Tokyo Taxi

Tokyo, Japan | C.1912

Photo Credit: Accidentally Wes Anderson

Tokyo is home to thousands of taxis that chauffeur 14 million residents and visitors all over the sprawling city. Yet a taxi in the Japanese capital is not the icon it might be in London or New York. It’s also not a particularly common mode of transport in Tokyo. With trains that have earned global renown for punctuality and speed, many prefer public transport.

In the event that you do hail a cab, look out for the color of their license plates and lights: Licensed taxis use green plates (as opposed to the white and yellow plates of privately owned cars). Vacant vehicles display the characters 空車 (kuusha, “empty car”); if occupied, you’ll see 賃走 (chinso, “running the meter”).

There is no standard color or design for a taxi- cab; the largest companies distinguish themselves by hue. The cars of Tokyo Yonsha and its subsidiaries are all either lemon yellow with a red stripe or black with globes for lights. The Green Cab group, with some 60 subsidiaries, have the peppermint-colored body seen here. The Tokyo Musen group are green with orange stripes; Checker Cabs are orange with a checkered white stripe; and Kojin are white with yellow lights that look like snails.

Once you’ve hailed your taxi, your door will open automatically, as operated by your driver. (This feature was made standard due to its convenience, coupled with a desire to excite global riders at the 1964 Olympics.) Drivers are also dressed to impress, in uniforms including white gloves, hat, and possibly a surgical mask. Don’t be alarmed: it’s just another part of the colorful cab adventure that comes with getting around Tokyo.

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