Taxi Travel In Japan
Taxis in Japan タクシー
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.
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.
Japanese taxis are not cheap. Flag fall for the first 2km (1.25 miles) varies by city and region, and sometimes by the kind of taxi—710 yen in Tokyo, but as low as about 500 yen in some smaller cities and rural areas. 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. Many 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:
Example of Tokyo taxi fare
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.
Taxi crest, Aichi Prefecture.
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.
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.
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 do.
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.
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.
Taxi crest, Tokyo.
Many taxi companies, especially in rural areas, are also converting their fleets to run on liquid petroleum gas (LPG).