Taxis in Tokyo are reliable. You can take a taxi safely. There are no worries for ripping off or cheating. All you have to do is ride in the taxi, tell the destination and pay the fares on the display of the meter.

A few things to note

Don’t open the taxi door when you ride in and don’t close the taxi door when you get off. Taxi door opens or closes automatically by a taxi driver.

Most taxi drivers don’t speak English or other foreign languages. When you tell the destination, it may be safe to show the written destination (if possible in Japanese), or show your destination on Google maps.

Although many taxis accept credit card or e-money, it may be safe to carry cash when you take a taxi.

Taxi fare system

In principle, taxi fare is time distance combination fare. Exception is fixed (flat) fare system between the Airports and parts of Tokyo. Unlike from the Airport, if you want  fixed (flat) fare ride to the Airport, you have to make a reservation at least 1 hour before your riding.  As in most cases reservations are made in Japanese, you better request a hotel employee to make a reservation.

From 10:00 pm to 5:00 am, 20% extra fare will be applied. Suppose if it ordinary costs 1,500 yen, then  during those special hours, roughly speaking, you have to pay  1,500 yen × 1.2 = 1,800 yen (actual calculation is more complicated, because the fare depends on distance and time you ride).

When taxi uses the expressway, you have to pay the express way toll. When a taxi get on the expressway, a taxi driver touches the fare meter for changing the mode of the meter. It’s a necessary operation and not for cheating.

you need not to pay tip for taxi driver.

How to take a taxi

At the airport or at the station, you can take a taxi at the taxi stand.

Taxi stand at Shimbashi station

Taxi stand at Shimbashi station

On the street, you stop a vacant taxi by raising your hand. The problem is how to distinguish vacant taxi from occupied one. There are two ways to identify vacant taxi.

The first way is to look at the small indication board on dashboard that is located on the left side. If the board is red, the taxi is vacant. The board is green or no board, the taxi is occupied. In reality the letters to indicate the state of the taxi is written, but unfortunately they are in Japanese. Accordingly, just pay attention to colors. Strictly speaking, red light is on in other than vacant state. But in most cases, if red light is on, the taxi is vacant.

Vacant taxi

Vacant taxi

Look at above picture, you can see the red light is on on small board on the left side of the taxi driver. This taxi is vacant.

Occupied taxi

Occupied taxi

Look at above picture, you could confirm the light is off on the small board. This taxi is occupied.

The second way is to look at roof of the taxi. There is on-roof indication lamp in the middle of the roof. You could see it in above pictures. The name of the taxi company is written on on-roof indication lamp. If the on-roof indication lamp is on, the taxi is vacant. This second way to identify a vacant taxi is valid in Tokyo. In daylight, it’s hard to distinguish on from off, but it’s easy in the night. At some other place in Japan, this way may not be applicable.