Vegetarian's Japan Guide

How to Catch a Taxi and What Taxi Apps to Use in Japan

While Japan has one of the best public transportation in the world, if you are in a rush or a rural area, a taxi is usually the most convenient option to get to the next attraction on your itinerary. Even in big cities like Tokyo, if there are 3 or more people in your group, catching a taxi actually is less expensive than you think when the cab fare is divided up! So below is all you need to know about how to catch a taxi and things to watch out for when taking a taxi in Japan. We have also included mobile apps that can be used if you are not at a taxi stand nearby.

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Tip: If you catch a taxi by the road, it is best to have your destination’s name, address, and/or phone number ready so you can show it to the driver. This will avoid any potential miscommunication.

How Much Does It Cost to Take a Taxi in Japan?

One thing to keep in mind when riding a taxi in Japan is that the taxi base rate and per kilometer rate differ in each prefecture. For the same distance, the taxi fare in Tokyo will differ when you take a taxi in Kyoto.

  • You can use the Taxi Fare Calculator to determine approximately how much it might cost you to get to your destination by taxi.
  • Refer to HERE for the taxi rates of each of the prefectures in Japan. You can translate it by using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.

Important: A late-night surcharge of 20% of the bill will be applied between 10 pm and 5 am. Any tolls incurred during the taxi ride will also be added to the bill.

How to Let the Taxi Driver Know Where You Want to Go in Japan

If you don’t speak Japanese and you didn’t use an app to book a taxi, write the address on paper or type it on your phone. The driver will also appreciate it if you let him know the landmark of the place you want to go.

For example, instead of giving the taxi driver your hotel’s address, it will be easier for him if you also tell him the hotel name and the station that the hotel is close to.

Tip: If the hotel, Airbnb, or hostel isn’t well-known, you can ask the staff by email about the landmarks nearby.

Japan’s Taxis Have Many Colors

When you walk on the streets in Japan, you might notice the taxis running on the road are in different colors. If you get each one of them and line them together, a rainbow can almost be formed (´▽`*). This is because the taxi companies or prefectures use different color to distinguish their taxis from the others.

Important: Japan’s taxis have a dark green car plate or a dark green outer frame. If the car has a white car plate, it isn’t a taxi and is taking customers illegally. Avoid them for your safety.


Gathering Points When Taking a Taxi in Japan

You might have noticed that point cards are common in Japan. Many shops and restaurants have loyalty cards for you to collect points. The same concept applies to taxis. Many taxi companies have point cards. If you take taxis regularly in a certain area, check with the taxi driver if you can collect points to offset future taxi fares.

How to Read the Taxi’s Status in Japan

In Japan, all taxis have a small display sign to indicate their current status. The statuses are all in Japanese, so refer to the below to understand them.

PronunciationPronouciasionMeaning in English
空車KūshaThe taxi is vacant.
割増WarimashiThe taxi is vacant, but a nighttime surcharge applies.
支払ShiharaiThe customer is paying.
賃走ChinsōThe taxi is taken.
迎車GeishaThe taxi is booked.
回送KaisōThe taxi is on its way home, not taking customers for the day.
The Possible Taxi Status in Japan

The Potential Reasons that a Taxi Would Not Stop When You Wave at It

In Japan, if a taxi is available, the word Kūsha (空車) is displayed on the sign on the car’s roof or windscreen. But the taxi might not always stop for you when you signal the driver that you want a ride. Typically, there are two reasons that a taxi would not stop when you wave at it:

  • The taxi driver didn’t see you.
  • The taxi cannot park close to where you stand.
    • Please ensure where you stand doesn’t have a red road line and/or is not close to an intersection, a pedestrian crossing, or a bus stop. The taxis won’t stop for you if you are standing in a spot that is not deemed safe to park their car.

Taking a Taxi With Toddlers in Japan

Japan’s taxis usually don’t have child safety seats. So, if you want to take a taxi with a toddler, please have an adult sit in the backseat and let the toddler sit on an adult’s lap as you fasten the seat belt.

Please also try to calm the toddler if he starts crying or yelling so the driver won’t be distracted.

Taking a Taxi in Rural Japan

If you plan to travel in rural Japan, taxi apps like Uber may not work. Thus, remember to check with the staff at your hotel for the local taxi company’s phone number. Note when we say rural, even Kameoka in Kyoto counts as local. We had to call the area’s taxi company to get a taxi to pick us up.

Below is a phrase that you can use to ask a passerby to make the phone call for you.

Taxi Kaisha ni Denwa Shite, Takushī o Yonde Moraemasen ka?
Could you please help me to call the taxi company to get a taxi for me?

The Taxi Etiquette in Japan

The taxis in Japan operate slightly differently, so it is better to know the nuances before hopping on.

Don’t Attempt to Close the Taxi Door in Japan

The biggest difference between the taxis in Japan and the rest of the world is that the driver can control the opening and closing of the backdoor. The taxi driver in Japan will only open the backdoor for you to enter after he is sure that the car is parked properly. So please wait for the driver to open the backdoor for you instead.

Similarly, after the driver confirms that all passengers are in the car, he will close the door, so please don’t close the door after you enter or exit the taxi.


When Entering a Taxi at a Taxi Stand in Japan

Like many countries, there are taxi stands or taxi ranks outside train stations, airports, and popular sightseeing destinations. Please take the first taxi in the queue, and don’t cherry-pick the taxi. Even if you are in a hurry and the closest taxi is at the back of the queue, please follow the rules and walk to the taxi at the front. In fact, the taxi driver will direct you to take the first taxi if you attempt to do so otherwise!

The Taxi Has a Capacity

A standard taxi in Japan has a capacity to fit four people. If you have four people and a child, please do not ask the driver to accommodate. It is illegal and will cause trouble for the driver.

Based on Japanese law, three children younger than 12 years old are equal to two adults in a car.

  • If there are four people, please give the taxi driver a numbered hand gesture to notify the driver for him to clear the assistant seat for your group.
  • If there are more than four people in your group, book a larger taxi or split your group into different taxis.

You can use the phrase below to ask the hotel staff to book a larger taxi for you.

Sumimasen, taxi ni 〇〇 nin de isshoni noritaidesuga, jumbo taxi wo yonde moraemasuka?
Excuse me, we have 〇〇 people, and we want to ride a taxi together. Could you please assist us in getting a jumbo taxi?

Whether to Tip the Taxi Driver in Japan When You Have Many Suitcases

If you have many suitcases, let the taxi driver know. He will most likely help you move your belongings onto the trunk. While Japan doesn’t have a tipping culture, you can give him a small tip or ask him to keep the change if there is any to show your appreciation.

Please Enter the Taxi First If You Are the Person Who Will Pay

To save time for your group and taxi driver, it is best for the person who will be paying for the ride to sit in the assistant seat or if they board the taxi first. This way, other people can get out of the taxi first while you pay.

Before leaving the taxi, remember to check that nothing is left behind.

How to Make a Payment When Getting a Taxi in Japan

It is extremely rude if you hand the cash or your card directly to the staff in Japan. Many shops and restaurants have a small tray at the register. When you want to make a payment, leave the cash or your card on the tray.

The same applies to taxis. The driver will place a tray above the compartment between the front seats. Leave the cash or card on the tray. The taxi driver will then leave any change or your card and receipts back on the tray when payment is completed.

Most taxis in Japan now also take credit cards or transportation IC cards, such as Suica or ICOCA. Let the driver know you want to pay by card. He will activate the payment screen for you.

Commonly Used Phrases When Taking a Taxi in Japan

The taxi drivers in Japan generally can’t speak basic English. This is especially true in Japan’s rural areas. So the below phrases will become handy if you are experiencing some language barriers.

Japanese PhrasePronunciationMeaning in English
〇〇に行きたいんです。〇〇 ni ikitai desuI want to go to 〇〇.
〇〇まではいくらですか?〇〇 made wa ikura desuka?How much does it cost to go to 〇〇?
ここまでお願いします。Koko made Onegai shimasuPlease take me here (please show the driver the address).
あと何分ぐらいで着きますか?Ato nanfun gurai de tsukimasuka?How much longer will it take to get to the destination?
すみません、急いでもらえますか?Sumimasen, isoide moraemasuka?Sorry, can you please drive faster?
ここで大丈夫です。Koko de daijōbu desuYou can drop me off here.
ここで降ります。Koko de OrimasuI want to get off here.
〇〇の前で停まってください。〇〇 no mae de tomatte kudasaiPlease stop in front of 〇〇.
クレジットカードを使えますか?Credit card wo tsukaemasuka?Can I pay with a credit card?
お釣りを要らないです。Otsuri wo iranaidesuKeep the change.
レシートをくださいReceipt wo kudasaiCan I have a receipt.
トランクに荷物を入れてもらえますか?Trunk ni nimotsu wo irete moraemasuka?Can you help me put my belongings into the trunk?
トランクを開けてもらえますか?Trunk wo akete moraemasuka?Can you open the trunk for me?

If you are in an area where a taxi doesn’t drive by every other minute, installing a taxi app on your phone can be handy. Requesting a taxi through an app can also minimize the potential inconvenience of language barriers.

Note that car-hailing remains illegal in Japan, so foreign car-hailing apps are connected with the local taxi drivers in Japan. For most of the apps listed below, you can either pay for your ride in cash or via the app, which can be linked to your credit card.

Important: Booking a taxi in Japan incurs a booking fee. It is usually less than 500 yen.

Taxi GO

Taxi GO is the most downloaded taxi app in Japan. It is the best taxi app in Japan. The most convenient feature of this app is that you can reserve a taxi to pick you up later in the day. This ensures that a car is at the door when the time is up.

The app has since been updated, which allows you to register an account with an overseas phone number and credit card. We have successfully registered the account with our WISE Card.

Tip: The WISE Card allows you to buy Japanese yen anytime you want. The exchange rate offered by WISE is very competitive. So get a WISE Card and purchase some Japanese yen when the rate is good to save!


Uber works in Japan. As a foreign tourist, it is probably the best app to use as it covers the most cities in Japan amongst all the foreign car-hailing apps.

An advantage of using Uber is that there is no nighttime surcharge. But as we all know, it is more expensive to take Uber during peak hours.

Important: Refer to Uber’s website HERE for a list of Japanese cities covered by Uber.


DiDi is a Chinese car-hailing app. Its service in Japan was made available in 2018. After the app is downloaded, create an account, and you can start using it right away by entering your destination and pick-up location.

Important: Refer to DiDi’s website HERE and translate it to English by using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar for the app’s coverage cities and prefectures.


Grab is a Singaporean car-hailing app. The platform is partnered with Japan taxi (the company of Taxi GO), so you can use the app in Tokyo, Kyoto, Sapporo, Nagoya, and Okinawa if you are a Grab user.


Fulcul is an app that doesn’t require an account to be registered. All you need to do is shake your phone while using the app. This will send your location to the taxi drivers within 500m. When a taxi driver approaches you, wave to it. The driver will stop to pick you up.

The best thing is that there is no pick-up fee charged by Fulcul!

Note that as no account is created, please pay the taxi driver directly by cash or card (although this is not always available).

Refer to Fulcul’s official website HERE for more information.

Important: Fulcul’s service is only available in most parts of Tokyo’s 23 wards, Musashino City, Mitaka City, and a part of Yokohama.

Reserving Your Taxi in Japan by Phone or Using a Taxi Company’s Website

Besides using a phone app, you can also call taxi companies to reserve a taxi in Japan. This can be handy if the taxi app on your phone doesn’t work or there is no taxi near you. Below is a list of taxi companies with an English homepage that you can use to reserve a taxi. There are also English-speaking operators if you want to make a call.

Tip: You can also ask the staff at your hotel or even a train station to help you get a taxi.

The Most Useful Apps for Traveling in Japan

In this day and age, smartphones are our new maps, translators, and guides. It is the most useful tool that helps us navigate when traveling in a foreign country like Japan.

But for it to be useful for your Japan trip, there are a couple of apps that you will need to download. For more information, refer to our article on the Most Useful Apps for Traveling in Japan!

The Most Useful Apps for Traveling in Japan

Do I Need a JR Pass & Is the JR Pass Worth It?

Click the photo for everything you need to know about the JR Pass!

Once you have a rough idea of which prefectures and cities you want to visit during your next Japan trip, it is time to figure out if you need a JR Pass as not all itinerary requires one!

Our Guide to Do I Need a JR Pass & Is the JR Pass Worth It article has everything you need to know about the nationwide and regional JR Passes. It also covers other factors that can help you decide if a JR Pass is worth your upcoming trip or not!

SIM Card, eSIM, or Pocket WiFi: Which One to Use in Japan?

If you haven’t already, get your internet connection in Japan sorted out as soon as possible. The last thing you would want to do after landing in Japan is spend time deciding what product and from which company you should rent a pocket WiFi or purchase a SIM Card. Another common question is whether to rent a pocket Wi-Fi or purchase a SIM Card.

So refer to our SIM Card, eSIM, or Pocket WiFi: Which One to Use in Japan article that answers all your questions about how to stay connected to the internet when you are in Japan!

Click the photo for recommendations for Japan’s pocket WiFi, SIM Card and eSIM Card.

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