Taxis and Uber in Tokyo

Older model taxi in Tokyo with limited storage space
Older model taxi in Tokyo with limited storage space

Public transportation is so abundant in central Tokyo, so you can easily spend your entire stay here without the need of using taxis.

But of course on a rainy day, or when you feel you have done enough walking for the day, you'll have no problems finding one close by.

Some taxis in Tokyo are small Toyota sedans that look like a model from the 1970s. They are actually much newer, but it seems the exterior has changed little in 40 years!

These old models are quickly being replaced by Toyota's JPN TAXI model, which has more storage size.

All taxis run on the meter with a standard fare structure regulated by the locale.

 

Some points to keep in mind:

・Most rail stations will have a taxi stand somewhere adjacent to the main entrance with signs clearly indicating the location. You can also catch a taxi on the street though a few areas do prohibit this to prevent road congestion. The Koshu Kaido street outside the Shinjuku Station South Exit is one example.

"空車" indicates the vacancy. Many of the newer taxis will actually say "Vacant" in English below the Japanese making it more obvious for non-Japanese speakers.

・The doors in the back open and shut automatically! Only in Japan!

・Taxis now widely accept credit cards but make sure to check if you are without Japanese cash.

・If paying in cash, the driver may not have small change, so it's worth having a few 1000 yen bills in your wallet.

・Don't expect the driver to speak any English but by writing a note of where you want to go, communication should be ok. 

It's always handy to carry the hotel name card to show to your driver.

・Max pax number is 4. For the older modeled taxis (See photo above) the trunk will fit only two suitcases at the most. For the newer JPN Taxi model, a third one might fit depending on size. If you are in need of a larger vehicle (such as the High Ace Van that can fit 9 pax/luggage) it is advisable to make a reservation.

・Most regions have a 20% surcharge from 10pm-5am.

 

There are occasionally some inexperienced drivers who do not have great knowledge of the area and rely heavily on the car navigation. However the standard of service is overall very high and issues with drivers trying to cheat is unheard of due to the strictly regulated nature.

 

Taxis are fine for shorter distances. A quick ride between Tokyo Station and Ginza should be under 1,000 JPY. A ride across town from Tokyo Station to Shinjuku will cost around 3,000 yen. For longer distances, expect to pay much more. Shinjuku to Narita Airport could cost around 25,000 JPY.


Uber  

Unlike other cities around the globe, Uber does not have a large presence in Japan because of heavy regulations. Instead of a private driver, they simply work with a major taxi company, so you get a service from a regular taxi with the convenience of booking and paying through the app.

 

Uber only works in the central part of Tokyo and not in the outskirts such as Mitaka, Musashino and Tachikawa.

Elsewhere their services are limited to the major cities though major destinations like Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima are all included.

 

DiDi app will also work in Japan but only in 15 out of 47 prefectures at the moment (As of Sep 2023). Most of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto included in their service area.

 

For the locals, GO (Formerly called JapanTaxi and MOV) has the largest share. They previously required a Japanese phone number and Japanese-issued credit card for registration, but since November 2023 they are accepting foreign phone numbers and cards together with a new English interface.

From personal experience, I have found the GO app to be fairly easy to use once you get past the registration stage. Payment is made through the app. The only interaction with the driver is when you board where you exchange the reservation number.


Update Jan 2024

1) Getting a taxi in Tokyo was never a problem pre-pandemic, however many taxi drivers left the industry while demand dipped heavily during the COVID years. You might need to be a little patient when trying to catch a taxi on the street. The lines might be a little longer if waiting at a taxi stand.

The problem will likely worsen in the upcoming years as the overall working population begins to shrink rapidly in Japan.

 

2) In December 2023, the local travel media TRAICY ran an investigative series which revealed online booking platforms like Booking.com, Agoda, KKDay and Klook were all selling airport transfers offered by non-licensed operators. The online platforms have since acknowledged potential flaws in their background checks and promised that unlicensed operators will be deleted from their platform.

Drivers working illegally may not be sufficiently insured and are known to ask for additional fees not indicated in the original agreement. Many of these drivers are of Chinese descent who focus their business mostly on Chinese tourists, but as they have been known to show up on booking sites and are difficult to distinguish from the licensed companies, exercise caution when booking transfers in advance through the platforms mentioned above.