The indicators in front of the taxis linked with the taxi meter inside. Below is a complete list of signs you can find on taxi’s.
Note that the colors on the image shown below can vary between different taxi companies. Some older taxis without LED displays have sometimes a white background with the same color for the text, or even a blue background with kanji’s displayed in white.
Taxis will only stop when you raise your hand if they have the vacant sign (空車) on. The only exception being if you have reserved a taxi beforehand. Go to the taxi page for more information.
Taxis will put the lights on their roof on when vacant. This is to make it easier to notice them at night. It is possible that a taxi driver forgets to put off the lights when a passenger is inside, but this is relatively rare.
In case you put your hands up to take a taxi which is not vacant, the driver will usually do a hand sign showing they are in use and continue their way.
If the LED display on a taxi is off, it usually means there is a passenger inside, meaning the taxi will not stop.
Here is a simple infographic with the signs you can find on a Japanese taxi display. Below that you will find a detailed explanation for each and every sign.
Table of Contents
- Common Signs
- Uncommon Signs
- Reservation / Emergency
- Other Signs
⑤ Highway【高速】 ➔ This sign will pop up when a taxi is on a highway. It will change from “Occupied 【実車】” to “Highway【高速】”, and then again to “Occupied 【実車】” again once off the highway. On the highway you will only be charged by the kilometer, and not by time.
⑥ Tourism【観光】 ➔ When a taxi uses a sightseeing route. Only taxi companies with the approval of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism are allowed to use this sign with according fares.
⑦ Designated Driver【代行】 ➔ This is a system used for people who cannot drive back home due to alcohol consumption. Two drivers will come in one taxi to the designated place. One will drive you home in your car, and the other driver will follow you in the taxi. Only certain taxi companies offer this service.
⑩ In Transit【迎車】 ➔ Similar to a reserved car (see ⑧), but the customer has to pay a fee for the time it takes the taxi to get to the customer’s place of reservation.
⑪ Wedding【寿】 ➔ When the taxi is reserved for a wedding. This is usually not a displayed on the LED screen, but written elegantly in red in on a white piece of paper, put in front of the dashboard. It is fairly common to see a few taxis one behind the other with this sign, as they don’t only drive the bride and the groom but also the families.
⑫ Assistance【救援】 ➔ This sign can mean several things. It can be displayed when the taxi driver go and buy groceries or medicine for the customer, or when the taxi driver transports urgent goods, or even if the taxi driver has to accompany a family member to the hospital in case of an emergency.
⑬ SOS / Help Me!【SOS】or 【助けて】 ➔ If you see this sign, it means the taxi driver might be in danger, or need of help. It is recommended to call the emergency lines (110 for the police, or 119 for an ambulance) in that case. Click here to see a list of all emergency numbers in Japan with more information.
⑮ Extra Fees【割増】 ➔ This means there are additional fees when riding the taxi. It will largely depend on the area you are in and taxi company, but it is usually automatically displayed from 22:00 or 23:00 till 5:00. The taxi fare will become more expensive around these times.
As this changes automatically, it can change while you are riding the taxi late at night or early in the morning.