Guide To Using A Taxi In Japan

Taxis are an essential transport in Japan. It is especially true when all the public transports are temporarily shut down. It happens daily after midnight in Japan. Taxi usage in Japan’s major cities increases greatly after the normal hours of operation from public transit (bus and train) ends at midnight.

Although they are not inexpensive in Japan, they are safe and pefect for covering short distances. But if you are new in Japan, it may be difficult to easily use due to language barriers.

The passengers need to wave or use a hand motion at the taxis to get a ride. Once the drivers collect the passengers, they will drive per the passenger’s directions or addresses.

Japan’s taxi services calculate the fares by distance in meters. However, some taxis may work on a fixed fare rate. Additionally, more than four people can easily be accommodated at one time in most taxis.

It is to note that using taxis in Japan may vary between the cities and regions. It is because the taxi owners decide on the fare and operational rules to use the taxis. Hence, it makes it necessary to know how to use the taxis in detail.

In this article, I will reveal how to call a taxi, its typical fares, and its accommodations. So, keep on reading for a full understanding of Japan’s taxi culture.

How to Use a Taxi in Japan

To use a taxi in Japan, the passengers need to call, hail or use an app to receive service from them. They can raise their hands at the taxis to stop them in the streets. But the better option is to locate a taxi stand and hire one of the many taxis parked there.

Taxi stand at Kyoto main Station, Japan

Nevertheless, not all the taxis will not stop if you wave at them. They need to be empty, carrying no other passengers. Thus, you will need to see if it is vacant or not. To notice if it’s vacant, notice the plate on the dashboard in the corner of the windshield.

If the plate is red, the taxi is empty, you can use it. On the other hand, green plates indicate that they are occupied. The red and green lights on the plates are clearer at night. Additionally, the light on the top of its roof also indicates whether it is vacant or not.

Keep in mind that the taxi’s rear door is usually opened and closed by the driver. It does not require you to open or close the door. The only exception is when you’re using a different door (front).

The rear doors on Japanese taxi’s automatically open and close via control from the driver

Finally, you need to provide the details of your destination to the driver. And if you cannot speak Japanese, you should provide the address on a piece of paper or on a smartphone screen in Japanese.

How Much Are Taxi Fares In Japan

Typically, for the first two thousand meters, the taxi fares are around four to seven hundred yen. In contrast, the fares tend to increase for the next three to four thousand meters. In most cases, the cost increases by around eighty to ninety yen.

Thus, longer routes and distances cost more to the passengers. Covering about seven thousand meters (4.3 miles) may cost a passenger around 2700 to 3000 yen ($25-30 USD).

It may not even take 10 minutes, but they will still charge this price because of set mileage rates and minimum price limits.

The fares may vary due to the time of the day. Generally, it is higher in the late evening to early morning, it is after the hours of 10 pm at night to approximately 5 am. Fares may increase by twenty percent at that time. It is mainly because there are fewer taxi drivers working late at night.

Japanese taxi interior

The taxi fare may also depend on the condition of the traffic in the streets. For example, if there’s high traffic and the taxi cannot move for a long time, the fares will keep increasing. Here, the distance does not interfere with the cost. Thus, longer journeys also make taxi fares more expensive.

Calculate your taxi fare cost by using the taxi fare finder below:

Taxi Fare Finder Tokyo

Can I Reserve A Taxi in Advance?

It is possible to reserve a taxi in advance. The system prevents the passenger from waiting in the streets for a taxi. It is convenient to the passengers as they can do this from their homes or workplace using some applications.

Sometimes, reserving a taxi in Japan can be very necessary, especially during a busy hour. To reserve a taxi in advance, it is necessary to install specific taxi apps on your phone. Some popular applications include Takkun, Japan Taxi, and Tokyo Musen.

Order a Taxi with Takkun taxi app

The applications will require you to set a date and time. It will let them know at which time you want to book a ride for yourself. Checking the rates before booking is also easy using these applications.

It will also give you an idea about the typical fares. However, there might be a reservation fee that may be around four hundred yen ($4 USD).

To reserve a taxi ride, some drivers or taxi companies may require you to complete the payment in advance. They usually support online payment. In addition, some taxi apps may have different languages and multilingual call centers. Hence, it makes communication easy for people who do not speak Japanese.

How Many People Can Fit Inside A Japanese Taxi

Typically, four to five people can fit inside a regular Japanese taxi. On the other hand, some of the taxis may have larger accommodation. But these taxis are not usually available everywhere.

There are three types of taxis in Japan, and each type has different sizes and luggage capacities. The smallest taxis are called kogata, and four passengers can easily fit these taxis. So if you are a family of four, you should hire the kogatas.

Taxi stand at Fukuoka airport international terminal

Medium-size taxis are known as chugata, and up to five passengers can fit in these taxis. However, it may be difficult for these taxis to accommodate large adults. So the taxi driver may refrain from being hired.

In such a case, they can use ogata. These are large-size taxis that can accommodate up to five adults. Here, large adults can fit easily, given that all the adults are not extra-large. If there are more than five people, you must take two taxis.

A new model of Japanese Taxi called JPN Taxi 

In addition, an initiative in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics Games decided to introduce larger taxis with more room. They state the taxis will be suitable for all types of wheelchair users and travelers. It means that the taxis can carry five passengers along with their luggage or wheelchairs.

How Do Taxis in Japan Work

The taxis in Japan work honestly, which makes it a convenient and safe transport system. They use fare meters to calculate the fares. Hence, there are fewer chances of charging excess fares to the passengers.

A taxi driver in Tokyo seen cleaning his car

As mentioned earlier, the left rear passenger doors of the taxis open automatically after you hire them.

The drivers use a remote to control the doors. After entering the taxis, almost all the passengers find the seats exceptionally clean. They may even provide tissues and sanitizers.

Taxi in Kyoto with meter and GPS system

After completing the journey, they will ask for the payment. The payment system is usually cash (Yen), but currently, many taxi services are now accepting credit cards. In most cases, they accept Visa or MasterCard. Usually, they indicate the acceptable payment methods using stickers on the door of the taxis. It becomes easier for a person who does not have cash (Japanese Yen). 

It is worth noting that the passengers do not have to pay tips to the drivers. They do not accept or ask for tips. Lastly, if it is your first time traveling in Japan, note that it is better not to cover long distances in taxis because of the excessive cost per mile.

Taxi service in Japan is known to be clean, efficient and drivers are honest and professional

Public transport such as buses and trains are much more economical.

Best Apps for Taxi service in Japan

Uber taxi in Japan

Didi Taxi App

Fulcul ride app


You can see that using taxis in Japan is not complicated even if you do not speak fluent Japanese. As the drivers have polite behavior, they may be able to guide you properly about the best routes especially in megacities as Tokyo.

Taxi service is offered at all of Japan’s major airports, bus terminals and can be found in every major city. Taxi service operates from early morning to late evening, generally can be found any time of day or night.

If you have excessive luggage and bus and trains are not a convenient option to reach your final destination then a taxi can be a great fit.

My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.