to KIX is presently 3,600 yen with one piece of luggage included and takes between 2 hours, 30 minutes and 3 hours. MK Taxi also runs an airport service to KIX from Kobe and Ashiya.
MK Taxi also offers an airport shuttle to both Narita and Haneda airports in Tokyo.
Sightseeing By Taxi
Many taxi companies offer a sightseeing service (usually in Japanese but sometimes in other languages including English). The driver accompanies up to four passengers around a set course of a town's attractions and can offer explanations and answer questions on what there is to see. Some companies also offer a mini-bus option for up to 9 passengers. This service is especially popular in Kyoto among elderly patrons.