English is not widely spoken in Japan, so it can be difficult to navigate the streets and get to your desired location. Despite the fact that Tokyo has four times as many taxis (50,000) as New York City, there are two main problems for visitors. First, it can be difficult to give the correct directions if you cannot speak Japanese. Second, long lines and lengthy waits are common in popular areas such as Ginza or Shinjuku. Although Tokyo has an excellent public transportation infrastructure, the humble Japan taxi has become a necessary mode of transportation after midnight once the trains stop running.
But never fear! We here at EnableJapan.com have done the research so that you don’t have to worry about getting stranded in an unfamiliar town. Below is a list of the most convenient ways to get a Japan taxi in English.
How to Hail a Taxi
You can find a taxi at taxi stands near stations or commercial facilities. But you can also catch their attention by waving your arm in their direction. You can see by the color and the kanji on their LED sign if there are available.
Please find below more details about those signs:
空車 (kuusha)：Red – VACANT/Accepting passengers
割増 (warimashi) : Extra charge (extra surcharge due to late night/early morning)
賃走 (chinsou)：Green – Occupied
支払 (shiharai)：Orange – Paying (current passenger is exiting so it will be vacant soon)
迎車 (geisha)：Orange – Currently in route to a passenger, thus is not vacant
回送 (kaisou)：Orange – The taxi is done for the night and is no longer taking passengers
If some taxi drivers might speak English, the safest option is to show them your address in Japanese. Then you can use the sentence “Koko ni ikitai desu.”, which translates to “I want to go there.”
Fares and Fees
Every taxi takes cash, but some also accept e-money and credit cards. You can check on the company website or app.
Fares start from ¥410 for the first 1.052 kilometer, add ¥80 per 237m after. You might also count some extra fees such as :
- late-night/ early morning surcharge of 20-30% for rides hailed between 10:00 pm-5:00 am, except for Uber cars;
- pickup fee;
- expressway fee (tolls, etc), usually the taxi driver will inform you of this;
- Taxies to Haneda and Narita Airport have flat rates.
Book a Taxi
It is an extension of the existing messaging service. It requires a Japanese phone number and a valid credit card. It is available to used in most Japanes cities.
More infos on: https://linecorp.com/en/pr/news/en/2015/904
The Japan Taxi app is the most convenient and efficient way to reserve a taxi for English-speakers in Japan. Japan Taxi agglomerates Japanese taxi operators across the country, and has coverage over all of Japan’s 47 prefectures with more than 53,000 cars available from 163 taxi companies. Simply download and open the app, and tap “Call taxi here” to hail a cab from the various companies available. Using the app, you can make reservations, calculate fares, and even pay your fare (via online or credit card payments).
This is especially useful when facing a long taxi queue, or at night when taxis are sparse. No registration required. But unlike Uber, you pay the driver directly, in cash. The app essentially connects you to a driver from a registered cab company, and you can set your destination within the app.
The service works with most of Tokyo’s cab companies, as a result there are lots of cabs available. It works only in Tokyo’s 23 wards, Mikata, Musashino and the Tama area. It is convenient for business, tourism or daily journey.
The well-known service in the occidental countries has extended. Unfortunately it has a small car fleet in Tokyo, that is why few Uber cabs are available. Furthermore it is pricier than other Japanese taxi companies except at night. It provides more legroom, drivers can speak English and transactions are cashless. But, it is not well developed in rural areas.
Various taxi companies also exist in Tokyo. The easiest way to contact them is by using an application. Indeed they all claim to have English-speaking staff members, but for many of them their english skills are rather superficial. Yet if your looking for special services such as a bus or a sightseeing tour you should refer to their website.
In some places frequented by foreign tourists, such as Narita Airport, there are rare cases of unlicensed taxis showing up. You should better avoid these as there are illegal.