Getting around Japan in taxis is pretty convenient as long as you know how to. Here’s a guide on how to use taxi in Japan that includes all details from how to hail a taxi in Japan to the taxi fares in Japan!
Japanese urban cities have a very efficient public transport system. However, it stops at midnight and you have to rely on taxis to take you to your destination.
Taxis in Japan are more expensive than if you were to take the trains or buses. But it’s still important to familiarise yourself and understand how to use taxis in Japan before moving to Japan or come for a vacation.
Quick Answer to How to Use Taxi in Japan?
Hailing a taxi in Japan is very easy. To hail a taxi in Japan, simply wave your hand at a spot you know the taxi can spot. Or if you’re at a railway station in Japan then head over to the taxi stand. Alternatively, you can also book a taxi in Japan through the Japanese taxi smartphone apps like Uber, Grab, Japan taxi, and more.
Keep reading this guide on how to use taxi in Japan to find out how taxi’s in Japan operate, what phrases to use when getting in a Japanese taxi, and what rules to abide by when hailing a taxi in Japan!
How to Hail a Taxi in Japan
Taxis in Japan are incredibly helpful if you’re riding to the airport with lots of luggage, if you’re traveling with an old person. Or it’s a Friday night and you need to get to that party your friends have invited you for.
Also, once you’re outside the big urban cities, transportation is not very well planned and taxis are something you have to rely on.
Japan has over 260,000 taxis out of which more than 30,000 taxis operate in Tokyo alone. There are over 300 taxi companies in Japan, so the country is never short of a cab when you need it.
While the regular cars have white and yellow license plates, taxis in Japan have a green license plate. Licensed taxis in Japan are reliable and you won’t be scammed. If you do come across any unlicensed taxis, I suggest you avoid them.
Wherever you are in Japan, you will see lots of taxis and you can hail them off the street. If you are at a railway station or a big hotel, you might find a taxi stand and a line up where you can get a taxi.
If you’re dining or staying in a hotel, you could also approach the concierge desk or the reception and they will call a cab for you from one of the taxi companies.
How To Use Taxi in Japan
Taxis in Japan are safe, secure and very clean.
Taxis in Japan come with a light that indicates whether they’re occupied or not. A green light means the taxi is vacant, whereas a red light means the taxi is occupied.
Alternatively, some taxis in Japan might just have the lights turned off when they are available and turned on when they are occupied.
If you know where you have to go but don’t speak Japanese, simply show the address to the driver and he will take you to your destination.
You can also show the location on a map as that is much easier for many drivers to follow.
Keep reading this guide on how to use taxi in Japan to know learn important phrases before hailing a cab in Japan!
Phrases for Taking a Taxi in Japan
Below are some helpful Japanese taxi signs that you can identify:
- タクシ – This is the sign for a taxi
- 空車 – This sign is pronounced as “kuusha”, and means that the cab is vacant
- 賃走 – Pronounced as “chinso”, this sign means the taxi is occupied
Learn these common Japanese phrases to help you when you take your ride:
- _____ までお願いします – Pronounced “____made onegai shimasu” . It means “Please Take me to ____”
- 東京駅までお願いします – Pronounced “Tokyo-eki made onegai shimasu”. It means “Please take me to Tokyo Station”
- ここで下ろしてください。- Pronounced “koko de oroshite kudasai”. If you’re in the taxi and have reached your destination, you could use this phrase to say “Please let me off here”
While you’re in the taxi in Japan and you need to give directions to the driver, the following phrases will help:
- 左お願いします。- Pronounced as “hidari onegai shimasu”. It means “Turn Left Please”
- 右お願いします。- Pronounced as “migi onegai shimasu”. It means “Turn Right Please”
- まっすぐお願いします – Pronounced as “massugu onegai shimasu”. It means “Go Straight Please”.
As a passenger, you will be getting into the taxi in Japan through the left rear door.
Most taxis in Japan have automated doors which are controlled by a remote by the driver. So you don’t have to open or close them.
If at all one is broken or if there is an old taxi with a manual door, don’t worry, the driver will open it for you.
Inside the taxi
Traveling in a taxi in Japan for a westerner is like being chauffeur driven to a red carpet event.
Most Japanese taxi drivers might be in their early 40’s and dressed very prim and proper. You will find them in smart suits, as well as gloves and even a cap. The cab itself will be spick and span, with lace on the seats and headrests.
The driver will have buttons using which he can control the opening and closing of your door. The button also controls the boot if you want to put your luggage there.
Most taxi drivers in Japan speak only Japanese and it is rare to find someone who speaks English.
Always wear the seatbelt for your own safety. This applies even if you are in a private vehicle.
There are certain things that are prohibited once you are inside a taxi and that includes smoking, bargaining the fare with the taxi driver.
Japanese taxi drivers are very professional. Though they intend getting you to your destination on time, they are at the mercy of the traffic.
Once you reach your destination, check which mode of payment works best and pay accordingly.
If you need a receipt for some reason, make sure to ask for one before you get off.
As I mentioned earlier, don’t open the door by yourself. Wait for the driver to open it for you.
Taxi Fares and Payment Methods
Taxi fares in Japan are relatively much higher when compared to what you would pay for public transport. Fares vary from city to city and depending on the type of taxi you use.
Expect to pay around 700 yen for the first 2km in a major city like Tokyo (if you’re using a large taxi) and about 90 yen for every 300 metres after that. You might also have a surcharge of 20% – 30% if you hail a taxi after 10 pm.
Expressway tolls will also be added to your fare if you happen to use one.
Some taxis have the facility where you can make a card payment, but many don’t.
Always make sure you have enough cash on you if you are hailing a taxi from the street.
If you’re getting a cab from one of the smartphone apps, you might have the option of using a credit card, debit card or paypal to pay through the app.
Off late, IC cards like Suica Card are also being accepted. You will find a sticker on the door indicating all the accepted payment methods. You don’t have to tip the taxi drivers in Japan. This is because tipping in Japan is considered offensive!
Japanese Taxi Smartphone Apps
One of the biggest inventions most foreigners that come to Japan are thankful for is the taxi smartphone apps in Japan. These apps literally take away the pain of not knowing the local language, not being aware of the routes, and having to figure out the cab fare.
There are lots of mobile app based taxi services in Japan where you simply have to put in the address. The app will dispatch an available taxi to your location and off you go!
Sometimes you also get discount coupons which help you save some bucks while traveling in luxury.
Below are some of the best and most efficient Japanese Taxi Smartphone Apps:
- Uber: This internationally used app is widely used in Japan. Uber is available in all the major cities. The app accepts credit card payments. Uber is great for tourists as the app operates in over 30 languages
- Grab: Grab is a hit across South East Asia. Grab in Japan is partnered with Japan Taxi and caters to all the major cities
- DiDi: This is a Chinese app that is available in a few major cities and regions of Japan. You can use paypal to pay, apart from other modes
- Fulcul: One of the best apps for tourists as you don’t have to complete a registration process. You can download and start using it immediately. Also, there are no pick up fees when you hail a taxi using Fulcul
- Mov: If you don’t speak Japanese, check out DiDi as you can even complete the payment on the app. There is no need to interact with the driver
- Japan Taxi: This app covers all the 47 prefectures, so if you’re touring the country or if you want to travel from one prefecture to another, this is a good app to use
In popular sightseeing areas, you will find taxi drivers who are bilingual and can speak English quite well.
These taxis will cost you around 10,000 yen for a couple of hours where the driver will show you a lot of tourist attractions and act as your tour guide as well.
Fixed Fare Airport Transfer
It’s almost certain that if you have to go to the airport or if you’ve landed in one, you’re going to be needing a taxi.
Luckily, the airports in Japan have fixed fare airport transfer taxis. Some of them even offer shared services, so you can split a cab with another person heading in the same direction and save some money.
Ask your driver before you get into the cab how much it will cost you to reach a certain region and they will let you know.
FAQ: Hailing a Taxi in Japan
#1 — Why are taxis so expensive in Japan?
Taxis in Japan are way more expensive compared to public transportation because taxis in Japan offer premium, luxurious service. Taxis in Japan are kept extremely clean by the taxi drivers. Taxi drivers in Japan even open the car door for you and you don’t even have to touch the handle. Other than this, the minimum taxi fare in Japan is already set pretty high because of which getting around in taxis in Japan gets pretty expensive!
#2 — Is Uber or taxi cheaper in Japan?
When you compare the fares of regular taxis in Japan with Uber cabs, you’ll observe that booking an Uber will prove to be cheaper. Not many Uber cabs are available in Tokyo but Uber offers premium cars to its customers. So not only is Uber in Japan cheaper when compared to the regular taxis in Japan, it is also more comfortable.
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