How to take a taxi in Tokyo if you don’t speak Japanese

Some drivers speak English, but don’t count on it. Here’s how to be sure you get where you’re going

Your best bet is to hand the driver a written copy of the address you’re going to (or show them on your phone). It’s better if it’s written in Japanese, but it can be written with English lettering.


Tell the driver the name of a nearby well-known landmark with a name they’ll know, even if they don’t speak English (eg. Tokyo Tower, Meiji Shrine) and walk from there.

How to hail a taxi:

• Stand on the curb, looking for taxis with a lighted-up roof sign and lit-up red two-character windshield sign. Hail them with a raised hand, the way you’d do anywhere else in the world.

• Wait for the driver to open the door automatically for you from the inside. Do not open it yourself.

• Give the driver your instructions.

• Don’t ever eat or drink in a cab. Talking on cellphones is OK.

• When you arrive, the driver will show you your fare on the meter. Some drivers don’t carry change for ¥10,000 notes, so please try to pay with ¥5,000 or less. The driver will open the door for you after you pay.

Do I need to tip?

No, you do not need to tip the driver. Drivers are grateful for tips if they have helped you with lots of luggage or other special needs, but it’s not expected.

Should I have the hotel call a cab for me?

Not unless you want to be unpleasantly surprised by the heinous upcharge they slap on for coming to your doorstep. Unless you’ve got steamer trunks of luggage or are in the back of beyond, it’s significantly cheaper to trundle yourself to the nearest major street and hail one of the infinite number of cabs sailing by at all times.

The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

 For three hundred years, a missing tea bowl passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it…read more

“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

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