English is not widely spoken in Japan, so it can be difficult to navigate the streets and get to your desired location. Despite the fact that Tokyo has four times as many taxis (50,000) as New York City, there are two main problems for visitors. First, it can be difficult to give the correct directions if you cannot speak Japanese. Second, long lines and lengthy waits are common in popular areas such as Ginza or Shinjuku. Although Tokyo has an excellent public transportation infrastructure, taxis become a necessary mode of transportation after midnight once the trains stop running.
But never fear! We here at EnableJapan have done the research so that you don’t have to worry about getting stranded in an unfamiliar town. Below is a list of the most convenient companies for English taxi travel in Japan.
The most convenient and efficient way to reserve a taxi for English-speakers in Japan is the JapanTaxi app, which was launched in 2014. JapanTaxi agglomerates Japanese taxi operators across the country, and has coverage over all of Japan’s 47 prefectures with 29,625 cars available from 163 taxi companies. Simply download and open the app, and tap “Call taxi here” to hail a cab from the various companies available.
This is especially useful when facing a long taxi queue, or at night when taxis are sparse. There is no registration required, but keep in mind that unlike Uber, you have to pay in cash directly to the driver. The app essentially connects you to a driver from a registered cab company, and you can set your destination within the app.
Nihon Kotsu is a well-established taxi company in Tokyo with over 3,200 taxis. Nihon Kotsu operates a 24/7 English line where reservations can be taken for English speakers. The taxi bookings are taken efficiently, and cash and card are accepted in all Nihon Kotsu cabs. A typical taxi ride starts at ¥730 for the first two kilometers, plus ¥90 per 280m thereafter. There is also a late-night surcharge of 20% between 10:00PM-5:00AM.
English phone line (24/7): 03-5755-2336
MK Taxi is an upscale service, offering premium cars with chauffeur service. All of the high-end automobiles are fitted with free Wi-Fi and offer a 24/7 telephone interpreter service, ensuring that you can communicate accurately with the driver. Fares start from ¥640 for the first 1.72 kilometers, plus ¥90 per 280m after. There is a late-night surcharge of 10% between 11:00PM-5:00AM, and if you request for a luxury vehicle, a flat fee of ¥1,000 is added.
Make sure you check out their special promotions, where you can book taxis to Haneda or Narita at a significantly reduced fare. MK Taxi is great for airport transfers as they also offer a 10% discount for charges over ¥9,000.
Although Uber is popular in other major cities like London and New York, the company has a comparatively small presence in Japan. Tokyo is the only Japanese city where the service operates, and there is a lack of operators in the city. Wait times are significantly longer than for its competitors, not to mention more expensive. UberBLACK fares start at ¥103, and is ¥67 per minute plus ¥309 per kilometer. This means that the fare quickly adds up, and you’ll generally pay more than Uber’s competitors. The only advantages of Uber in Tokyo are that there are no late-night surcharges and the cashless fare system.
Line Taxi is a relatively new service integrated with the popular LINE app and could very well become the “Uber of Japan”. It’s a good service, but not geared towards foreign customers. Line Taxi utilizes Line Pay for payment, which requires the user to have a Japanese driver’s license or insurance card, as well as a Japanese credit card.