Hailing A Taxi Cab in Japan

Due to the development of technology and machines through the years, there are now various modes of transportation all over the world. While some people prefer to purchase and drive their own cars, not every person has enough money to buy a vehicle. Moreover, there are just times when driving one’s own car is not the most convenient way to travel from one place to another. This is where taxis or cabs fit in the picture. Taxis are among the most common modes of transportation for the public. There are different kinds of taxis and services depending on the country. Specifically, in Japan, though seen as expensive by some people who are tight on budget, taxis are one of the most convenient modes of transportation across cities especially at night.

Availing A Taxi and Its Services in Japan

By Kure (UserKurefile) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

While most Japanese prefer to take buses and trains to get to their destination, some still opt to ride Japanese taxis. A reason that some people may prefer taxis over trains is because of how cramped these trains can get especially during rush hour. Another reason would be that at midnight, buses and trains already stop their operations. Hence, the only choice would be to take taxis. The demand for Japanese taxis is considerably high on Friday and Saturday nights.

On the other hand, in small cities in the country such as Kyoto, public transportation is not exactly more convenient than taking a taxi. Thus, most Japanese avail the services of a taxi from the nearest train station to where one wants to be. Though taxi fares are considered expensive by some people, it can actually be considered economical if the ride is to be shared by three or more individuals. This is especially true for shorter rides.

For tourists, they may not be aware as to how to hail a taxi in Japan. The first step is to look for a taxi stand, which is typically situated in front of various train stations. If one cannot find a taxi stand, simply look for a location where it is considered safe for a taxi to stop at. In the lower corner of the windshield of the taxi, a plate is shown on the dashboard. This plate shall show whether the taxi is available for a ride or if there is already a passenger inside. Either the color red or the color green shall signify whether the taxi is vacant or not.

Some people may have a hard time seeing this plate at night due to the darkness. Hence, a light on the roof of a taxi is lit at night to indicate that the cab is available. Aside from hailing the cab on the side of the street, riders may also opt to call a taxi via phone. For people staying in a hotel, they may go to the reception to get a taxi. This is typical for large cities, thus, this service may be free of charge. However, smaller cities may charge a small fee for this service.

The word “taxi” can be written as “タクシー” in katakana in the Japanese language. A sign that says 空車, which is read as “kuusha” and means “empty car,” signifies that the taxi is available to offer services. This sign shall be shown in red. On the other hand, a sign that says 賃走, which is read as “chinso” and means “running a far,” signifies that the taxi is unavailable to offer services. This sign shall be shown in green. An identifier of a Japanese taxi cab also includes the company crest or symbol that is usually displayed on the roof of the vehicle. This symbol is typically illuminated at night.

One thing that sets this taxi cab apart is its rear doors. While most cabs in other countries let the passengers open the door and get in, the case is not the same in Japan. the left rear door of the car can be remotely opened and closes by the driver. This door is not supposed to be manually opened or closed. Passengers who cannot speak Japanese are best to write down their destination as not all Japanese taxi drivers can speak English.

Unlike cabs in other countries wherein passengers would have to pay the drivers in cash, this is not always the case in Japan. Passengers have the option of paying several taxis via credit card. Furthermore, there are also other taxis that even accept payment via IC card like Suica. With this, passengers are no longer required to always carry cash with them when they are on the go. Accepted modes of payment are usually indicated via stickers on the door. Furthermore, it would be best not to pay small fares with large bills.

Because Japan is a country that welcomes thousands of tourists every single year, taxi cabs would also have to cater to these foreign visitors. There are some regions in Japan, which house several tourist attractions, that offer taxis for charter in order to serve as sightseeing taxis. These sightseeing taxis are operated by drivers who also doubles as a tour guide. Typically, these drivers would also have foreign language skills, which is a plus. However, this taxis may be more expensive with their fares running around 10,000 yen for just two hours.

Paying Taxi Fares/Prices 

With the high principles in the country, Japanese taxi drivers are generally trustworthy. They are highly unlikely to take advantage of their customers. Licensed taxis can be identified by their green license plates; regular cars sport white and yellow license plates. It is important to note though that there are also unlicensed taxi cabs lurking around places that are brimming with foreign tourists such as Narita Airport. It would be best to avoid riding these cabs. The fare is typically computed by the meter of the cab except for some tourist and airport routes that were already predetermined prior to the ride.

Not all taxi fares are the same. Key factors that play a role in taxi fares include the region, the company, and the size of the taxi cab. There are generally three classes of taxi cabs. The first class is known as ogatasha or large taxis. This class of taxi has an engine capacity of more than 2,000 cc.

It can also accommodate up to five passengers. The second and third class are known as chugatasha or medium taxis and kogatasha or small taxis, respectively. These cars have an engine capacity of at most 2,000 cc. They can also carry only up to four passengers, the only difference is the passenger compartment size based on the length of the car. These classes are the most common ones driving around the city.

The first two kilometers of the ride usually amounts to a fare of about 400 yen to 700 yen. From there, the fare would increase by about 80 yen to 90 yen for every 300 meters to 400 meters added to the journey. Should there be heavy traffic, there is also an addition to the fare of the ride. The rates of the fare, on the other hand, usually increase by about 20 percent late at night, from 10 in the evening until 5 in the morning. Expressway toll fees incurred during the trip would also be added to the fare.

Though debit or credit cards can be used in some taxi cabs in Japan, drivers still prefer the use of cash as the primary method of payment. Furthermore, there is also a minimum amount of fare to be incurred before credit cards can be used as the method of payment. Typically, the minimum amount would be 5,000 yen. There are also other companies that offer coupons online that customers can avail given certain conditions.

A good thing about Japanese taxis is that they are mandated to be fitted with effective seat belts. This is for the benefit of all the passengers who would be riding the taxi. Safety concerns are of utmost importance even when riding Japanese taxis. Should a seat belt not be working properly, one can kindly refuse to take the cab and opt for another one instead. Better be safe than sorry.

Similar to car-hailing apps all over the world, there is also now an app that passengers can download in order to hail a Japanese taxi cab. One of the apps used in Japan is the Tokyo Taxi Association – TAKKUN. Owned by the Tokyo Hire Taxi Association, this app helps users to call a taxi conveniently. Other apps include Japan Taxi by Nihon Kotsu and Tokyo Musen by Tokyo Musen, which offers services in the English language.

Things to Know When Riding A Taxi in Japan

For people who would be hailing a taxi cab in Japan for the first time, there are some things that one may need to know. First, although Japanese taxi drivers are typically known as friendly and trustworthy, they still have the right to refuse a passenger depending on the situation. Refusal to accept a passenger usually only occurs when the client is heavily intoxicated. Moreover, since not all taxi drivers are able to speak English fluently, the best way to communicate one’s destination is by showing them the address. Better yet, show them a map and point where the desired destination is located.

A common sight on the streets of Japan is a line of parked taxes with drivers napping inside. Some people may think that these drivers are sleeping on the job but that is not the case at all. With most of them working for almost 20 hours every single day, it is imperative for them to take short breaks and take a nap. Napping inside the taxi is more economical rather than heading home then going back out again after resting. Furthermore, it is better that they sleep inside a parked car instead of falling asleep while driving passengers at night.

Probably the most common app used in Japan for calling taxi cabs is Line Taxi. With so many people using Line as their main messaging app, Line Taxi is one of its special features. Partnered with Nihon Kotsu, this app is available for service within the 23 wards as well as Musashino and Mitaka. On the other hand, do note that payment for this ride shall be made via Line Pay. In order to use Line Pay, one must have a Japanese phone number and a Japanese credit card.

Other Tips for Getting A Taxi in Japan

By Martin Lewison from Forest Hills, NY, U.S.A. (Japan 2017) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There are also other things that one must be aware of when getting a taxi in Japan. in general, Japanese people are extremely polite. The best thing to do is, of course, reciprocate in the same manner. Upon getting on the taxi, greeting the taxi driver would most certainly be appreciated. This is especially true for drivers who have already been working long hours. Letting them know that their services are appreciated would definitely be a plus.

Another thing to know is that it is expected that passengers would sit on the back of the taxi. The only exception is if there is no longer any room on the back seat. Furthermore, upon exiting the vehicle, make sure not to slam the doors shut. This is just common courtesy, especially after the drivers brought you to your destination safely. Also, take note of the fact that people do not tip in Japan, no matter how much one wants to because of the exemplary service.

The service that Japanese taxis provide in the overall transportation system in Japan is truly unlike any other. Especially true during the late evening, their services are very important for people who are either in a hurry or are going home late at night. Being able to reach one’s destination in one peace is incomparable. In addition, being able to go on a trip in a fast and comfortable setting is also a plus. Though not the cheapest mode of transportation, it cannot be denied that the importance of taxis in Japan is still present.