Tokyo is so well connected by its public transport network that needing a taxi is not very common for most people. However it is sometimes a necessity, especially when the trains have stopped running after midnight or when in a great hurry to get somewhere.
There are approximately 35,000 taxis in Tokyo working from 333 different taxi companies. You can hail a taxi from anywhere on the street where it is safe for them to pull over. In particularly congested areas like Ginza however, there are designated taxi stands that you must be used and wait in a queue. You will also find taxi stands out the front of most railway stations. Taxis can also be booked by calling a taxi company in advance.
When hailing a taxi, look out for the illuminated sign in the lower corner of the dashboard which will indicate if it is vacant or not. Usually, a red plate indicates that the taxi is vacant, whilst a green plate indicates it is occupied.
When you get in a taxi the left hand side rear door will open and close automatically, you are not expected to open it yourself. It is advisable to have your destination written down to show the driver if you don’t speak Japanese.
Types of taxis in Tokyo
You can recognise a licensed taxi by its green licence plate, as opposed to a regular cars plate being white or yellow. There are generally three types of taxis: large taxis (大型車, ōgatasha) have engine capacities above 2000cc and carry up to five passengers. Medium taxis (中型車, chūgatasha) and small taxis (小型車, kogatasha) are the most common, have engine capacities 2000cc or less, and carry up to four passengers.
Taxi drivers in Japan are known to be very trustworthy and will not try to take advantage of their clients. It is rare however that they will speak English, so be prepared to explain in simple terms or perhaps have a map to help if your Japanese is limited.
Tokyo tax fare calculator
The fare is almost always calculated by a meter. An exception might be an airport route where a predetermined, flat rate may be offered.
Taxis are not considered cheap in Tokyo. The flag fall for the first 2km (1.25 miles) is usually 710 yen and increases to 90 yen for every further increment of distance travelled, generally between about 250 and 300 meters. The fare also increases when the taxi is not moving for a prolonged time or the speed drops below 10km/h (6 mph), such as in heavy traffic, at a rate of 90 yen per 1:45 min. Late in the evening (typically 10pm to 5am), rates usually increase by 20 percent. Any expressway toll fees incurred during the trip are added to the final fare.
Credit cards are rarely accepted by taxi drivers in Japan. Cash is the preferred means of payment.
Narita airport is located about 60km outside of Tokyo therefore a taxi ride into central Tokyo is very expensive and can take from 60-90 minutes. You can expect to pay a fare of 20,000 yen.
Haneda airport is much closer to Tokyo than Narita at around 25km. However a taxi will still cost from 8,000 to 10,000 yen.
You will find designated taxi stands at both Narita and Haneda airports.
Flat rate/fixed fare taxi
To particular tourist destinations and particularly to and from the airport you can expect to find fixed rate taxi services. These are often cheaper than a regular taxi as they are for longer journeys. You can pre book your journey and will be notified of the meeting/pick up instructions. Airport transfers can either be in a private car or a shared limousine service depending on how many passengers you’re booking for.
At Narita airport you can join the queue for a fixed rate taxi service without a prior booking.
Here is a list of some companies offering fixed rate services:
Tokyo is probably the best city to leave an item behind in a taxi as you can be assured it will not get stolen and in most cases recovered. There is a central taxi organisation in which to contact for lost items. Unfortunately the service is only in Japanese. If you have kept the receipt of your fare then it is much easier to identify the taxi you were in, however even without the receipt your item will most likely have been logged.
If you want to book a taxi in advance then you can call a taxi company and schedule your pick up.
The following companies offer an English speaking service:
24hours, 365 days on line in English
Japanese anytime/English available
An English-speaking operator available on request
Taxis can be used in emergency situations in order to reach a doctor or the closest hospital. However if the situation is severe it is advised to call an ambulance.
Taxis are now also equipped with emergency supplies in the case of an earthquake or natural disaster. Emergency supplies include surgical masks, cotton gloves and bandages that can be used for a variety of purposes in a drawstring-type emergency-use take-with-you bag.