How To Use Taxi In Japan 101 | Guide To Catching A Taxi In Japan

18 July 2023Shopify API

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! 

japan taxi

How to Use 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. 

japan taxi booking

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. 

Taxis in Japan are safe, secure and very clean. 

How To Get A Taxi In Japan On The Street?

It's easy to get a taxi on the street in Japan. Just walk over to a place where the taxi can stop to pick you and wave your hand.

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. 

japan taxi service

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 get a taxi in Japan:

  • _____ 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”.

How do you signal a taxi in Japan?

To signal a taxi in Japan, you can:

  • Go to a taxi stand. Taxi stands are usually located in front of train stations, major tourist attractions, and other busy areas. There will be a sign that says "TAXI" or "タクシー" in Japanese.
  • Flag one down in the street. Look for a taxi with the 空車 (kusha) or "vacant" sign lit. This sign is usually a red light or a red plate in the lower corner of the windshield. Raise your hand to signal the driver to stop.
  • Call a taxi. You can call a taxi by phone, app, or via your hotel reception. In large cities, there is usually no additional charge for calling a taxi, but in more rural areas, a small fee may be charged.

Here are some additional tips for signaling a taxi in Japan:

  • Make sure it is safe to stop. Do not flag down a taxi in the middle of a busy intersection or on a narrow street. Wait for a safe opportunity to signal the driver.
  • Be polite. When you flag down a taxi, make eye contact with the driver and smile. This will show that you are a friendly and respectful passenger.
  • State your destination clearly. When you get in the taxi, tell the driver your destination in Japanese or English. The driver will then set the fare meter and start driving.

Getting Into a Taxi in Japan

japan taxi car

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. 

What To Expect After Getting Inside A Taxi in Japan

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. 

Getting Off a Taxi in Japan

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. 

Japanese 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 To Get A Taxi in Japan

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

Sightseeing Taxis In Japan

In popular sightseeing areas, you will find taxi drivers who are bilingual and can speak English quite well. 

why are taxis so expensive in japan

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 in Japan

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.

Taking a Taxi From Narita Airport or Haneda

The prices from Narita airport to different zones in Tokyo are fixed. So if you plan to take a taxi from Narita airport to Tokyo make sure to check the fixed prices before. And before getting into the taxi, ask the taxi driver for the fixed price from Narita airport to respective Tokyo zone you want to go to.

If you're taking a taxi from Haneda airport, you'll find very service there too. Haneda airport taxi's offer flat-rate taxi fares to most areas in Tokyo. Just confirm the price with the taxi driver.

Getting A Shared Taxi Shuttle Service to Itami and Kansai International Airports

If you are at the Kansai International or Itami airports or want to get these airports, the most convenient and affordable option is to get the shared taxi shuttle service. The prices can differ depending on the vehicle you choose and the area of dropoff/pickup from or to the airport. You can check the prices here.

Taxi Etiquette in Japan

In Japan, the taxi companies have their own color and design so don’t expect a uniform color or design on taxis. One way to identify a taxi is by its number plate. Licensed taxis in Japan have green plates whereas regular cars have white and yellow plates. 

Don’t be surprised when you find the taxi driver in Japan dressed prim and proper like those drivers in chauffeur service. The taxi drivers in Japan are always dressed proper with glaves, cap and a surgical mask as well. 

When you exit the taxi make sure that you enter/exit from the left side. Do not touch the taxi door in Japan when getting in or out of the taxi, it will always be remotely opened by the taxi driver. 

Does Japan use grab or Uber?

Yes, Japan uses both Grab and Uber. However, Uber is not as widely available in Japan as it is in other countries. This is because Japan has strict regulations governing ride-hailing services. As a result, Uber can only operate in Japan through partnerships with local taxi companies.

Grab, on the other hand, is not subject to the same regulations as Uber. This is because Grab is a Southeast Asian company, and Japan does not have any specific regulations governing ride-hailing services from other countries. As a result, Grab is able to operate more freely in Japan than Uber.

Taxi Fares in Japan

Taxi fares in Japan vary depending on the city and the distance traveled. However, there are some general rules that apply to all taxis in Japan.

The base fare for a taxi in Japan is typically around 500 yen. This is the fare for the first 2 kilometers traveled. The fare then increases by around 320 yen for every additional kilometer traveled.

There are also additional charges that may apply, such as:

  • Nighttime surcharge: A surcharge of 20% is applied to taxi fares between 10pm and 5am.
  • Expressway tolls: If the taxi travels on an expressway, the tolls will be added to the fare.
  • Waiting time: If the taxi is waiting for you, you will be charged a waiting fee of around 300 yen per hour.

Here is a table of the approximate taxi fares in some major cities in Japan:

City Base Fare Fare per Kilometer Nighttime Surcharge
Tokyo 500 yen 320 yen 20%
Osaka 695 yen 453.91 yen 20%
Kyoto 680 yen 400 yen 20%
Nagoya 580 yen 325 yen 20%

Does Japan taxi accept credit card?

Yes, most taxis in Japan accept credit cards. However, it is always a good idea to check with the driver before you get in the taxi, as some drivers may not have a working credit card machine.

Here are some of the most common credit cards that are accepted by taxis in Japan:

  • Visa
  • Mastercard
  • American Express
  • JCB
  • Diners Club

If you are using a credit card to pay for your taxi ride, you will need to swipe your card through the reader or insert the chip into the reader. You may also be asked to enter your PIN.

Japanese Taxi Terms and Phrases

here are some common Japanese taxi terms and phrases:

  • タクシー (takushi) - taxi
  • 空車 (kusha) - vacant (used to indicate that a taxi is available)
  • 目的地 (mokutekichi) - destination
  • 料金 (ryokin) - fare
  • 現金 (genkin) - cash
  • クレジットカード (kurejitto kaado) - credit card
  • 領収書 (ryoushuusho) - receipt
  • 降ります (orimasu) - I'm getting off
  • しばらくお待ちください (shibaraku o-machikudasai) - please wait a moment
  • ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu) - thank you

Here are some useful phrases you can use when taking a taxi in Japan:

  • ○○までお願いします (○○ made onegai shimasu) - Please take me to ○○.
  • ここで降ります (koko de orimasu) - I'm getting off here.
  • いくらですか (ikura desuka) - How much is it?
  • カードで払えますか (kaado de haraemasuka) - Can I pay with my credit card?
  • 領収書をください (ryoushuusho wo kudasai) - Please give me a receipt.

Hailing a Taxi in Japan: FAQs

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!

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. 

Do you tip taxi in Japan?

No, you do not tip taxi drivers in Japan. Tipping is not customary in Japan, and it is actually considered rude to try to tip a taxi driver. This is because taxi drivers in Japan are paid a fair wage, and they do not rely on tips to make a living.

If you want to show your appreciation for the driver's service, you can simply say "thank you" (ありがとう, arigatou gozaimasu) when you get out of the taxi. This will be enough to show the driver that you are satisfied with their service.

There are a few exceptions to the rule of not tipping taxi drivers in Japan. For example, if you are taking a long-distance taxi ride, you may want to round up the fare to the nearest 100 yen. This is not considered tipping, but it is a way of showing the driver that you appreciate their service.

Another exception is if you are in a rural area where taxi drivers are not paid as well as they are in urban areas. In this case, you may want to give the driver a small tip, but it is not necessary.

Overall, it is best to avoid tipping taxi drivers in Japan. Tipping is not customary, and it is actually considered rude. If you want to show your appreciation for the driver's service, you can simply say "thank you.

Is there LYFT in Japan?

No, Lyft is not available in Japan. Lyft is only available in the United States and Canada.

However, there are other ride-hailing apps that are available in Japan, such as Uber, Go Taxi, and Grab. These apps allow you to request a ride from a private car or taxi. They are a convenient way to get around Japan, especially in major cities.

Do Japanese taxi drivers speak English?

English proficiency among Japanese taxi drivers varies. In general, taxi drivers in major cities are more likely to speak English than those in rural areas. However, even in major cities, it is not guaranteed that the driver will speak English.

Here are some tips for communicating with a Japanese taxi driver if you do not speak Japanese:

  • Write down your destination in Japanese. This will make it easier for the driver to understand where you want to go.
  • Use a map or GPS app. This can help you to communicate your destination to the driver.
  • Use simple gestures and body language. This can help you to communicate with the driver even if you do not speak the same language.
  • Be patient and understanding. It may take some time for the driver to understand you, and they may not speak English fluently.

If you are unable to communicate with the driver, you can try to find a taxi that is operated by a company that has English-speaking drivers. Some companies that offer English-speaking taxi drivers include:

  • JapanTaxi
  • Nihon Kotsu
  • Tokyo Taxi

Also Read: 

  1. Calling Emergency Services in Japan

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