Taxis in Japan (日本のタクシー)

This section, "Taxis in Japan" describes the conditions and situations of taxis in Japan.

Legal definition, etc.

Operators of taxi business in Japan are categorized as 'Common taxicab operators' in the Road Transportation Act.

Number 1 of Article 3: "General Passenger Vehicle Transportation Business" (Passenger Vehicle Transportation Business other than Specific Vehicle Transportation Business)
(3) Common taxicab operators (General Passenger Vehicle Transportation Business in which a vehicle with a carrying capacity of 10 or less passengers is chartered to transport the passengers for one contract)
Vehicle is attached with a license plate (Japan) whose number starts from either 3 or 5, which is painted in white against a green background, indicating a business-purpose vehicle. Taxis operated with private cars without permission, license, or qualification are called "Shiro-taku" (literally, white taxi, meaning unlicensed taxis) and are illegal. This name comes from the fact that license plates of these types of taxis are painted green against a white background, while those of legal taxis are different.

In addition, operators of taxi business are subject to the Act on Special Measures concerning Regulation of Taxi Services, the Passenger Vehicle Transportation Business Law, the Common Taxicab Operators Standard Transportation Clause, etc.


In Japan, Taxi Jidosha Kabushikigaisha was established in Yuraku-cho, Tokyo City on July 10, 1912, and its passenger transport operations started on August 5 in front of the head office using six Ford Model Ts. This was the first taxi business using automobiles in Japan. These taxis were equipped with a taximeter and called 'Tsuji-machi jidosha' (vehicle waiting to be hired), which were based in Ueno and Shimbashi Stations. The taxi fare was 60 sen (one sen is 1/100 of one yen) for the first 1 mile, and then 10 sen was added per mile after that. After that, as Tokyo Station started in practice in 1914, the company also began servicing Tokyo Station.

In the 1960's, with the development of motorization, Kamikaze taxis (taxis whose drivers drove recklessly) became a social issue.

Part of the Road Transportation Act and the Act on Temporary Measures concerning the Regulation of Taxi Services were revised to come to effect on February 1, 2002, and accordingly, the system of the business was switched from the licensing system to the approval system, allowing operators of the business to freely conduct business only by reporting increases and decreases in vehicles (so-called 'relaxation of the taxi regulations' means the revision of these acts). Since this relaxation of the taxi regulations, while the number of new taxi operators has been increasing in large cities, the existing small- and mid-sized operators, regardless whether in large cities or in rural areas, have been in a business slump suffering difficult management because of the decrease in customers due to dissemination of private cars, improvement and expansion of the public transportation net, and change in the social environment, as well as the nature of the business itself that cannot increase the income and decrease the expenses. In addition, the fact that heavy burdens are placed on the drivers to build up sales has been seen as a problem.

August 15, 1912: The first taxi operations started in front of Ueno and Shimbashi Stations in Tokyo City.

1914: Together with the start up of operations at Tokyo Station, the taxi business started in the station yard. By Taxi Jidosha Kabushikigaisha.

In Osaka, on June 27, 1924 and in Tokyo, on June 10, in 1926: A type of taxis appeared that were available with a flat fare of one yen in the city (so-called 'En-taku').

Up to around 1945: Many companies were integrated throughout the nation under the encouragement of the government.
(So-called Senji-togo or wartime integration)

Most of the major taxi companies in each area were established during this period. While, as a result of three-time corporate coalitions in Tokyo, the major companies were integrated into four companies: Daiwa Motor Transportation Co., Ltd., Nihon Kotsu Co., Ltd. (Tokyo), Teito Jidousha Kotsu Co., Ltd., and Kokusai Motorcars Co., Ltd.; in Osaka, these were integrated into five companies: Sogotaxi Co., Ltd., Sawa taxi (present day Nihon Kotsu Co., Ltd. in Osaka Prefecture), Shinko taxi (present day Mitsubishi Taxi Group), Osaka Kotsu (present day Kokusai Kogyo Osaka), and Miyakojima Jidosha; in Nagoya, these were integrated into three companies: Meitetsu Kotsu (Mei-taku), Towa Taxi, and Nagoya Sogo Kotsu (present day Daiichi Koutsu Sangyo Co., Ltd.); in Yokohama and Kawasaki, these were integrated into Toyoko taxi (present day Kanagawa Toshikoutsu Limited); and in Kobe, these were integrated into two companies: Shinki Godo Jidosha Kabushikigaisha (present day Shinki Bus) and Kobe taxi (present day Kokusai Kougyou Kobe K.K.).

1949: Newly licensed taxi companies other than ones appearing in Senji-togo were established.

October 13, 1953: The operation of Japan's first radio taxis started in Sapporo.

December 3, 1959: Operations of privately owned taxis were licensed in Tokyo's wards and the first licenses was issued to 173 people. As more and more areas issued licenses to operators of privately owned taxis, for example, in Osaka on January 15 and in Nagoya on March 1, in 1960, operations of privately owned taxis made a comeback.
('Privately Owned Taxi Day')

1969: The Tokyo taxi modernization center (which manages the 23 special wards of Tokyo, Musashino City, and Mitaka City) and Osaka taxi modernization center (which manages Osaka City, Kadoma City, Moriguchi City, Toyonaka City, Suita City, Ibaraki City, Takatsuki City, Sakai City, Izumi City, and some other areas) were established.

2002: The Tokyo taxi modernization center and the Osaka taxi modernization center changed their names to 'Tokyo taxi center' and 'Osaka taxi center' respectively.

2008: A taxi stand exclusively for excellent taxis (which have had no complaints for past 10 years and whose drivers have had no accidents and traffic violations for past 3 years) was set up in front of Shimbashi Station in Tokyo.

Types of taxis

Elder-care and welfare taxis

One of the advantages of a taxi is its capability to 'carry passengers from the entrance of the point of departure to the entrance of the destination.'
In recent years, taking advantages of this feature, the number of taxi companies that aim at people whose transportation is constrained, such as disabled people and elderly people, has been increasing. Of those companies, there are some operators who make their drivers obtain public qualifications of care attendant and/or obtain lifesaving certification. Some of the taxis that can carry wheelchairs are registered as a special-purpose vehicles having a license plate whose number starts from 8.

More and more nursing-care companies (especially companies with care attendants who visit customers' houses to take care of the patients or Itaku nursing-care service companies), whose main business is not taxi operations, are now getting a license for Common taxicab operators (limited to carry only patients or the like) for the purpose of taking the users of nursing-care services to a hospital or some other places ('Elder-care taxi'). Of these types, services to which the nursing-care insurance and the Assistance Benefit Supply System are not applied are called Care transportation service, while services to which those are applied are called Nursing-care transportation service (assistance of getting in-out the taxi when going to a hospital, etc.), with a difference in the fare collection system.

There are some companies that provide services of fare-paying conveyance of passengers without a Class II driver license, but with the permission of the motor vehicle official by interpreting the Article 80 of the Road Transportation Act beyond the realm of its original scope, which is so-called 'Article 80 authorized vehicle' (see abolished substitution bus Article 80 bus); however, many ordinary taxi operators have broken the force of an objection to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism saying that what those companies are doing is a Shiro-taku operation, which has somehow reached an understanding between these two types of companies through negotiations with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Taxis taking on a role of local anticrime and disaster-preventing activities

Taxis run around everywhere in the area 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with radio communication means. There are some areas where taxis can communicate with police radio by taking advantages of these characteristics (if a criminal may be running away in a taxi after the fact, a message about the fugitive criminal is sent in code to all taxis over the radio). In addition, there are some taxi companies that have the driver certified as a security guard.

Replacement driver service

There have been many cases where taxi companies also offer replacement driver services since long ago in local regions; however, due to diversification of the taxi business as well as the law revision in 2004, in which only persons who have Class II driver license can carry out replacement driver services as taxi operations (the law itself became effective in 2002, but mandatory operation with Class II driver license was actually started two years later), taxi companies that have started offering replacement driver services have been increasing more and more.

Refer to the section on "Replacement driver services."

Freight transportation

There are some taxi companies that take on transportation of not only people but small items for a short distance, such as maintenance parts and data media for computers.
(This is a similar service that motorbike messengers and the United Association of Japan Light Motor Vehicle Porters provide; however, taxis are supposed to offer services to carry passengers so, carrying freight by taxi violates the Road Transportation Act.)

In addition to the above, there are various kinds of unique services including shopping for daily necessities on behalf of customers and driving small children to their kindergartens or elementary schools, indicating that taxi operators are diversifying their businesses into different directions depending on the area and the company.

How to use taxis

Users are supposed to stand in a queue at taxi stand which is set up at stations, airports, ports, department stores, tourism destinations, downtown areas, hospitals, and some other places. However, which taxi to take is basically up to the customer and thus a customer may deny taking the taxi at the head of the taxi queue even if the customer is told to take the taxi at the head. Incidentally, there are some cases where a taxi stand for a specific taxi company is set up. Taxi companies that use a taxi stand may need to pay a usage charge to the facility owner to purchase the right to drive taxis in the facility area. Moreover, in urban areas in major cities, a customer should just raise his/her hand to stop and take a (cruising) taxi with an 'vacant car' sign on the dashboard which can be seen from outside through the windshield (customers who want to take a cruising taxi do not have to shout 'taxi!' as often seen in TV dramas; it is meaningless to shout because the taxi driver cannot hear it anyway). Because it is harder to see the sign at night, taxis in some areas light up the company logo indicating lamp on the top of the taxi, instead of showing the sign, to show the taxi is available, meaning if the company logo indicating lamp is off, the taxi is occupied. Recently, most taxis use electronic signs of 'vacant car,' 'Geisha' (taxi which is on the way to a customer to pick him/her up), 'Reserved,' 'Not in service,' 'In service,' 'Extra fare,' 'Pay,' and thus taxis that use non-lighting (non-electronic) signs are decreasing.

Users can call a taxi company to be picked up at their house or office, but the charge to be picked up is required (however, there are some taxi companies which do not charge this fee). In many rural areas, cruising taxis are rare and most services are provided by calling for one over the telephone or taking one at a taxi stand (but if one raises his/her hand as he/she finds a vacant taxi, the taxi is supposed to stop like a cruising taxi does, in urban areas.).

Taxi drivers mechanically open the left back door for customers most of the time (for some taxis, the driver goes to the back door and opens it for the customers) so the passengers do not need to open the door by themselves. The other doors do not open mechanically, so the customers open them when necessary (however, when taxis pick up customers at a taxi stand where they are supposed to turn in a counterclockwise direction, they often open the right back door). Incidentally, taxis with doors that customers do not need to open themselves can rarely be seen overseas, and thus many foreign tourists visiting Japan are surprised by the automatic door (the information on automatic taxi doors is often introduced in some guide books for foreigners to Japan; in a contrasting situation, Japanese should be careful when they take a taxi in foreign countries because the door does not open automatically).

Passengers tell the driver their destination after getting into the taxi. Before the taxi starts running, the taxi driver sets (starts) some meters to calculate the fare. When the passenger have called for the taxi over the telephone or some other means, the basic charge may be already added to the meters. In each case, the fare is accumulated every time the taxi runs a certain distance or a certain time passes (even if the passenger stops and gets out the taxi on the way to the destination, the fare meter keeps counting the time), or based on the combination of the distance and the time, and the current fare is displayed on the meters (described later). As the taxi arrives at the destination, the driver stops the fare meter, so the passenger pays the fare according to the meters. Most taxis have a meter called unit that indicates the amount of payment, other than a basic meter that calculates distance and/or time, so the passenger is supposed to pay the fare based on this meter. Unlike the basic meter, this meter shows the actual amount of payment from which discount charges such as discounts for long-distance travel are subtracted or to which extra charges such as a Geisha charges or a reservation charges are added. In exceptional cases, the fare may be predetermined regardless of the distance or the time. In this case, the passenger should just pay the predetermined amount. If the taxi uses some tollway or toll parking for a purpose of the passenger, for example, sightseeing, the passenger is supposed to pay those charges separately from the taxi fare.

Incidentally, when a taxi is flagged down while the taxi is stopping at a red light, many taxi drivers do not start the meter until the taxi starts running completely after the signal changes to green; however, there is no general rule for this; this simply indicates the drivers' consideration to the passengers or means they want to avoid trouble.

In addition, when the meter changes and the fare increases immediately before the taxi stops as it arrives at the destination, many taxi drivers charge the fare the meter was showing before the fare increased; however, this also means they want to avoid trouble with the passenger and the driver is responsible for the difference in the amount.

However, this violates Article 10 of the Road Transportation Act (prohibition of returning the fare or charge).

Cash, tickets, coupons, and credit cards can be used for payment of the fare. However, taxis (companies) that accept tickets, coupons, and/or credit cards are limited, so users should ask the driver whether he/she accepts other than cash. As special ways to pay the fare, there are some cases where the customer of a taxi takes no means of payment with him/her or only with his/her business card as a ticket and makes a promise to accept the bill from the taxi company later.

When passengers gets out of the taxi, the left back door opens mechanically. After the passengers get out of the taxi, the door closes mechanically, so customers need not close it. This system, however, is different from general automatic doors because the driver controls the door after checking the passengers' movement and the surroundings. In recent years, the number of hydraulic doors, that do not need much human power, has been increasing, but there are still quit a few taxis with a human-powered doors using a wire or similar device, which means that this task for the taxi drivers is surprisingly heavy physical work. Moreover, if the customer shuts the automatic door as he/she gets out of a taxi, the lever system with a wire or a leverage on the driver side moves together along with the door, and the driver might get his/her arm caught by the lever accordingly, and thus operation of the automatic door should be always performed by the driver. The right back door, on the other hand, is often set in the childproof door lock position to prevent of fare dodging.

Taxi fare

Taxi fares used to be the same across all taxi companies in an area in accordance with the "same fare in the same region system," but this system was abolished in 1993. At present, each company can freely determine its own fare according to its discretion within a certain range up to a ceiling of the predetermined amount for the area. For example, as of December 2007, the common Hatsunori fare (minimum taxi fare which is the first amount of charge before charge goes up as the taxi runs a certain distance or a certain time passes) for ordinary taxis in Tokyo's 23 wards is 710 yen, but there are some companies which set their Hatsunori fares to 500 yen. In 1997, a system called "reduction of distance for the Hatsunori fare system" was introduced in some taxi companies. This system is to reduce the distance for the Hatsunori fare instead of reducing the amount of Hatsunori fare, which is intended to attract more customers who want to use a taxi for a short distance, but do not want to pay a high Hatsunori fare because unless the taxi runs a certain distance, the fare will not go up.

The taxi company that offers services with the lowest Hatsunori fare in Japan, which is 250 yen, is Minato Kanko taxi in Nanao City, Ishikawa Prefecture.

Konpira taxi in Tokushima Prefecture offers services with Hatsunori fare of 260 yen (for a medium-sized car, 280 yen for a full-size car)
These taxi companies can achieve such low fares because they basically provide their services by advance reservation. However, approval for setting the Hatsunori fare for a full-size car at 350 yen was obtained on August 4, in 2008.

Operators of privately owned taxis are often given refunds from tax payments including the consumption tax because the business operator tax exemption point system based on the Consumption Tax Act applies to them (since their sales are less than the prescribed value); therefore, the fare of privately owned taxis is set lower than that of corporate taxis.

Basic fare system

The fare of general taxis consists of the following items.

Basic fare

Mileage system fare

Hatsunori fare

The fare is flat until the taxi runs for a certain distance. This fare is called a Hatsunori fare.

Mileage system fare

A certain amount is charged every time the taxi runs for a certain distance. After the relaxation of taxi regulations in 2002, each operator can freely determine the amount of charge to be added. In some areas, the system is changing to only the mileage system fare, only when the taxi runs on an Expressway (the charge is not added in the time charge system which is described in the next section). This is to avoid the fare becoming so expensive if the taxi gets stuck in a jam on an Expressway where the passenger cannot get out of the taxi on the way.

Time charge fare

While a taxi is running slower than a certain speed (10 kilometers per hour) or stopping, the elapse time is calculated in a certain standard method to be converted into the distance and then the amount is added to the fare. Therefore, if the pathway to the destination has a traffic jam, the fare tends to be fairly expensive for the travel distance.

Time charge fare

A fare determined by how long the passenger has used the taxi. This system is often used for visiting tourist spots by a taxi.

Flat-rate fare

Fare which is predetermined regardless of the distance or time. This system is often used for a taxis which takes passengers to an airport.

Charter system fare

A system in which, for example, a user charters a taxi and its driver for a day by paying the minimum amount of compensation as a fare, which is seemingly equivalent to the daily sales of the driver, regardless of distance or time. This system can be sometimes seen in private companies that have regular patrons.

Extra fare and discount fares

Higher fare for late hours

Fare which applies between 22:00 (23:00 in some urban cities) and 5:00 the next morning. Usually 20 to 30% of the regular fare is added. This time zone is also called 'Aotan' (literally, blue strip of paper) because 'Warimashi' (Extra fare) is displayed in blue on the indicating lamp.

Higher fare for winter time

Based on the fact that road conditions become hazardous in the winter in Hokkaido, Tohoku region, Hokuriku region, and Shinetsu region, this system applies to taxis which are operated in the specific areas of these regions only during midwinter all day. Usually 20% of the regular fare is added.

Disability discount

Depending on the area, people with disabilities are usually entitled to 10% discount by showing their identification booklet for the physically disabled.

Discount for long-distance travel

When a passenger uses a taxis over a certain distance, a certain amount of fare is discounted.

There are various types of discounts depending on the taxi company, including 50% off of the fare (Go-Go fare) when the fare is over 5000 yen, 30% off when the fare is over 5000 yen, and 10% off when the fare is over 9000 yen. There are some corporate and private taxi companies that do not adopt any discounts for long-distance travel.

Difference in the fare according to types of vehicles

Other than the fare systems described above, vehicles used as taxis are classified by car types and fares differ from class to class. Not only Hatsunori fares, but also the fare added according to the distance, are also different depending on the class.

The vehicles are roughly divided into the following four types, but it does not mean that these types are common throughout the nation; in fact there are many areas where the distinction between full-size cars and specific full-size cars is not made or full-size cars and specific full-size cars are included in the category of medium-size cars. Note that this classification differs from that of the Road Traffic Act.

Specific full-size car

A specific full-size car is an ordinary motor vehicle and is a compact car with a riding capacity of seven people or more. A jumbo taxi that usually uses a van or a minivan is included in this type. Toyota ALPHARD, Nissan ELGRAND, TOYOTA ESTIMA (for seven people), etc.

Full-size car

A full-size car is an ordinary motor vehicle (with a license plate whose number starts from 3) with a riding capacity of six people or less. Nissan CIMA, Nissan FUGA, TOYOTA Century, TOYOTA Celsior, TOYOTA Crown Majesta, TOYOTA Crown (Royal series/Athlete), TOYOTA MARK X, HONDA LEGEND, etc. Some minivans such as TOYOTA ESTIMA (for eight people), Nissan PRESAGE, and HONDA ODYSSEY (the third row is removed and thus it actually looks like a station wagon) are also included in this type.

Medium-size car

A compact car is a vehicle (with a license plate whose number starts from 5) where the length is 4.6 meters or longer and with a riding capacity of 6 people or less. TOYOTA Crown Sedan, TOYOTA Crown Comfort, Nissan CEDRIC commercial vehicle, etc. Vehicles with a license plate whose number starts from 3 and is 2000 cc or less displacement may be included in this class. The major vehicles for medium-size car taxis used to be types of cars having a column shift (a gearshift lever is on the steering column), whose front seats are bench seats, and with a riding capacity of six people (five passengers); however, most medium-size taxis today are for five people (four passengers) mainly because there are no CROWNs (both Sedan and Comfort) with a riding capacity of six people and only a few Cedrics still have the style mentioned above.

Compact car

A compact car is a vehicle (with a license plate whose number starts from 5) whose length is 4.6 meters or shorter and with a riding capacity of five people or less. TOYOTA Comfort, Nissan CREW, etc. Some small wagons such as Nissan cube and TOYOTA Fun Cargo are often included in this class. There was an era in which vehicles, such as MARK II, of the 1800-cc class were classified as compact cars even though their length was 4.6 meters or longer.

Because the taxi driver is included in the riding capacity, the actual number of passengers who can take a taxi is one person less than the capacity.

Some regions have more medium-size cars than compact cars, and vice versa, and some other regions have fifty-fifty ratio. Basically, the three major metropolitan areas including the national capital region, the Kinki region, and the Chukyo region have more medium-size cars than compact cars; however, in an exceptional case, Kyoto City and Wakayama City have a fifty-fifty split when it comes to taxis. In Hokkaido, Tohoku, Hokuriku, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa, the number of compact cars exceed those of medium-size cars.

Charges and others

Geisha charge (charge for a taxi which is on the way to a customer to pick him/her up)
A charge required when customers call for a taxi
The number of taxi companies that offer free Geisha charge has been increasing these days, but at the same time, some major taxi companies in Tokyo have newly set up the charge together with the charge revision in 2007.

Waiting charge
A charge added on while the taxi is waiting for the customer for his/her own convenience
If the Geisha charge is free, this charge is also free.

If a taxi uses a tollway such as an expressway, the fee is charged to the passenger. If the taxi needs to use the same tollway for its return journey, the user may be asked to pay for a return trip, but if someone flags down the same taxi on its way back, he/she does not need to pay for the tollway charge.

Because taxis of a few decades ago did not have the systems mentioned above, the driver used to decide the fare.

How to pay fares

The most common means of payment for taxi fares
There is no such thing as a taxi that does not accept cash. However, for safety reasons, other means of payment mentioned below, other than cash, have been increasing.

Tickets (Taxi tickets)
Recently, some tickets are embedded with IC chips.

Tickets are issued by taxi companies or Musen (radio) groups, business friend customers, or credit-card companies. Strictly speaking, taxi tickets are those with payment columns that are supposed to be filled in by the passenger when he/she gets out the taxi (the driver must not fill it in to prevent embezzlement); however, in the broad sense, tickets here include coupons where the value is set up in advance and welfare tickets where the value is also set up in advance and are issued by the local government. Expiration date and/or upper limit of amounts may be determined for some tickets.

Credit cards
Credit cards are accepted by taxis with a terminal to read a credit card (or an imprinter) as long as it is used within the limits of its use. Note, however, that some taxis only accept either the above-mentioned taxi tickets or credit cards.

Debit cards
Payment is directly subtracted from the user's account in a financial institution. Debit cards are only accepted in some of the taxies that have a credit card terminal, but its penetration rate is still low and they may not be accepted depending on the hours.

Membership cards
Membership cards are issued by taxi companies or Musen (radio) groups for their special customers. Unlike credit cards, membership cards are only available for use in taxis and are unmetered within the expiration date (they can be said to be another version of taxi tickets).

Electronic money
An electronic money card or a cell phone with a built-in electronic money (mobile wallet) is accepted by taxis with a special terminal for payment by simply holding it over the terminal and this does not require signing. As of March 2007, only a few companies, including Tokyo Musen, Checker Cab Musen, Chuomusen Taxi, ANZEN Group in Tokyo, and Iyotetsu taxi in Matsuyama area, Ehime Prefecture, accept electronic money. In addition, only some types of electronic money (as of March 2007, ID (credit settlement service), DCMX, Edy, and IC E-card) are acceptable, and this means that it will take longer for the electric money system to become familiarized. Incidentally, in March 2007, Suica shopping service will be available for Kokusai Mortorcars Co., Ltd. and Nihon Kotsu Co., Ltd. (the system will be adopted gradually). In a part of Kansai area, PiTaPa Cards are available.

Revision of taxi fare

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism will begin deliberations on the application if more than 70% of the taxi companies in a business district apply for a raise in fare. Especially in Tokyo, a price stabilization council is held to deliberate the application.

Raise in fare in the Tokyo area
In Tokyo, the Hatsunori fare was revised from 660 yen to 710 yen on December 3, in 2007. Although media reports solely emphasized the raise in the fare, passengers who use the taxis after 11:00 p.m. are supposed to enjoy the benefits of a slight reduction in fare.
This is because the hours and rate of premium to which higher fare is adopted were changed from '30% more after 11:00 p.m.' to '20% more after 10:00p.m.'

Shuttle taxi to the airport

Share-ride taxi services are offered between one's home and the airport in Southern Kanto region, Aichi Prefecture (Nagoya City and the surrounding area), Keihanshin area (Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe), and central Shikoku region. There are two types of share-ride taxi services. One type is where customers take an ordinary taxi from home to a certain place and transfer to a full-size taxi and go to the airport with other passengers. The other is where a full-size taxi picks up each passenger at home and then directly heads to the airport. These services are cheaper than taking a taxi to the airport individually. There are cases where a medium-sized taxis or compact-car taxis take passengers from home to the airport directly (or may stop at some places along the way which is not a circuitous route). Most of these services have a flat-rate fare no matter where a passenger boards the taxi.

These services are popular among users who go abroad with a lot of baggage because they do not need to go to the bus stop to connect to the airport. Moreover, another reason that these services have been gaining more overseas tourists is because public transportation such as trains and route buses are not available when an airplane takes off from or arrives at an airport that offers around-the-clock services between midnight and early morning. Of taxi companies that offer these services, there are some that offer services exclusively for flight attendants who cannot leave their cars at the airport (the taxi takes them between home or their accommodation and the airport). This service is by advance reservation only and are not available for ordinary customers (it is rather close to a hire - a kind of taxi without a fare meter that provides services by request from a customer).

Taxi driver

Taxi drivers must have a Class II driver license. If someone can drive only an automatic transmission car, he/she can take a Class II driver license limited to automatic transmission cars. There are some taxi companies that hire people who have a right to take a Class II driver license (who took Class I driver license three years ago or before) as aspiring drivers and have them obtain a Class II driver license (many of the major taxi companies in Tokyo run a driving school as a group company, which can offer training to obtain a Class II driver license), but the people are usually tied to the company for a few years (most of the time, the aspiring drivers are supposed to agree to a contract saying "if he/she quits the company before the training period is over, he/she must pay back the cost for obtaining the license." before they were employed, but this is not legally binding). In addition, to diversify their taxi businesses, there are also some taxi companies that have the drivers obtain qualifications of a care attendant, lifesaving certification, or be certified as a security guard after they enter the company.

Majority of taxi drivers are men, but because late-night work (between 22:00 and 5:00 the next morning) by women has been permitted even before the Labor Standards Act was revised in 1999, and thus there are some female drivers. However, female drivers tend to work in the daytime. Most taxi drivers are employees (termless employment contract) and work from 11 to 13 times a month in, for example, an alternate-day shift. In an alternate-day shift, because one service is counted as two-day work, a driver is supposed to work from 22 to 26 days a month. There are some work shifts in which drivers work in the daytime (morning through evening) and night-time (evening through next morning) everyday, which is calculated as 22 - 26 services a month. Permanent employees usually take this work shift.

Drivers called "Teiji-sei (part-time system)" are not employees and are allowed to work only 8 times a month (16 times if he/she works both in the daytime and night-time). These types of drivers are mainly older persons or persons with dual employment.

Most taxi companies have a system in which both straight salary and percentage pay exist for monthly salary payment. Therefore, the more days a driver works or the more sales he/she achieves, the more salary he/she gets, and in the contrary case, the less salary he/she gets. If the total sales do not reach a certain goal of the company, the rate for percentage pay is often lowered (which is generally called 'Ashikiri' or a kind of reimbursement). A bonus is set off from the monthly salary at a constant rate to be given to each driver, but if the sales are not sufficient, the bonus is not paid. Percentage pay, on the other hand, is based on 50% - 60% of the fare and increases or decreases according to various conditions.

Some people say that taxi drivers' work environment has been becoming worse as excessive competition arises in some areas due to rapid increase in the number of taxis triggered by the relaxation of the taxi regulations of recent years. Some newspapers have written feature stories about the average yearly income of taxi drivers being much lower than that of all workers in Japan, which represents a part of the gap-widening social issue. Job-placement ads for taxi drivers are mainly shown in sports papers, evening papers, and at public job stabilization offices (Helloworks) and are seldom shown on daily papers, general help-wanted magazines, and help-wanted websites (e.g. RecNavi of RECRUIT Co., Ltd.). In the suburbs of metropolitan areas, there are some taxi companies that post available job positions on advertisements hung in trains (this is mainly performed by taxi companies belonging to a private railway group) and commercials on the radio.

Rejection of transportation and prohibited acts of passengers

Under the provision of Article 13 in the Road Transportation Act, transportation operators cannot reject offers of transportation except in the following cases.

(1) In case that the applicant of the relevant transportation does not abide by the transportation clause

Common Taxicab Operators Standard Transportation Clause
Rejection of offer and continuation of transportation' (Article 4)
Passengers must follow official instructions of the driver or other attendants to ensure safety.

In case that the driver is asked to bear a special burden regarding the transportation by the passenger.
In the event that transportation violates the rules of the act, public policy, or good morals
In the event the driver faces an adverse effect on the transportation due to circumstances beyond one's control such as a natural disaster.
In the event that the passenger does not follow the procedures based on the rules of the Passenger Vehicle Transportation Business Law
In the event the passenger has goods that are prohibited to carry in taxis according to the rules of the Passenger Vehicle Transportation Business Law. In the event that the passenger is completely drunk and he/she cannot tell the driver where to go or walk without someone's help.
In case that the passenger is dressed filthily so that he/she might contaminate the car interior
In the event that the passenger is a critically ill person without any escort.
In the event that the passenger is a patient (and person who is regarded as a patient) of Class I infection, Class II infection, or designated infection (only one that requires admission to hospital), or a patient with suspected new infection, classified by the laws regarding medical treatment for patients of infection prevention or infectious diseases
Smoking in a non-smoking vehicle (vehicle with non-smoking sign on) is banned. If a passenger smokes or is about to smoke in a non-smoking vehicle, the driver has a right to ask the passenger to stop smoking. If the passenger fails to comply with the driver's demand, the driver can reject the passenger's offer or the continuation of the transportation.
(2) In case that the taxi has no equipment required for transportation
(6) In case that the driver has a fair reason defined by the Ordinances of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
(1) A passenger who has explosives or other dangerous objects
(14) In case the driver cannot accept an offer of a transportation because it is time for a meal or break, or the taxi is showing a "Not in service" sign to go back to the garage or office at the end of business hours. Transportation operators must not provide transportation service to someone whose point of departure and destination are located outside of their business district.

Objects that cannot be carried in a taxi
Explosives (except a cartridge and a blank ammunition having less than 50 bullets, which are inserted in a cartridge belt or a ammunition pouch)

Fireworks for personal use, that weigh more than 100 grams
Inflammable liquid such as volatile oil, kerosene, light oil, alcohol, carbon disulfide (except materials for cigarette lighters and body warmers)
Film and other celluloid goods which weigh more than 100 grams
Combustible substances such as yellow phosphorus, carbide, metal sodium, and explosive substances such as magnesium powder, hydrogen peroxide, soda peroxide
Radioactive materials (radioisotope, nuclear fuel material)
Caustic materials such as caustic soda, nitric acid, sulfuric acid, and hydrochloric acid
High-pressure gas (except carbon dioxide gas filled in a fire extinguisher and oxygen gas filled in a medical oxygen equipment)

Substances that may emit poisonous gas, including trichloronitromethane, chloromethane, liquid hydrocyanic acid, chloroform, and formalin
Matches which weigh more than 500 grams
Batteries (except dry-cell batteries)
Dead body
Animals (except assistance dogs or other dogs with equal ability as an assistance dog, or small animals as pets)

Issue of 'rejection of boarding' of taxis
Rejection of boarding means that a taxi driver rejects offer of transportation without reasonable excuse despite the fact that the driver has accepted the offer of transportation while the taxi is parked or after the driver stops or slows down the taxi because he/she has found a passenger.

Although there were many rejections of boarding during the years of the asset-inflated economy, the number of cases where taxi drivers intentionally rejected offers of boarding is becoming less under recent social conditions.

Incidentally, when a taxi is running in a lane other than the first lane on a road having multiple lanes, the taxi driver must not accept the offer of transportation for safety reasons even if the driver finds a customer and has accepted the offer of transportation.


Vehicles for a taxi are mainly sedans of 2000 cc displacement, but some station wagons and minivans can be seen in recent years. In past days, vehicles for taxis were based on commercially available two-wheel drive cars of 1500 - 2000 cc displacement with a little change in design; however, because the same commercially available cars have been switched from FR to FF in recent years, as well as because the pursuit of vehicle comfort, vehicles exclusively for FR drive taxis have been being developed in recent years. Keicars (light motor vehicles) are rarely used for other than nursing purposes.

Up to 1980's, manual transmission vehicles were more common than automatic transmission vehicles for taxis because of the better fuel consumption, but because automatic transmission vehicles have been being improved and there is little difference in fuel consumption between these two types and to reduce fatigue of taxi drivers, automatic transmission vehicles have been becoming mainstream for taxis.

Because passengers usually take the backseats of a taxi, appropriate safety and smoothness for entering and exiting are required, and thus vehicles for taxis must adapt to the safety standards for road trucking vehicles (hereinafter referred to as "the safety standards") set by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. For example, the safety standards stipulates that headrests are set up in backseats (but often not set up in inexpensive private cars) and obliges that the separation between the front seat and backseat and the opening of the door, for example, must ensure more than the standards.

Most taxis used in Japan are any models of TOYOTA Crown Comfort, TOYOTA Comfort, TOYOTA Crown Sedan, Nissan CREW, and Nissan CEDRIC Sedan. All of these vehicles except Nissan CEDRIC Sedan are designed exclusively for taxis. However, because the interior of these specialized vehicles is so cheap that more companies have begun selecting high-grade taxis such as TOYOTA Crown Sedan or Nissan CEDRIC Sedan, which are more expensive.

With the increased interest in global warming in recent years, the TOYOTA Prius, a hybrid car, is becoming popular. However, although second-generation Prius has a 1500-cc engine, it is treated as a medium-size car with a license plate whose number starts from 3 because its width is over 1.7 meter, and thus its demand is not as high as the first generation in areas where majority of the taxis are compact cars.
In addition, because of its body design to reduce air resistance, the second-generation Prius has less space above the head in the backseats compared to Crown Comfort and Nissan CREW

Because rear-wheel-drive vehicles have a disadvantage running in snow-covered regions, there are a few taxis based on front-wheel-drive stock cars (up to 1999, front-wheel-drive Mitsubishi GALANT_SIGMA that uses liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) was used exclusively as a taxi, and even today, taxis using this vehicle can be seen in Hokkaido, Tohoku, and Chugoku region on rare occasions). Because of bad fuel consumption, taxi companies that use four-wheel-drive vehicles are very rare, even in snow-covered regions. Many taxis use LPG as a fuel because of its cheaper tax. Because there are a limited number of vehicles for which manufacturers set LPG as a standard, there are some cases where gasoline engines are remodeled to LPG engines for privately owned taxis and hires in metropolitan areas.

In areas where there are not enough LPG stations or if a taxi operator also runs a gas station, there are some taxis that use diesel engines. Because there aren't very many 24 hr LPG stations, LPG stations become crowded shortly before closing business for the day. There are many privately owned taxis that use a gasoline engine or a diesel engine to avoid this.

Moreover, most corporate taxis use fender mirrors. The reasons include the driver's eye movement required for visual contact is less and it is easier to drive on a narrow road because the body width is narrower than that with side mirrors on the doors. In addition, another reason for using fender mirrors is to avoid the passenger's misunderstanding that the driver is watching him/her when the driver gives visual contact to the side mirror on the left door.

Taxi drivers need to let people around them know about stopping, change of direction, boarding and exiting of passengers, etc. by using the turn signals and hazard indicator. In some areas such as Tokyo and Sendai, installation of indicators on both sides of the indicating lamp on the rooftop is standardized.

If a minivan is used as a taxi, the seat in the second row is usually a "captain seat (a seat for one person)" so that the passenger(s) in the third row can evacuate the taxi in accordance with the safety standards. Therefore, if a minivan whose second row is a bench seat is used as a taxi, most operators remove the seat in the third row and use it as a vehicle with a carrying capacity of five.

Vehicles with company names painted on their bodies but with a license plate which is designed green against a white background can be often seen. These vehicles are used for in-company training after being used for business purpose. On rare occasions, these vehicles are used as an accompanying car in a replacement driver service. Although these vehicles have some basic equipment for a taxi such as a fare meter, because they are used for training for basic operations of the equipment, it is prohibited to carry real passengers in them. After being trained in these vehicles, people who are trying to become a taxi driver take practical training with an actual taxi in which the supervisor who acts as an instructor and a real passenger are seated (there are some taxi companies that omit one of the two training sessions mentioned above).

While many taxi companies use bright colors such as green (Tokyo Musen) and orange for taxi body painting in the national capital region, taxi companies in Keihanshin, northern Kanto, Hokuriku and Shikoku tend to use black and dark blue more than bright colors.

Interior equipment
Interior equipment
A meter that shows the fare
It is interfaced with the actual vacant car indicator. It is automatically switched to apply the late-night charge as the applicable time for late night comes and returned to apply the regular charge as the applicable time for late night is over. Reduced rates, on the other hand, cannot be calculated by the taximeter itself, and thus they are often calculated by pressing an attached button or installing an external unit and a card reader terminal. When a privately owned taxi needs to be used as a private car, a hood saying 'private use' must be put over the indicating lamp. Taximeters are required to be inspected annually (actually screening validity is one year) according to the Measurement Act. Taximeters are set under a lead seal (inspected stamp) so that no one can manipulate the meter, for example, adjusting the inside of the meter. The taximeter is interfaced with a printer to print out receipts, so a receipt is issued after the passenger pays the fare. The taximeters used up to 1980's were about 20 centimeters long and having a lever of 10 centimeters in diameter with a disk saying 'vacant car' at the top, which was used to switch modes by rotating; however, they were replaced with electronic types interfaced with the actual vacant car indicator.

(Note: Because there was a time (until about the first year of Showa period, around 1926) when taxi was expressed as 'TAKISHI' instead of 'TAKUSHI,' the contemporary expression, some relatively old practical guide books based on the Measurement Act still use the expression of taximeter as 'TAKISHI META,' which should naturally be interpreted as 'TAKUSHI META,' the contemporary expression.)

Actual vacant car indicator
It is also referred to as super sign, window sign, or tariff. It indicates the state of the taxi. It used to be possible to judge if a taxi is vacant if the lever of the taximeter was positioned on the top, but this system was no longer available as the electronic taximeter was introduced. At the beginning of the introduction of the electronic type, indication of the taximeter had only 'vacant car' and 'Kaiso (Not in service);' however, because 'Not in service' was ambiguous, taxi operators are obligated to set up an indicator which has signs of 'Geisha' and 'Reserved,' and in recent years 'In service,' 'Pay,' and 'Reserved by radio' as well. The actual empty car indicator used to be a lighting type or a Maku type (a type in which displayed items are switched by changing written cards or panels), but majority of the current indicators are LED type, which can indicate 'SOS' or 'HELP' in an emergency by linking with the company name indicating lamp.

Card reader
A machine used for payment by credit card
Stickers of available credit card companies are put on the left side of the rear window, so customers who want to pay by credit card need to check for them. Naturally, credit cards are not available for a taxi with no credit card companies' stickers on. A debit card is available for some taxis only if the radio wave condition is good and data can be transmitted. However, there are still quite a few problems in using a debit card; for example, the driver may have to pay a commission to some card companies.

Speed recorder (tachograph)
In a business district where the law obliges installation of a speed recorder on a taxi, a tachograph that records speed, time, and distance on a disk-shape paper is installed on taxis.

It looks like a big analog clock with a pad lock and is embedded in the meter panel (or in the trunk, the inside of the hood, or in the console box depending on the type of vehicle). In recent years, some taxi companies use tachographs with a memory card (digital) system.

In addition, because more and more taxi companies began using high-grade vehicles which have no space for a tachograph in their meter panel in these days, tachographs that are integrated with a taximeter are becoming popular. Moreover, there is a system in which drivers can omit their task of recording the daily labor report by recording the positions of boarding and exiting into a memory card using the global positioning system.

Company logo indicating lamp
It is commonly known as 'Andon.'
It is also referred to as 'Tenjo-to (ceiling lamp),' 'Okujo-to (rooftop lamp),' and 'Bohan-to (crime-prevention lamp).'
Use of the company logo indicating lamp varies from region to region; for example, in some areas the indicating lamp is on when the taxi is vacant and it is off when it is in service, or the indicating lamp is on only at night in some other areas. The company logo indicating lamp can blink in red in case of emergency such as robbery. In recent years, some company logo indicating lamps can indicate 'SOS' or 'HELP' on the actual empty car indicator by linking each other (if this kind of sign is seen in town, it is advisable to report it to the police promptly). There are some taxi companies that employ a system whereby a taxi driver belonging to any of the companies turns on the crime-prevention switch, the wireless equipment sends the taxi's current positional information and a distress signal to the wireless office, and the taxi's radio becomes always-on state so that the conversation in the taxi can be heard by people in the wireless office. Some taxi companies began adopting a company logo indicating lamps with some ads on them. There are some different shapes for company logo indicating lamps, hog-backed, rugby-ball shaped, round, star-shaped, drum-shaped, etc. Company logo indicating lamps that are spiral-shaped (generally called "den-den shape") or Japanese lantern-shaped are only available for privately owned taxis.

Automatic door
A taxi driver can manipulate the left back door using a leverage or hydraulic system. Nations that have taxis with an automatic door are very rare in the world, and thus many foreign people visiting Japan are often surprised by the door. However, there are some taxi companies that offer a door service in which the driver goes to the door and opens it from the outside for passengers.

Automotive navigation system
Nowadays, many taxi operators install a car navigation system, but there are also some cases where taxi drivers install his/her own navigation equipment. If the location of each taxi is captured by GPS, a taxi that is closest to the customer is sent by radio, which seems convenient yet all drivers are completely bound by the system.

Wireless system
It is used for the staff in the dispatch control center to send a taxi driver to a customer. An antenna for the wireless system is set on the roof of taxis. Police cars usually have an antenna designed specially exclusively on their roof, but almost all taxis have an antenna which has been mounted by the taxi company later (using magnet, adhesive, or screwed onto the gutter), and thus the antenna cable is also exposed. Taxis usually use the frequency band of 400MHz. Staff in the dispatch control center have the drivers report his/her radio number and current location or use GPS to search for the closest taxi. While some wireless systems allow the drivers to communicate with each other, some other systems do not allow it, depending on the policy of each taxi company. The system which does not allow the drivers to talk to each other realizes this by using different transmitting frequencies between the dispatch control center (base station) and the drivers (mobile stations) (a kind of semi-duplex operation). In large cities, a concentrated base station system is adopted for effective use of the frequency and for stable communication. In this system, radio waves are always transmitted from the base station, and thus it is identifiable because the squelch tail noise, a noise generated when staff in the dispatch control center lets go of the sending button of the microphone, cannot be heard. Although most taxi companies use their own wireless systems, taxi companies are divided into several groups to avoid interference in large cities. Especially in large cities, partly because there are quite a few customers who flag down a taxi on a street without reservation or take a taxi at a station and partly because most taxi drivers have their own cell phones, there are some taxis without a wireless system. There are some privately owned taxis equipped with ham radio equipment to enjoy a chitchat while the taxi is not in service (some people who are taxi driver-cum-radio ham often get together to form a 'ham radio club' or establish an amateur radio station). However, there are some taxi drivers who exchange business information (traffic jam information or information on customers waiting for a taxi) using ham radio. This violates Article 52 of the Radio Act (Law No. 131 came into effect on May 2, in 1945), 'use for purposes other than allowed purposes' and some radio hams complain about this act. In addition, some taxi companies charge radio fee to the drivers.

Driver ID card
An employee ID card of the taxi company
A driver registration card is equivalent to this card in Tokyo and Osaka. The driver ID card with a photo (the photo size is actually designated by the law) must be set up on the display part on the interior on the side by the actual vacant car indicator so passengers can see it. If the face of the driver and the photo do not match, it is suspect as a seized taxi, a criminal act.

Drive recorder
More and more taxi companies are installing one these days. A drive recorder is embedded in the rearview mirror and always films a front view and records the data in an HDD, but unnecessary scenes are automatically deleted. When it detects any of the predetermined conditions (sudden braking, vibration, etc.), moving images for several seconds before and after the incident are recorded. The drive recorder was originally introduced to proceed with investigation of the causes and negotiations promptly after a taxi becomes involved in an accident; however, due to its secondary effects, it is now used for improving driving manners of the drivers, presenting evidence for a crime or accidents in which the taxi was not the party in charge, and preventing accidents by analyzing the cause of the accident.

In-vehicle ETC
More and more taxi companies are installing one these days, especially in large cities. Passengers who use a taxi with an ETC can often take the ETC discount system when the taxi runs on an expressway during late night hours or similar occasions. Normally, the expressway charge is added to the taxi fare and a receipt is issued using an ETC card that belongs to the taxi company; however, there are some cases where the expressway charge is paid using an ETC card of the passenger.

There are some taxis that carry jumper cables (to help co-workers when his/her taxi battery runs down), rubber straps (to prevent a large baggage from falling from the trunk), a first-aid box, an umbrella (to pick up passengers on a rainy day; there are some taxi companies that prepare its own original umbrellas with a large company logo for advertising effect), a bucket, a fire extinguisher, a blanket, a car-washing brush (some taxi companies make the drivers prepare his/her own one), etc.

Taxi advertising
Because taxis are used by a large indefinite number of people and run around town all day, they are also used as advertising media. There are even some advertising agencies solely for advertisings placed on taxis.

Advertisings on vehicles
Thin films on which advertisings are printed are pasted on the four side doors.

Advertising is placed on the back door with a magnet.

A sticker on which advertising is printed is pasted on the window of the left back door.

Film on which advertisings are printed is pasted on the rear window. It is a transparent material when seen from inside, but ads are seen on it when seen from outside.

A product advertisement is placed on the large-size company logo indicating lamp.

A Pascap with an advertising is placed on a wheel of the taxi.

Advertisings in taxis
Advertisings are placed in a case located on the back of the backrest of the passenger's seat. Some taxis have business-card type cards, on which the company name, phone number, vehicle number (vehicle identification number in the company) are described, and they are set in the vehicle in case passengers want to contact the taxi company about lost articles.

There are also some taxis which have an LCD screen to show advertisings of moving pictures.

Problems of taxis in Japan
A large number of traffic accidents
The number of traffic accidents involving taxis is much more than that of general automobiles. The number of traffic accidents per taxi is over eight times of those of all automobiles. Possible causes include aggressive driving and driving in a fatigued state (both of which violate the Road Traffic Act). Although there are some opinions saying 'it apparently looks like taxis have more traffic accidents because the driving distance per taxi is much longer than that per general car,' even when the data of accidents occurring in driving distance of one million kilometers are compared, the number of accidents caused by taxis is still high exceptionally (as of 2003, the number of traffic accidents occurring in driving distance of one million kilometers and caused by taxis was 1.704, while that of all automobiles was 1.195).

Issues of wages of taxi drivers
Most of wages of corporate taxi drivers are paid in a graduated commission system; however, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has been repeatedly issuing directives for changing this system. The graduated commission system is a type of pay-for-performance wage system in which salary is progressively increased according to sales, but the base fixed wage is very low in general characteristics of taxi companies. Combining this issue with the issue of increased number of taxis due to relaxation of the taxi regulations in recent years, there are limits to what the parties involved can do and only a small number of excellent drivers can get satisfactory income, meaning that most drivers get extremely low income.
(According to 'Kyoto Taxi Driver Diary' which has been written by Takashi YANUKI in serial form in "CAR GRAPHIC" magazine since December 2006, it is not a rare case in which a taxi driver achieves sales of 300,000 yen but can get a wage of only 80,000 yen a month even though he/she works over 12 hours every day.)

Related to this issue, insisting that the income has decreased, the work conditions have worsened, and the number of traffic accidents has increased due to relaxation of the taxi regulations, four taxi drivers of corporate taxi companies in Osaka Prefecture brought a lawsuit against the nation, demanding revoking the approval and license for increase in the number of taxis and for reduce in taxi fares, and demanding damages of about a half million yen per person, with the Osaka District Court in October 2005; however, the Osaka District Court dismissed the lawsuit on March 25, 2009, saying that people cannot say excess of supply and extreme decrease in drivers' income were due to the relaxation of the taxi regulations.