The most convenient and economical way to travel around Tokyo would be by trains and subways.
However, when you missed the last train or bus at night or when trains delay or stop operating due to accidents or weather condition, you may need to use taxis.
Generally, taxis in Japan are safe. All taxis have meters and there are no hidden cost. Although most drivers do not speak English, as long as you know the exact address of the destination (preferably written in Japanese), you do not need to worry.
*The starting fare of taxis in Tokyo went down from 730 JPY/2 km to 410 JPY/1.052 km, and the additional from 90 JPY/280 m to 80 JPY/237 m in 2017. Since then, taxis have become less expensive means of transportation for a short distance ride (up to 2km) but a little more expensive for a long distance ride.
Catching a taxi
To catch a taxi in Tokyo, you can call in advance to book (some companies charge a small fee when you book by phone), wait at a taxi stand that is usually near the train stations, or simply waive your hand at the sidewalk when you see a taxi.
To distinguish whether the car is available or not from the sidewalk, look at the color and the Chinese character of the sign.
It’s a bit confusing that the Red does not always indicate “vacant” but also “booked”, but just waive your hand if the sign is in red. If it is the booked one on the way to pick up the customer, they will simply pass by you.
Red 空車 Vacant
Red 迎車 Booked (on the way to pick up)
Green 賃送 Occupied
Communicating with a driver
It is better not to expect the drivers to understand English.
Instead of communicating verbally, it would be safe to show the the address of your destination that is written in Japanese or the phone number of the facility. Even if the driver does not know the address, they can look it up using the GPS.
Knowing that “koko” meanings “here” in Japanese might help when communicating with a driver.
For example, when you got on the taxi, first you can show the address written in Japanese and say “koko desu” meaning “it’s here,” then the driver will know where you want to go.
When you got near the destination and you want to get off at a certain point, you can say “koko de daijobu desu” meaning “I can get off here,” then the driver can pull over.
(Within the 23 wards in Tokyo by Standard-size cars)
For normal short rides, the fares are calculated based on the distance.
- 410JPY for the first 1.052 km.
- After that, 80JPY per additional 237m.
- Tipping is not necessary.
- The price goes up 20% between 10pm to 5pm.
- If you use freeway, the toll fares are charged additionally.
Taxis accept payment in cash and credit card, and some also accept payment by IC card such as Suica and Pasmo(the IC cards you use for public transportation in Tokyo).
We recommend you keep the receipt in case you have left your personal belonging behind. If you forgot something on the taxi, contact the number on the receipt and inform them the receipt number then the operator will know which car you were on.
Tokyo Sightseeing Taxi
If you want to see around Tokyo by taxi, it might be cheaper to use Tokyo Sightseeing Taxi.
Tokyo Sightseeing Taxis’s drivers are certified by The Tokyo Hire-Taxi Association as drivers who can provide guidance about tourists spots in Tokyo.
You can find operators of Tokyo sightseeing Taxis from the the official website of Tokyo Hire-Taxi Association below.
Don’t be afraid to use a taxi in Tokyo when you have a lot of stuff to carry or when the weather is bad. If you are in a group of 2 or 3, and if the distance is not that far, it could be cheaper and easier to take a taxi than a train.
GetAroundJapan is a travel information website of Japan. We cover different topics from the essential travel tips and the latest news about discount transportation passes to the list of SIM cards sold in the major airports.