Tokyo Taxi Guide
Missed your last train and stranded in Tokyo? Tokyo taxis are there to help. Get the inside track on Tokyo taxis, with our guide.
The capital of Japan is home to thousands of taxis, whisking customers all over the sprawling city. Yet, taking a taxi is not a particularly common mode of transport in Tokyo, locals and tourists, more often than not, preferring the efficient trains or buses. Why? Simply put, Tokyo taxi fares are among the top five most expensive in the world.
However, the reason taxis remain a common sight in Tokyo is the fact that there is, annoyingly, next to no provision of public transport beyond around midnight. With no night trains and very few buses, taking a taxi home is often the only option besides abandoning the thought of home altogether and opting for a night in a cheap capsule hotel or manga cafe.
Read all about the how, when and where of taxis in Tokyo with us.
Tokyo Taxi Overview
Though not as iconic as the cabs in New York or London, Tokyo’s taxis have become an essential part of the city’s image, not least because of their omnipresence. Coming in a variety of colours including turquoise, orange, yellow, black, white and rusty red, they are most easily distinguished by the horizontal lines across their bodies, their boxy design and their extended wing mirrors.
In a Tokyo taxi, there’s no need to worry if you’re low on cash as 90% of the cabs accept credit cards, including VISA and MasterCard. Should you only have larger bills, don’t worry. In Japan, no driver will bat an eyelid at changing a large note, even for a small fare.
Should you leave something behind in a taxi, again, don’t worry, Japan is famously well-organized and it’s more than likely you’ll be able to retrieve your lost item. Check your receipt to see which taxi company you rode with and then contact them using the number provided. If you didn’t get a receipt or lost it, check the Tokyo Taxi Center’s Page here to try and find them by colour, or file a lost item report at the nearest police box or station.
Tokyo Taxi Stands
There are a few rules you should keep in mind when at a taxi stand. As in a lot of countries, taxis will line up and the one at the front of the queue will be the next to receive customers. So as not to upset anyone, be sure to get in the right cab, and obviously, if there’s a line, wait your turn. Also, ensure you’re not close to a taxi stand before you attempt to hail one down. A waiting driver will not be impressed by a passing cab stealing his custom.
Hailing a Taxi in Tokyo
If you do need to hail a cab, it’s not much different from anywhere else in the world. Wait for a taxi to come along, hold out your arm, make eye contact and flag them down. However, in Japan, to understand if the cab is actually vacant, look for the 空車 kusha (’empty car’) sign on the right-hand sign of the windshield.
The taxi will stop right beside you, even if you are standing at a traffic light, and the backdoor will automatically swing open. Handily, it will also close automatically. Let the driver know the address in Japanese, if you can. If not, it is very helpful to have a well-known landmark in mind or a business card for where you are going.
Tokyo Taxi Rates
Tokyo taxi fares are sky-high, so people tend to think twice about taking a taxi over a Tokyo bus or train. Also, if you are going to or from your hotel, there may well be a shuttle bus or airport limousine that is available for free or at a reduced rate. But, if all your other options are exhausted, the taxi might actually not be horribly expensive, if you don’t go too far.
Tokyo taxis have a fixed fare price of 410 yen for the first kilometer – only within the 23 wards of Tokyo. After that, the taxi meter jumps up 80 yen for every 280 meters traveled. No tips and no bargaining. This price may change at night, usually from 22:00 to 05:00, when there is classically a 20% surcharge.
Highway toll fees that may be incurred along the ride are to be paid separately. You can let your cabby know that you don’t want them to take the expressways, but that may make your ride a lot longer and cost you the same in the end. Information on highway toll fees in Tokyo on the Metropolitan Expressways.
Shuttle buses, limousines (coaches) and taxis to and from the airport are generally very expensive in Tokyo, though less so if you secure a fixed rate deal. Haneda Airport fares, the closest of the two airports to the city centre, will be cheaper, while Narita Airport, being a hefty distance from Tokyo proper, will be far more.
Airport Taxi Fares
From Haneda, the taxi fare to JR Tokyo Station is 5,600 yen (daytime) / 6,800 yen (nighttime)
Without the fixed fare, you would be paying: 6,700 yen (daytime) / 8,000 yen (nighttime)
Narita is a two-hour drive away, and prices reflect this. To central Tokyo: 20,000 yen (daytime) / 24,000 yen (nighttime)
Without the fixed fare, you would be paying: 25,000 yen (daytime) / 30,000 yen (nighttime)
Should you be transferring between Narita and Haneda airports or vice versa, there are free airport shuttle buses and airport limousines available, so you don’t need to pay for a ride across the city.
Alternative Taxi Options
As an alternative to standard taxis, there are services commonly referred to as limousine taxis. Their services cost a little more, but you get a newer car and classier service. Plus, these services are far more accommodating to disabled customers than regular Tokyo taxis. Here is one example of a ‘universal design’ taxi, which is what they call the large, multi-use taxis in Tokyo: Hinomaru Universal Design Taxi.
English speaking taxi companies
Useful taxi apps for Tokyo and Japan
Great app with more than 30,000 cars in all of the 47 prefectures of Japan. You can save your home information and see past routes you’ve taken
The growing private taxi app is spreading throughout Tokyo and provides cheap rides. Your profile stores your home location and payment is fully automated.
Want more from Tokyo? What to see, what to do, what to eat and all the vital info? Compathy Magazine has everything you need and more: