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Catching A Taxi in Tokyo: Everything you Need to Know

Post: Wednesday October 25, 2017

Convenient as the train system is, there are times when you need to take a taxi in Tokyo. And with the starting fare lowered from Y730 to Y410 in early 2017, hopping on a cab for a short ride has become a bit easier on the wallet. While taking a cab for a long distance will still cost you a lot more than other forms of public transport, you can almost be assured of a comfortable and safe experience with a smartly dressed driver and clean car. Here are some of the basic facts about the Tokyo taxi system that are handy to keep in mind before you hail one down.

Catching a Taxi in Tokyo

Getting a Taxi in Tokyo

With 50,000 taxis plying the streets, catching a taxi in Tokyo is usually quite a simple and civil affair. You either hail one off the street, wait for one at a taxi stand, or book one via a smartphone app or via phone, though those last options would usually require some basic Japanese.

On the street

1) Go to the nearest main street and look for a taxi with the word 空車 (ku-sha), which means "available." Even if you can't remember the Japanese, do try to keep in mind that "available" signs for taxis in Tokyo and all over Japan are red (as pictured below.

Taxi 01

2) Hail the taxi by stepping to the edge of the street, look intently at the driver, wave or raise a hand, and/or shouting "Taxi!" to get the cab driver's attention.

3) When a Japanese taxi driver stops to pick you up, he will almost always put on his hazard lights as he pulls over to the side of the road. Don't bother reaching out to open the backseat door - this is controlled by the driver and it will swing open automatically for you. No smoking is allowed in the taxis, and if you would like to consume some food it would be polite to ask though usually the driver will consent.

TAXI MARQUEE SIGNS

Below is an explanation of all of the typical signs you see in a Taxi marquee. These signs are basically the same not only for Tokyo taxis but also throughout Japan in general.

1) Warimashi

Increased Night Fare – Between the hours of 11 pm – 5 am, taxis in Tokyo charge an additional 20% fare so you will see this sign on many available taxis during that timeframe.
Taxi Signs01

2) Chinsou
not available
Taxi Signs02
3) Kaisou
out of service
Taxi Signs03
4) Kashikiri / Geisha
reserved, on the way to a pick-up
Taxi Signs04Taxi Signs05
5) Yoyakusha
reserved for specific amount of time
Taxi Signs06

Taxi stands

As if it were not easy enough to find a taxi in Tokyo just walking down the street, there are also taxi stands. Conveniently located all over town, you can expect to find them near high foot-traffic areas such as train stations and of course at big hotels, where more often than not a long row of taxis will be lining up for passengers. Although you may be tempted to hop into the taxi which happens to be closest to you, Japanese taxi etiquette dictates that you get the one at the front of any given line—even if you're alone!

Taxi 02

Tokyo Taxi Apps

image

Taxis in Tokyo are ubiquitous, but for those rare times when there's not a taxi in sight, simply download a taxi app. Japan Taxi, Uber and Line Taxi are the mainstream ones in use today. Registration is generally quick and easy. Remember to enable the GPS function on your smartphone so you can be located. You can also see the location and estimated time of arrival of your taxi. Japan Taxi helps you to conveniently find taxis in your area, while Uber, which entered the Japanese market in 2014, isn't that widely used except as an app that lets you hail one of several kinds of Uber taxis—and even then, only in the Tokyo area.

Line Taxi (part of Line, probably Japan's most popular messaging app as of this writing) has also partnered with Japan's largest taxi network to put over 3,000 taxis at the swipe of a finger. Do note that payment has to be made through Line Pay though, so you'll need a Japanese phone number and credit card.

Taxi Reservations by Phone

image

If you prefer calling for your taxi and speaking to an operator rather than using an app, Nihon Kotsu, Kokusai Motocars and Hello Tokyo are three Japanese taxi companies with English operators available.

1. Nihon Kotsu
Reservation: 03-5755-2336
24hours, 365 days on line in English
http://www.nihon-kotsu.co.jp/en/taxi/ephone.html
2. Kokusai Motorcars
Reservation: 03-3505-6001
An English-speaking operator available on request.
https://www.km-group.co.jp/en/
3. Hello Tokyo
Reservations/requests: 03-5653-7921
Japanese anytime/English available
http://hello-tokyo.com/english/

Tokyo Taxi Fare

● Fares for taxis in Tokyo start at ¥410 for the first 1.052 (0.65 miles)

● Fares between 10 pm – 5 am are generally 20% more.

● Payment by cash is the most common, credit cards are sometimes acceptable as are taxi coupons.

Japanese Taxi Words and Phrases for Getting to Your Destination

image

Don't rely on Tokyo taxi drivers' knowledge of English to get you where you want to go. If you haven't been to your destination before and can't give the driver directions in Japanese, it's a good idea to have the address at hand for the driver to input into the taxi's GPS system. A note with the address in Japanese, a physical map, a screen capture, or the website of your destination are all preferable to verbal confirmation only. That said, you will probably need to say a few things during your trip.

This is a hypothetical dialogue between a driver and passenger, illustrating how you might communicate. There is also a list of common words you will need to know when instructing a taxi driver where to drop you off. Japanese follows English in each sentence.

Explaining your destination

Driver: "Where would you like to go?" Dochira made?
You: "Please take me to Roppongi 3-chome". Roppongi san-chome made onegai shimasu.
Driver: "Certainly." Kashikomarimashita.

Giving directions

You: "Please turn left at the next corner." Tsugi no kado wo hidari ni magatte kudasai/Tsugi no kado hidari desu.
"Please stop just before the traffic lights." Shingou no temae de tomete kudasai.
"My apartment (house) is right on the next corner." Watashi no apato (ie) wa tsugi no kado desu.
"Please stop here." Koko de tomete kudasai.
"How much?" Ikura desuka?
"Please give me a receipt." Ryoshusho wo kudasai / Reshiito wo kudasai.

Common words

Right: Migi Left: Hidari
Straight: Massugu Turn: Magaru
Stop: Tomaru Here: Koko
There: Asoko This: Kore
That: Are It: Sore
I'm in a hurry: Isoide imasu. Please drive faster: Isoide kudasai.

Take a Taxi in Tokyo—and Let Someone Else Do the Work

Standard sedan taxi Van taxi
Taxi Type01 Taxi Type02
Electric vehicle taxi  
Taxi Type03  

Taking a taxi in Tokyo is a wonderful option, especially when it comes to clean, simple and convenient intra-city public transport that doesn't care what time it is. So the next time you've missed your train, are looking to pamper your feet a little or have a lot of luggage to carry, don't hesitate to call or hail a taxi!

 

 

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