Talking the talk

by Mark Schreiber

Special To The Japan Times

Taxi-business jargon is a lingo all of its own. Here’s a sample of the way those drivers think:

Baramaki: Meaning “to spread or scatter at random,” this refers to carrying several passengers who ask to be dropped off at different places.

Genkotsu: Literally, “a fist,” this expression is used for its phonetic resemblance to entotsu (“smokestack,” meaning burning the flag on the meter). It applies when drivers returning from a long fare outside their own district pick up and carry a passenger without activating the meter — thus pocketing the money.

Haijakku: Meaning “hijack,” this is used if a driver is robbed. If a driver reports a crime to police on the radio, while still in the presence of a suspected offender, sentā (center or headquarters) is used as a substitute word for police. The phrase wasuremono shita kyaku (a customer who forgot something) is a similar verbal code meaning that the passenger might be a criminal suspect.

Hanaban: Literally, “nose turn,” this describes the first taxi in a waiting line.

Hime: This word meaning “princess” refers to a female passenger.

Kamitachi: Literally “gods,” this is a joyous expression used by drivers to describe people in a long line waiting without there being enough taxis to meet the demand.

Kago-nuke: Not as topical as it may appear, this refers to a passenger who leaves the kago (palanquin, sedan chair or litter) without paying. In other words, a bilker.

Nattō: Not fermented soybeans known for their stickyness and pungent odor, as the word translates, but a short fare where the meter does not go past the starting ¥710 yen. It is created from the pronunciation for the numbers seven (nana) and 10 (). Previously, when the basic fare was ¥530, that was referred to as gomi (rubbish), since five can be read as go and three as mi.

Nekobaba: This is the failure to report an item left behind by a passenger with the intention of keeping it. (This is an offense punishable by up to one year in prison or a fine of up to ¥20,000.)

Nijū: Literally the number 20, this refers to a yakuza, because many of these gangster groups were spawned in illegal gambling dens, and the name is formed of the numbers ya (eight), ku (nine) and za (three), whose sum is 20 — a losing hand in an old card game.

Nikuzure : Normally meaning a “cargo spill,” it describes when a passenger cuts short their ride, disembarking before the initially requested destination.

Nōkōsoku: Literally, a “cerebral infarction / stroke,” this is a homonym for “nō kōsoku,” i.e. a day on which a driver doesn’t go on a kōsoku (expressway).

San-keta: Literally, “three digits,” this means a short fare of less than ¥1,000. A fare of over ¥10,000 is a man-koro — derived from man (10,000) and koro, short for korogaru (to roll).

Takiya: Literally “someone who kindles a fire,” this refers to late-night drivers who refuse passengers who only want to go a short distance.

Tempura: Not battered fare, but being asked to carry four passengers for a fare of less than ¥1,000 — which is what you’d expect to pay for four pieces of tempura.

Wakame: This is one type of marine vegetable referred to in general as kaisō. Accordingly, kaisō is a pun on the meter setting kaisō (returning), used to indicate the driver’s shift has ended and he’s not accepting fares. It can also mean a drunk passenger.

• Zombies: On nights before a holiday when taxis are in high demand, this is how drivers are wont to describe all those trying in vain to wave down a cab.

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