How to take the taxi in Japan: bonus Japanese crash course
If you’re cheap like I am, you’ll probably avoid riding taxis as much as you can. Compared to most other Asian countries, Japan is the most expensive. When I studied abroad in China we would take cabs to a lot of places and even after riding over an hour we only ended up paying $7. In Japan most taxis have a base rate of around ¥700 ($5.85) and because there is convenient public transportation I hardly end up using a taxi.
But there are definitely times when a taxi is necessary. For example, if you go outside the city where public transportation no longer runs, or if you stay out late (usually passed midnight or 1am), public transportation is no longer in service so you’ll have to stay out until around 5am when they start operating again or you’ll just have to hail a taxi.
Also, there are times when it could turn out cheaper if you pack the taxi and you split the cost! Just be aware that if there is traffic, you will be charged extra for the time it takes to go to your destination!
How much does it cost?
The base rate for taxis in Japan is give or take ¥700 ($5.85). To be more specific, in Tokyo it’s ¥730 ($6.08) for the base rate (the first 2km) and for every 280m after that you will be charged ¥90 ($0.75). As mentioned earlier, you will also get charged for the time you are sitting in the cab. In addition to the distance covered, for every minute and 45 seconds you are in the cab you will be charged another ¥90 ($0.75).
Keep in mind that you will get charged an extra 20% (roughly) if you ride the taxi between 10pm and 5am. That’s the time that the public transportation doesn’t run so it makes sense that the cab drivers will charge you a little extra. The great thing about Japan is that you don’t tip here so no worries about tipping your cab driver at the end of the journey!
How can I call a taxi?
How can you get a taxi? If you are in a busy area, if you stand on the side of the street (preferably somewhere a taxi can stop without blocking the rest of traffic), make eye contact with the driver, and wave the driver should stop for you. Keep in mind that 空車 kuusha means empty car so only wave to those ones!
If you are at the airport or most train stations, they have a taxi stand where taxis wait in line to pick up people who need a taxi. Just get in line (if there is one) and get on the next available taxi!
Another method of getting a taxi is calling. This will be a little more of a challenge if you don’t speak Japanese but if you are staying in a hotel or are with a Japanese speaker have them call a taxi for you. If that’s not an option, you can either practice your Japanese by calling a local taxi company, or you can call one of the few taxi companies that have English speaking operators. Nihon Kotsu (http://www.nihon-kotsu.co.jp/en/taxi/ephone.html; 03-5755-2336) and Kokusai Motorcars (KM) Group (http://www.km-group.co.jp/en/taxi/index.html; +81-50-5532-9807) are two of a few companies that would be able to communicate to you in English and get you to where you need to be.
How do I pay?
Just like the rest of the country, most taxis do not accept credit cards. You’ll quickly learn that Japan works mostly with cash and that’s what you’ll have to dish out when paying your driver.
Some companies do accept credit cards, like the two companies mentioned above, so if you really need to pay with card, you’ll have better luck calling a company that accepts card than trying to hail one on the side of the road and hope they accept. Unlike a lot of other countries, the cab drivers in Japan are fairly honest and they will always use a meter so you won’t have to worry about haggling before you get in.
Just beware that if you do charter a van or a car for an all day event they may have different rates. As long as you ask any questions you have before jumping in, you should be alright.
How do I communicate?
Lastly, let’s go over some simple phrases that could be helpful during a cab ride.
お迎えに来てもらえますか？（omukaeni kitemoraemasuka?)- Could you please come pick me up? (This would obviously be used when you are making a call to have someone pick you up, not when you hail a taxi)
住所はどこですか？ (juushowa dokodesuka?)- What is your address? (This would be said by the taxi driver in response to you asking if they can pick you up.)
どちらまで？ (dochiramade?)– Where would you like to go? (This phrase would most likely be used when you hail a taxi.)
_______までお願いします。 (_______made onegaishimasu.) or _______に行きたいです。 (_______ni ikitaidesu.)- Please take me to_______. (You would say this in response to the question earlier.)
ここへ行ってください。 (kokoe ittekudasai.)- Please go here. (If you have an address written down you can show the driver and say this phrase.)
The following directional words can be used to direct your driver to where you need to be:
右 (migi)- right
左 (hidari)- left
まっすぐ (massugu)- straight
曲がる (magaru)- turn
とまる (tomaru)- stop
ここ (koko)- here
あそこ (asoko)- over there
お願いします。 (onegaishimasu.)- please
ここで右に曲がってください。 (kokode miginimagattekudasai.)- Please turn right here.
まっすぐ行ってください。 (massugu ittekudasai.)- Please go straight.
あそこでとまってください。 (asokode tomatte kudasai.)- Please stop over there.
ここでいいです。 (kokode iidesu.)- Here is fine.
ありがとうございます。 (arigatou gozaimasu.)- Thank you.
Even though it may be a little intimidating at first, as long as you’re polite the taxi drivers will be happy and take you to where you need to be!