While Japan has one of the best public transportation in the world, if you are in a rush or in a rural area, a taxi is usually the more 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 isn’t as expensive as 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 to get a taxi if you aren’t close to a taxi stand.
Table of Contents
- How Much Does It Cost to Take a Taxi in Japan?
- How to Let the Taxi Driver Know Where You Want to Go in Japan
- Japan’s Taxis Have Many Colors
- Gathering Points When Taking a Taxi in Japan
- How to Read the Taxi’s Status in Japan
- The Potential Reasons that the Taxi Wouldn’t Stop When You Wave at It
- Taking a Taxi With Toddlers in Japan
- The Taxi Etiquette in Japan
- Commonly Used Phrases When Taking a Taxi in Japan
- The Popular Taxi Apps in Japan
- Reserving Your Taxi in Japan by Phone or Using a Taxi Company’s Website
Tip: If you catch a taxi on the road, it is best to have your destination’s name, address, and/or phone number ready to show to the driver. This ensures a smoother communication with the driver.
How Much Does It Cost to Take a Taxi in Japan?
One thing to keep in mind when riding a taxi is the taxi base rate and per kilometer rate differs in each prefecture, so for the same distance, the taxi fare in Tokyo will differ from the cost to take a taxi in Kyoto.
- You can use the Taxi Fare Calculator to determine approximately how much it might cost 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 using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.
Important: A late-night surcharge of 20% of the bill is applicable 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 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 famous, you can ask the staff by email about the landmark 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 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 their 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 the current status. As the statuses are all in Japanese, refer to the below to understand them.
|Pronunciation||Pronouciasion||Meaning in English|
|空車||Kūsha||The taxi is vacant.|
|割増||Warimashi||The taxi is vacant, but a nighttime surcharge applies.|
|支払||Shiharai||The customer is paying.|
|賃走||Chinsō||The taxi is taken.|
|迎車||Geisha||The taxi is booked.|
|回送||Kaisō||The taxi is on its way home, not taking customers for the day.|
The Potential Reasons that the Taxi Wouldn’t 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 wave your hand to signal the driver that you want to ride. Typically, there are two reasons that a taxi wouldn’t stop when you wave at it:
- The taxi driver didn’t see you.
- The taxi can’t park close to where you stand.
- Please ensure where you stand doesn’t have a red road line and isn’t close to an intersection, a pedestrian crossing, or a bus stop. The taxis won’t stop for you if where you stand isn’t safe to park the car.
Taking a Taxi With Toddlers in Japan
Japan’s taxis usually don’t have a child safety seat. So if you want to take a taxi with a toddler, please have an adult sit at the backseat and let the toddler sit on an adult’s lap and fasten the seat belt.
Please also try to calm the toddler if he starts crying or yelling so the driver won’t be distracted.
The Taxi Etiquette in Japan
The taxis in Japan operate slightly differently, so it is better to know the nuances before boarding.
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 the driver can control the opening and closing of the backdoor. The taxi driver in Japan will only open the backdoor for you to board after he is sure the car is parked properly. So please wait for the driver to open the backdoor for you.
Similarly, after the driver confirms that all passengers are in the car, he will close the door, so don’t close the door after you enter the taxi.
When Boarding 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 ask you to take the first one if you try to get a taxi in the queue.
The Taxi Has a Capacity
A standard taxi in Japan has a capacity of four people. If you have four people and a child, please don’t ask the driver to take all of you as 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 in your group, please give the taxi driver a 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 smaller groups.
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 to get a jumbo taxi?
Whether to Tip the Taxi Driver in Japan When You Have a Many Suitcases
If you have many suitcases, let the taxi driver know. He will most likely help you to move your belongings into the trunk. While Japan doesn’t have a tipping culture, you can give him a small tip or ask him to keep the changes if there are 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 the taxi driver, it is best for the person who will pay for the ride to sit in the assistant seat or board the taxi first. This way, other people can get out of the taxi 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, so 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 changes, your card, and receipts back on the tray when the payment is completed.
Commonly Used Phrases When Taking a Taxi in Japan
The taxi drivers in Japan don’t always speak basic English. This is especially true in Japan’s rural areas. So the below phrases might come to your rescue when you run into a language barrier.
|Japanese Phrase||Pronunciation||Meaning in English|
|〇〇に行きたいんです。||〇〇 ni ikitai desu||I 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 shimasu||Please 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 desu||You can drop me off here.|
|ここで降ります。||Koko de Orimasu||I want to get off here.|
|〇〇の前で停まってください。||〇〇 no mae de tomatte kudasai||Please 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 iranaidesu||Keep the change.|
|レシートをください||Receipt wo kudasai||Can you help me to put my belongings in the trunk?|
|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 to 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 help me to put my belongings in the trunk?|
The Popular Taxi Apps in Japan
If you are in an area where a taxi doesn’t drive by every other minute, installing a taxi app on your phone will be handy. Requesting a taxi through an app can also minimize the potential inconvenience of the language barrier. So here is the top 5 taxi apps in Japan.
Note that car-hailing is illegal in Japan, so the foreign car-hailing app is connected with the local taxi drivers.
For most of the apps listed below, you can either pay for your ride in cash or via the app, which can connect to your credit card.
Important: Booking a taxi in Japan incurs a booking fee. Usually it is less than 500 yen.
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 probably that you can reserve a taxi to pick you up later in the day. This ensures a car is at the door when the time is up.
The app is now improved that you can register an account with an overseas phone number and an overseas credit card. We have successfully registered the account with our WISE Card.
Uber works in Japan. As a foreign tourist, it is probably the best app to use as it covers the most city in Japan among all the foreign car-hailing apps.
An advantage of using Uber is 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 was made available in 2018. After the app is downloaded, create an account, and you can start using it by entering your destination and pick-up location.
Important: Refer to DiDi’s website HERE and translate it to English using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar for the app’s coverage cities and prefectures.
Grab is a Signporiean car-hailing app. The platform 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 drives towards you, wave to it, and the driver will stop to pick you up.
The best thing is no pick-up fee is charged by Fulcul!
Note as no account is created, please pay the taxi driver directly by cash or card (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 and English-speaking operators if you want to 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 to a foreign country like Japan.
But for it to be useful for your Japan trip, there are a couple of apps that you need to download. For more information, refer to our Most Useful Apps for Traveling in Japan article!
Do I Need a JR Pass & Is the JR Pass Worth It?
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 because not all itinerary needs 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 or is not worth your upcoming trip!
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!