How to catch a cab in Tokyo

Taxi tips you need to know

Written by
Joyce Lam
Although Tokyo’s taxis are not as famed as London’s black cabs or New York’s yellow motors, they’re still extremely easy to spot – and you never have to wait much longer than a minute before you’ll see one heading towards you. Drivers are dressed in clean-cut uniforms (sometimes with a hat) and offer polite communication with a mouthful of keigo (‘respectful language’).
You can hail a taxi by waving your hand from the sidewalk and the driver will pull up neatly alongside you, the door opening automatically. If it’s vacant, the light on top of the car will be off, but they’ll also display a red light in the front of the car with kanji for ku-sha or ‘empty car’ (a green light means occupied).
Not all drivers are fluent in English, so to be on the safe side, we recommend you write down the address you’re going to in Japanese beforehand. A landline number for the destination is also helpful as most taxis are equipped with a GPS that can locate a venue using the phone number.
Once you have reached your destination, you can alert the driver by saying, ‘Koko desu’ (‘It is here’). Taxis accept both cash and credit cards, and some also accept Suica and Pasmo cards (just be sure it’s charged up beforehand). You will always get a receipt and it’s advisable to keep it in case of any lost property – it makes the search a lot easier. Finally, don’t worry to close the door after you get out of the car – the driver will close it automatically.
Fares within the 23 wards in Tokyo start at ¥410 for the first 1.052 kilometres and then roll at a rate of ¥80 for every 237m. There's a strict ‘no tips, no bargaining’ policy. Note that taxis usually only hold up to four passengers and there's a surcharge of up to 20 percent at night, usually between 10pm and 5am. Expressway toll fares are not included in the fare.
These handy apps make ordering a taxi faster and easier...
Japan Taxi
Order a taxi with a tap using the GPS function on your smartphone. The app operates throughout Japan’s 47 prefectures with more than 30,000 cars from different taxi companies at its beck and call. You can also save your home and company address or view your trip history to make your next booking easier. Keep in mind that the app requires network service to use the GPS. Download the Android app here or the iOS version here.
Expanding worldwide at an incredible speed, Uber entered the Japanese market in 2014. The service hasn't exactly become popular on these shores though, as it only covers a small slice of central Tokyo plus trips between the centre and Haneda Airport. Standard fare starts at ¥103 and runs at ¥309 per one kilometre (with a minimum spend of ¥823). Download the app for iOS here or for Android here.
Line Taxi
Line is one of the most widely used messaging apps in Japan and Line Taxi runs as a separate feature embedded inside the messenger. Line Taxi has partnered with Nihon Kotsu, Japan’s largest taxi company whose 3,000-plus taxis are on hand to pick up passengers. At the moment, the service is available within the 23 wards, Mitaka and Musashino. The only catch is that payment is made through Line Pay, which requires users to have a Japanese phone number as well as a Japanese credit card. Download Line first, then access the taxi app from there. Download the app here
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