Well-dressed and sporting jackets and white gloves, Japanese taxi drivers chauffeur locals and tourists to their destinations in comfortable, air-conditioned cars with doors that open automatically.
But comfort comes at a steep price: Japan has the second-highest taxi fares in the world.
According to research commissioned by Taxi2Airport.com, an online reservation and booking website for airport transfers worldwide, and compiled using euros, a 5-kilometer ride in Japan costs €15.64 (¥1,920 yen), the highest after No. 1-ranked Switzerland’s €22.68. Germany ranked third with €13.80.
Egypt was the cheapest at €0.84, followed by India and Thailand. Malaysia and Mexico have the fifth and sixth cheapest fares, respectively, with fees below €2 for a 5-km ride. At that rate, a taxi ride from Tokyo Station to Takasaki Station in Gunma Prefecture, for example, would cost €50, roughly the same price as the Green Car first-class bullet train service. A taxi ride of the same distance would cost about ¥38,000 in Japan.
Taxis are an essential transportation mode in Japan for foreign visitors carrying luggage or with young kids, but also for busy Japanese workers who miss the last train of the night.
Ride-hailing services have not made significant inroads in the domestic transportation industry.
Notteco and Uber, two of the biggest ride-hailing firms in the country, only offer a limited service. Notteco connects a registered driver who wants to save on fuel costs with low-budget travelers, while the government allows Uber to be used in specific rural areas where there are no sufficient alternative transportation services available. In addition, Uber also serves the Uber Black chauffeured service using professional drivers.
According to the Japan Federation of Hire-Taxi Associations, the total number of taxi users declined by 66 percent to about 1.45 billion people in 2016 from its peak in 1970.