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.
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.
Taxi Fares in Japan
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. 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.
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).
*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 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.
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.
Many taxi companies, especially in rural areas, are also converting their fleets to run on liquid petroleum gas (LPG).
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.
Useful Telephone Numbers for Taxis in Japan
Fukuoka Kotsu: 092 643 7622
Aoi Group: 075 781 7188
Daiichi Kotsu Sangyo 0120 382 333
Kansai Taxi: 581 3121
Kyo Taxi 075 661 6611
Kyoren Cab: 075 661 2121
Kyoto Sogo Taxi: 075 862 3000
MK Taxi: 075 778 4141
Rakuyo Taxi: 075 691 8101
Teisan Taxi: 075 661 1881
Yasaka Taxi: 075 842 1212
Fuji Taxis: 052 222 1144
Mainichi Taxis: 052 913 8686
Meitetsu Taxi: 052 331 2211
Meiwa Taxis: 052 331 1680
Takara Taxi: 052 682 6000
Tsubame Taxis: 052 203 1212
Osaka Sogo Taxi: 06 6931 5489
MK Taxi: 06 6453 5489
Nihon Kotsu: 06 6532 1131
Taisei Kotsu: 06 6731 1356
Checker Cab 03 3573 3751
Chuo Musen 03 3563 5151
Condor Taxi Group 03 5377 2001
Daiichi Kotsu Sangyo 0120 382 333
Daiwa Motor Transportation 03 3563 5151
Ebara Kotsu 03 3783 5111
EM Musen 03 3545 3501
Green Cab 03 3203 8181
Hinomaru Kotsu 03 3814 1111
Kokusai Motorcars 03 5530 6001
Kyodo Musen Taxi 03 39168111
MK Taxi: 03 5547 5551
Nihon Kotsu 03 5755 2151
Shiga Kotsu: 075 581 1109
Teito Motor Transportation: 03 3643 6881
Tokyo Musen 03 3361 2111
Tokyo Shitetsu Jidosha 03 3406 7171
Toto Motors 03 3590 1010
Please note that calling for a taxi may be charged around 300-400 yen depending on the company.