Having a Chat with Japanese Taxi Drivers
What do you do when you’re lost in the middle of Tokyo with nothing but an address to guide you towards your location?
If you’re rushing to your next meeting at the hotel you’re staying at, the most obvious choice would be to take a taxi.
However, this may be daunting task for some people. Holding an impromptu one-on-one conversation with a driver in a foreign language and trying to communicate where you want to go may not be something you want to do every day. However, this article has some good phrases to help you out in those times of need.
Stating the address
As you get into the taxi, the first words out of your mouth will most likely contain the address of your destination.
First, say “sumimasen” (Excuse me,) and then the address.
sumimasenn ______ e ittekudasai/made onegaishimasu.
Excuse me, please go to ________. (The variations both mean the same thing).
It’s very simple.
Afterwards, add on something such as yoroshiku onegaishimasu （よろしくお願いします）, which roughly means “thank you”.
In fact, it’s the “thank you” you’re supposed to say before someone does something for you. The thank you after they actually do it is arigatou gozaimashita (ありがとうございました）.
So in Japan, you say “thank you” twice during a favor, although this is usually only during formal matters (such as before a business transaction). When a close friend is doing a favor, you only need to say the less formal arigatou (thank you). Whether you say it before or after is your decision.
When near your location
You may start to see familiar signs that you’re nearing your location. When this happens, sometimes it’s helpful to state specific directions to the driver to make things clearer for him– the exact spot you would like the car to park, for instance.
(massugu itte) asoko no kado de hidari/migi ni magatte kudasai
(After going straight down) please turn to the left/right of that corner.
soko de/ sono temae de tomatte kudasai
Please stop there/right in front of there.
As you may have noticed in the phrases above, we have some examples of words defining locations:
- Hidari (left) and migi (right) are also grouped with ue (up) and shita (down). However, you cannot go “up” or “down” in a taxi,
so in taxis you say mae (front) or ushiro (back).
- asoko refers to a place far from the speaker (such as the street sign that you can see two blocks away).
It also refers to things very far away, but that you can still point to (such as the mountain you can see but not walk to easily).
- soko refers to a place relatively close, but not right under your nose (such as the convenience store across the street).
It would be something closer to the listener than the speaker.
- koko refers to something very close, that your hand can reach over to (such as the cookie jar when you’re by the counter).
If you want to ask how long the drive will take, say:
ato nanpun gurai de tsuku no desyouka?
About how many minutes will it take to reach our destination?
In a hurry? Ask the driver to speed up with a phrase like this:
I’m sorry, could you speed up a little?
Some differences between Japanese taxis and New York taxis
1. Be sure not to bump into the door when you try to open it! The taxis in Japan have doors which automatically open when you walk over to get picked up. Don’t try to shut the door on your way out either, the driver will consider it rude (it is his job to shut the door close with a button when the customer leaves the vehicle).
2. Don’t be afraid when you see that the driver has suspicious-looking gloves, or if he’s wearing a suit during a blazing summer day. It’s a custom to keep the taxi clean.
3. Unlike NY, it’s uncommon to see a taxi that can hold more than four people.
4. Just like in restaurants, there is no need to tip the driver.
5. On the paying meter, highway fees are not included. So don’t forget to ask the driver “高速道路の料金はいくらですか?”
(kousokudouronoryoukinn wa ikura desuka?) unless he doesn’t say so beforehand.
6. On your way out, don’t forget to take a complementary tissue packet. They can be seen everywhere in Japan for free.
Aaand that’s it! Be sure to check around the site if you have some time for helpful articles on situational language.