Taking a taxi in Tokyo? We know they’re expensive, especially compared to train and bus. But, sometimes you don’t have a choice.

Whether you’re stranded after the last train, or find yourself miles from the closest train station, knowing how to catch a taxi in Tokyo is a skill that can come in mighty handy when you need it. So let’s here’s what you need to know.

How to catch a taxi in Tokyo: The basics

Hailing a taxi isn’t your only option.

There are a few ways to catch a taxi in Japan. Most hotels, hostels, or businesses in Japan will gladly call a taxi for you. If the staff don’t speak English, you can say “takushii o yonde kudasai” (can you please call me a taxi?). Expect to be charged a small fee called “sougeidai” which literally means “pick up fee” that can cost about ¥410. Still, it beats having to hunt one down for yourself in a pinch.

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If you are out and about, the best way to find a taxi would be to head to a taxi stand. They are usually a lot of them around stations and major sightseeing spots. If you’re in central Tokyo, you can normally flag a taxi down within a few minutes (and often seconds) just by standing on any moderately busy road. Another option is to use a taxi booking app, but more on those in a moment.

You can see whether a taxi is vacant if the sign on the dashboard is red and shows 空車 (“kuusha” meaning “empty car”). When the taxi is occupied, the sign will be green and show 賃走 (“chinso“). An easy way to remember this is to think: red makes a taxi stop, and green means it’s going (away from you).

When you board or exit the taxi, the left door is opened and closed remotely by the driver so you do not have to open it yourself.

Taking a taxi in Tokyo: How much will it cost?

Catching a taxi late at night will cost you a more. | Photo by holgs/iStock Unreleased via Getty Images.

Fares vary depending on where you are; taxis in Tokyo are a little more expensive than their counterparts in rural areas. In general the base fare for the first 1.096 km will cost up to ¥500. After that, the fare increases by ¥100 every 255 meters, plus during waiting time — that’s when the taxi stands still due to traffic or if you ask them to wait.

Summary table of approximate taxi fares

DestinationDistanceDaytime fareNighttime fare
Shinjuku Station to Yoyogi StationAbout 2 km¥800¥900
Shinjuku Station to Harajuku StationAbout 2.7 km¥1,100¥1,300
Haneda Airport to Shibuya StationAbout 17.5 km¥6,900¥8,300

When taking a taxi between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. they will generally charge an additional 20% as a surcharge. Another surcharge may also be incurred when they have to take a tolled expressway. On the other hand there are somtimes 10% discounts offered for fares over ¥9,000.

Some taxis offer preset routes between sightseeing spots or between major stations and hotels to the airport, which often have a discounted fare or even a pre-determined fare. Using these taxis might just be a great alternative to taking a shuttle bus or using public transport.

Most apps will show a general estimate of how much the ride will cost before you request the taxi. However, you also can get a general estimate here.

taxi in tokyo
Ready to ride? | Photo by Greg Lane

Communicating With A Japanese Taxi Driver

Get where you need to go. | Photo by Getty Images

Once you hop in your taxi in Tokyo, the conversation with your driver should be fairly simple — if you speak a little Japanese. But for those less fluent, a lot of taxis now are well-equipped to handle non-Japanese speakers.

However, there are still other things you can do to help move things along smoothly. One, is to have the business card or address of the place you would like to go to written down, so the driver can just copy it into his navigation system. Plus, when giving him the address, say “Koko made onegai shimasu” (please take me to this address). When you see your destination and want to get out, you can tell the driver “Koko de oroshite kudasai” (I would like to get out here, please). “Koko de ii desu” (Here is fine) also works.

Finally, when it’s time to pay, you can consult the meter for your fare. Cash payment in smaller bills is preferred, as giving change for a 10,000-yen bill can be a hassle. In most major urban areas taxis now accept credit cards and payment apps like Apple Pay and Google Pay. If you’re in the countryside and only have large bills or a credit card on you, it’s best to notify the driver before you get in. You can also ask for a receipt by asking “Ryoshuusho onegaishimasu.” Lastly, do not forget to say “Arigatou gozaimasu” to thank the driver for your safe trip to your destination.

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Handy Japanese phrases for catching a taxi in Tokyo

While multi-language tablets in taxis, booking apps, and translation apps have made communication easier, many taxi drivers don’t speak fluent English. So here’s a handy reference for some of the Japanese phrases we’ve covered in this article.

EnglishJapanesePronunciation
Can you please call me a taxi?タクシーを呼んでくださいTakushii o yonde kudasai
Pick up fee送迎大Sougeidai
Vacant (empty)空車Kūsha
Occupied 賃走Chinsō
Please take me here.ここまでお願いしますKoko made onegai shimasu
Please let me out here.ここで下ろしてくださいKoko de oroshite kudasai
Here is okay.ここでいいですKoko de ii desu
Can I have a receipt please?領収書お願いしますRyoshuusho onegaishimasu
Thank you.ありがとうございますArigatou gozaimasu

Japan Taxi Apps

Taxi apps are becoming more common.

There are a variety of taxi and ride—sharing apps available in Japan now, especially compared to a few years ago. In general, taxis are still more popular than ride-shares though, and many ride-sharing apps actually just call you taxis. Notably, the infamous Uber is used more for its food delivery service UberEats.

Also keep in mind that many taxi apps require SMS verification so make sure you have a working SIM card. We recommend the Mobal Japan Unlimited SIM, as it comes with a Japanese phone number and voice calling. Plus, the bulk of Mobal’s profits go to charity so it’s a win-win.

Go

Cash, credit card, or D Barai.
Requires a Japanese mobile phone number (for SMS verification).

Go is a taxi booking app that was made by combining Japan Taxi and Mov. The app now has over 1 million downloads, so it’s definitely popular. At the moment, you can only download Go from Google Play if your region is set to Japan. However, you can set the app’s language to English after downloading it — although some parts of the app and some notifications are still in Japanese. After downloading, you’ll have to sign up and then up you’ll be rewarded with a ¥500 coupon.

Go has a regular taxi services, as well as Go Premium if you want a fancy car. There’s also an option called AI Reservation or AI予約 for those who’d like to make reservations ahead of time — you can book from 15 minutes up to 7 days before your desired departure time. Finally, for payment options you can either pay via the app using a credit card or D Barai, or select ‘in car’. If you choose ‘in car’ you can pay in cash or credit card.

Japan Taxi

This app has ended its services.

While the Japan Taxi is still available to download, save yourself some time and don’t bother. When you first try to open the app, you will be met with a screen that says the app has ended its services. Then at the bottom there’s a handy little link to uninstall the app. So yeah, it’s better if you just don’t download it to begin with.

However, if you’re curious Japan Taxi actually has the same developer as Go. They’d been trying to move the userbase over to Go for some time, so we’ll take all this to mean they’ve finally managed to do it.

S.Ride

Cash, credit card, IC card, or QR code.
Requires a Japanese mobile phone number (for SMS verification).

S.Ride claims to be “Tokyo’s biggest taxi app”. On the surface, it’s very similar to Go, it just makes use of different taxi companies. It has nice English interface, and does have the option to register with a non-Japanese phone number, but when we tried it out it didn’t work. Interestingly, S.Ride seems to target business customers more than tourists, by offering services like the integration of expensing apps like Concur and Money Forward.

When it comes to payment, you have the option of ‘online’ or ‘in car’. ‘Online’ payments are basically just payments made through the app using credit card or QR code, while ‘in car’ payments can include cash or IC card.

Dog in Tokyo Taxi
Tokyo Taxi Easy Rider | Photo by Chris Kirkland

DiDi

Cash, PayPay, or credit/debit card (Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Diners Club, and American Express).
Requires a mobile phone number (for SMS verification).

DiDi is a Chinese ride sharing app with some coverage in Japan. It scaled back coverage in 2020, but you can still use it in most major locations like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Most of their app is English, much like Go.

On the app there are features that allow you to choose which taxi company you want to hire, what time you want to get picked up, and if you want to opt for DiDi Special (their alternative to Uber Black).

Uber

Cash, PayPay, Rakuten Pay, Google Pay, Uber gift card, or credit/debit card (Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Diners Club, and American Express).
Requires a mobile phone number (for SMS verification).

This app took many countries by storm, except Japan — where it only operates for hailing a taxi in Tokyo. The reason for this is quite simple: Uber thrives in countries where the taxi industry is not well managed (where difficulties such as hailing a taxi exist), but Japan’s taxis are far from that.

So is Uber worth using in Japan at all then? Yes, it is! Even though Uber’s taxi fleet in Tokyo is small, the driver often speaks decent English, which makes communication that much easier. There are Uber Black cars available which like in other countries, can be a bit pricier. Uber X isn’t available in Japan (same goes for UberX Share). However, UberEats is incredibly popular and has good coverage in central areas — don’t be surprised when your delivery person turns up on a bike though, that’s quite normal.

Frequently asked questions

A taxi stand near Tokyo Station. | Photo by Rich Legg/iStock Unreleased via Getty Images.

Is Uber cheaper than taking a taxi in Tokyo?

When it comes to saving some yen, both options are generally priced the same. Uber in Japan works with major taxi companies to offer rides. Though having said that, Uber in Tokyo does have two key advantages. Firstly, the transaction is cashless, so you do not have to carry too much money around all the time. Next, Uber does not charge extra between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., which makes them slightly cheaper than general taxis during these hours. Lastly, with Uber there’s an option to share arrival times as well as GPS tracking which can come in handy for late night rides.

Are taxis safe in Tokyo?

Generally taxis in Tokyo are quite safe. Although unlicensed taxis are rare, you can recognize a licensed one by their green license plates, as regular cars have white and yellow plates instead.

What about taking a taxi from the airport?

We generally don’t recommend taking taxis from either of the airports. There are a whole range of other transport options to get from Narita Airport or Haneda Airport to central Tokyo, that are much more affordable. However, if you are arriving late at night, a pre-booked shared taxi is a good option.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Last updated in April 2023 by Maria Danuco.

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Filed under: Transport
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