Taking a taxi might seem like a simple task for you, but have you ever taken one in Japan? The etiquette for taking taxis in Japan is quite different from back in the UK, US, or other Western countries!
Just like in the US, as you are walking down the street, all you need to do is hold your hand out and a taxi will stop for you. But, it is worth learning how to recognise the kanji that will be lit up in the taxi window. 空車 – this means open taxi; so you can call this taxi for any journey you need. This kanji is usually shown lit up in red, which may be confusing to many foreigners as red usually means ‘no’, but in this case, it’s a good thing! Then, if you see 賃走 – this means the taxi is already occupied. Again, it may be confusing as this is usually shown in green – a little strange for westerners!
Something that can take some time to get used to are the taxi doors. In Japan, the passenger never touches the doors. When a taxi pulls up, the driver will press a button, and the door will open automatically. The same happens when you get out. So please, don’t try to open or close the doors – the taxi driver might get angry at you! The same goes with any luggage you need to place into the trunk/boot of the car. The driver will always run out and open that for you too.
This part is pretty similar to taxis everywhere! They have a meter that will run for the whole journey, and the price is calculated for the time it takes, not the distance. So, you may find drivers taking you an unusual route to save you money! Also, don’t worry if you can’t speak Japanese. Some taxi drivers in Japan will have a point and speak sheet with all the information you need. However, private taxi drivers and those in rural areas do not have this. Do make sure to have someone write down the address of the place you want to go in Japanese so the taxi driver can find it easily. If you can’t do this, then try and have it on a map. Most taxi drivers have navigation systems in their cars, so they can use that to find your destination.
Hopefully, these tips will help you out when you’re in need of a taxi! Do you have any experience in Japanese taxis? Are they quite different from your country?