Travel Japanese – Taking a Taxi in Japan

2011 January 18
by PaulBenson

You might know how to travel across Japan in the bullet-train (shinkansen しんかんせん 新幹線)… but what about when you need to get somewhere FAST? Sometimes public transportation just isn’t what you need. This article is designed to show you the basics on how to hail a Japanese taxi (takushi タクシー) and get where you need to go when you need to be there.

Step 1 – Hailing the Taxi:

Hailing a taxi is the same as in the USA. You raise an arm out to signal the driver. There will be some Japanese characters displayed in a window or on top of the taxi to show if it is available:

賃走 (ちんそう) = Occupied (literally “rented” to “run”)

空車 (くうしゃ) = Available (lit. “empty” “vehicle”)

You might see a taxi that displays the following: 予約車 (よやくしゃ yoyakusha). This just means it was reserved beforehand and can’t help you.

Step 2 – Tell the Driver the Address:

Now that you’ve hailed your taxi, you need to get where you’re going! The following is a simple direct phrase to tell the driver when you’re going to a nearby well-known location:

私は __place___ へ行きます。

わたし は ___ へ いきます。

watashi wa ___ e ikimasu.

I’m going to ____.

Ex1: 私は京都駅へ行きます。/ I’m going to Kyoto Station.

Ex2: 私はへ東京タワー行きます。/ I’m going to Tokyo Tower.

Note: Taxi drivers are expected to know the places people generally want to go to, but they aren’t superhuman – they (probably) don’t know every restaurant or place listed in every travel guide. If you suspect trouble, have a map marked or the address written down, or have a phone number ready so you can call and let your driver speak with someone at your destination. Here’s a phrase that can help: ここは住所です。 / ここ は じゅうしょ です。 / Here is the address.

Things to Know:

1) Taxis in Japan are more expensive than in the USA, and sometimes outrageously so. A standard fare starts at around ¥700 and goes up in ¥80 increments. At night (11pm-5am) there is an extra charge (add about 30% to the above). There are also extra charges when you call for a cab from a restaurant. These charges add up – Narita Airport (Tokyo’s international airport) is a 60-90 minute ride outside of Tokyo, so even in the best of circumstances a taxi ride to the airport will cost you around ¥20,000 ($240)!

2) Taxi doors automatically open and close, so you’re not expected to open or close your door.

3) There’s no haggling with taxi fares. There’s no tipping either (the driver will refuse both). Taxi driving is a profession in Japan and the fare is set. What’s shown on the meter is all-inclusive and that’s all you owe. No more, no less. Japanese taxi drivers are known for their professional etiquette and honesty – report it if you forget something and the taxi driver might drive it right to you.

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