One of the easiest ways of getting around hard to reach temples and shrines is without doubt the taxi. It’s not too expensive, and it will save you a lot of time and trouble finding places. However, because of the highly developed transport in Japan, taking the taxi isn’t a necessity for most travelers.
What you need to know about taxi’s in Japan
How to take the taxi?
To take a taxi when you’re outside, you can either go to a taxi stand (usually located at a station or close to a bus stop), or raise your arm to call one. If the taxi is vacant (空車 see signs below) it will stop and open its doors.
Some empty taxi may not stop for various reasons explained here. Other taxis such as MK Taxi have apps where you can see nearby empty cars, and even make a reservation. Note that such apps are mostly in Japanese only.
You can also ask at the information desk of your hotel to make a taxi reservation for a certain time and date, or just to ask them to call one directly.
Taxi display sign meaning
Go on the taxi display page to see and read about all the different signs.
Language and destination
All taxi drivers are equipped with a GPS system. You just need to tell them where you need to go and they will bring you there. If it is an unconventional place, it is possible that the driver searches for the place on their GPS before departure (note that it is unlikely that they start their meters before having set the destination).
Additionally, you can show the driver a card, map, or even your phone with information about your destination in the rare case they don’t know where it is. Nowadays many taxi drivers have some sort of board with different words and phrases in various languages to facilitate communication. However, some taxi’s have been designated with drivers who can speak at least basic English.
Taxi’s in Japan are a little different than in other countries. First, you never have to open nor close to door, as most taxi’s have automatic doors. The driver will press a button that will open the door for you to get in and get off. If the automatic door doesn’t work, or if this taxi doesn’t have this function, the driver will get out and open the door for you. You should never open the door yourself, especially when getting out, as the driver will make sure that it is safe for you to get out before opening doors.
All taxis, private or corporate, have a set fare at start. This starting fare will stay for a certain amount of time / distance. Once reached, it will increase in small incremental amounts.
Nowadays it is possible to pay many taxis with credit card, or with IC cards such as Suica or ICOCA. Some taxi companies even offer their own rechargeable cards, offering certain benefits such as points or gifts.
If you decide to pay in cash, try to give the exact amount or pay with small bills or coins as most taxi drivers don’t keep a lot of change on them.
There is no tip service in Japan whatsoever. Every taxi has everything included in the fare, thus making it unnecessary to pay more than is asked for. You can try to leave a tip if you really want to, but a taxi driver will normally refuse and hand you the money back. Some taxi companies have strict regulation against collecting tips.
If you are in Kyoto, there exist special discounts for various transports if you wear a kimono or yukata. Most taxi companies will offer a discount of up to 20% off your fare if at least one passenger wears a kimono.