Although Japan has an extensive bus and train network, there are many times you might want to take a taxi instead. First and foremost, it is the most convenient way of transportation and can be a life saver if you’re lost or get stuck after the last train or bus as left the station. This guide strives to give you all the information you need to use a taxi in Tokyo, from companies, fares and prices to even the use of apps to call a taxi straight to your curbside.
・starting fare is 410 yen for the first kilometer and 80 yen added for every 237 meters
・be sure to get on a licensed taxi and watch out for “shirotaku”, unlicensed illegal taxis
・taxi drivers prefer to know the address of the destination in Japanese for accurate travel
・There is a Uber but only available in limited areas
Taxi companies in Tokyo
There are popular taxi companies in Tokyo: NIHON KOTSU, Tokyo Musen, Tokyo MK, Hinomaru and more. All have the great services that Japan is known for and are licensed especially for public transport. In Japan, drivers must have a special license in order to become a taxi driver and also carry insurance. There are also a few individual taxies as well, but all are members of the tax association.
Many taxi companies in tokyo
However, there is a separate type of taxi called the “shirotaku” who are illegal taxi drivers that get their clientele through booking apps unapproved by the city they are driving in. Please be aware these people are not licensed and if something happens to you, there would be next to no insurance. You can spot illegal taxi drivers by their car plates, as legal taxi drivers use green plates or white plates with a green frame whereas illegal taxi drivers use the regular white ones.
Another way to point out illegal taxi drivers are the ones who ask you if you want a ride. Japanese taxi drivers do not talk to people who are waiting for a taxi, instead they line up in the taxi queues.
Taxi car types in Tokyo
Japan’s most popular taxi car type is the Sedan type, though they are in the process of changing to taxies that use carburetor type engines. Because of the 2020 Olympics, the newer “JPN Taxi” is considered more convenient for the boom of tourism as they offer sliding doors rather than the usual outward opening doors and have a larger interior that makes them handicap accessible.
Many taxi companies have already adopted this change, though there are other types of taxies out there as well, such as ones that are electric powered or minivans that can carry several passengers and multiple suitcases.
Using Uber in Tokyo
Unlike its counterparts in other places in the world, Uber in Tokyo is more expensive and only services downtown Tokyo and is not well developed in rural areas. They are a little more luxurious than common taxies as they are roomier and you can call a limousine or large luxury vans to you. They can also be a bit cheaper at night when other taxi companies have a late-night surcharge, Uber does not.
Uber luxury vans
How to grab a Taxi
Taxies can be found at taxi stands in front of stations and in front of commercial facilities. You can also grab a taxi on the move by raising your hand up in a slight waving position. Each taxi has a small, glowing LED sign on them that says whether or not they are free to take passengers. Here are the various marks you might find on taxies and what they mean.
割増：Extra charge (extra surcharge due to late night/early morning)
支払：Paying (current passenger is exiting so it will be vacant soon)
迎車：Currently in route to a passenger, thus is not vacant
回送：The taxi is done for the night and is no longer taking passengers
How to explain your destination
If you are taking a taxi in Japan, it’s best to show the address to them in Japanese. Although larger and more famous facilities and hotels can be recognizable to the every day taxi, it’s easier to just show the address in Japanese for all parties involved.
Although Google Maps is the go-to for most foreign travelers, it’s easier to search your address in the Japan Travel by Navitime website as you can easily switch the address from your native tongue to Japanese to show the Japanese address to the driver.
A very useful phrase to know while showing your smartphone screen to the driver is “Koko ni ikitai desu” which translates to “I want to go here.”
Show your smartphone
Taxi fares and fees
Taxi fares are metered and the starting fare is 410 yen for the first kilometer and 80 yen added for every 237 meters following.
Other additional fees include the following:
• If the speed is less than 10km/hr, it is 80 yen/90 seconds. Hence if there is a traffic jam, your taxi will be very expensive.
• If your trip is between 22:00 and 5:00, you are charged 20% extra.
• If you call a taxi to you, it is a 410 yen dispatch fee.
• If you use the expressway, an additional fee will be added (tolls, etc). Usually the taxi driver will inform you of this.
• Taxies to Haneda and Narita Airport have flat rates.
- For example, Chiyoda-ku to Haneda Airport is 5600 yen during normal hours and 6800 yen if taken during late night/early morning hours (NIHON KOTSU)
Roppongi -> Shibuya 3.6km 1,210 yen (no extra charges apply)
Asakusa -> Shinagawa 13.3km4,170 yen (no extra charges apply)
You can check taxi fare calculator, Navitime. ※Japanese text only.
How to make Payment
Most taxi companies accept credit card, Suica (e-money) as well as cash. But some taxies can usually accept credit card, though will not accept e-money such as Suica or Pasmo.
Finding a taxi late at night can be no easy feat, even at taxi stands, so you might want to use a Japanese taxi dispatch app to get them to you.
One such app is the “Japan Taxi” app that provides information and services in Japanese, English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, and Korean.
Please be reminded that there is a dispatch fee of 410 yen.
They have online booking web site.