QotW: What’s your best Japanese taxi story?

3865_Toyota Mark II X80 taxi

Today, August 8, is National Taxi Day in Japan. It marks the start of operations for Japan’s very first taxi, which occurred on August 8, 1912. As those who have visited the motherland may know, Japan’s taxis are some of the best — and more importantly, cleanest — in the world. With lace doily seat covers, white-gloved drivers that can somehow navigate an entire city without street names, and doors that you don’t even have to open yourself, the experience is unmatched by any other in the world.

What’s your best Japanese taxi story?

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s the best JNC camper conversion?” 

Toyota Land Cruiser HJ75 camper

Well there was certainly a diversity of answers this week, everything from kei-sized suggestions like Pete‘s Honda Acty Romahome and James Kennedy‘s borderline offensively named Bedford Nipper to wild concepts like Yuri‘s Toyota RV-2. However, it was MGamez who takes home the prize this week with his pitch for a diesel 1986 Land Cruiser.

Wow what a coincidence. I like to read my JNC and check out Craigslist for some j-tin at the same time for some reason, well to get to the point I read the question of the week and was automatically going to nominate the Datsun 620, but before so I switched back to Craig’s to check my Toyota list. Skimming through all the celica convertibles and pick-ups I a came across this beauty of camper, a 1986 land cruiser troopy camper. Here is the link. https://boston.craigslist.org/gbs/ctd/5697777651.html
So clean I wouldn’t sleep in it, I’ll sleep underneath it.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash

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9 Responses to QotW: What’s your best Japanese taxi story?

  1. Jim Simspson says:

    A few years ago we were in Japan for the winter car show and races at Fuji Speedway in Gotemba… while riding in a cab from the race track back into Gotemba, the driver radioed in to his dispatcher chuckling saying that he had a bunch of silly Gaijin in his cab wanting to go to some Indian restaurant that he had no idea where was (mind you Gotemba is a very small town). What he did not realize is that we understood his conversation and we all broke up laughing not even remotely offended… Once he realized that we had some understanding of the language it broke the ice and he was quite friendly, albeit a bit embarrassed… we found the restaurant and had a lovely meal with the owner who actually spoke great English and who had also taken us from the train station to the track. Other than torrential down pours it was a great day.

  2. Rob Sayers says:

    I’ve only used a Taxi in Japan once, and it didn’t go well. Some new friends and I took the last train out from near our hostel to Shibuya to go clubbing. The plan was to stay out late and take the first train back in the morning. At some point I realized I could not make it and decided to take a Taxi back. The driver only spoke a couple words of English, I only spoke a couple words of Japanese. Apparently my pronunciation of both Kurame and Asakusa were bad enough that he never could understand me.

    I don’t even recall how he got me as close as he did, but I finally had him let me out when I thought I recognized some landmarks. I did manage to get back after quite a hike, and only arrived about 30 minutes before the rest of my mates.

    On a related note, this was also the night I discovered Kirin Chu-Hi Strong. I suspect that played a part in my difficulties that evening.

  3. Leon Dixon says:

    Ahhh, yes. I had been to Nihon many times, but I learned an important lesson one day in Hiroshima when I hopped into the first taxi available as I arrived. At the time I was working for Mazda (North America) and there were corporate/business subtleties in Japan of which I was unaware as an American.

    The taxi was, of course, immaculate and driver very courteous. But as we neared the gates of Mazda headquarters where I was headed, suddenly the driver began to look and act a bit nervous. I wondered what was wrong? Ignorant foreigner that I was, I had hopped into a Mitsubishi taxi and no way was the driver going onto the hallowed grounds of Toyo Kogyo Mazda in a Fuji Heavy Industries product!

    I asked the driver to continue on, but the guards at the gate gave us a rather forboding stare and the driver abruptly braked and then made a U-turn! What the? He politely told me that I must exit the taxi here and that he could go no further. And that was that. I ended up walking a long way to the building where I was expecting to go with my suitcases (in very hot and humid weather)… never realizing I had broken protocol.

    One of my Japanese counterparts had a chuckle when I told him the story. “Leon-san, next time it will be best choice to select Mazda taxi!” I followed that advice in Hiroshima with great success. And from that day forward, if another make of taxi would pull up and open the door for me, I would always politely inform the driver, “Mat-soo-da, please”…and it worked.

  4. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    When I left, they had been 360 Yen for the longest time. When I returned 6 years later, it was double. But hey, no tipping. Doily headrest covers, white gloves and automatic door openers. I asked a driver how often they wash them. He said Monday, Wednesday and Friday not including the constant polishing when idling 🙂 Please, Uber, stay away…

  5. Mike RL411 says:

    The year was 1962. I was out late in Tokyo and the last train south to my base in Zama was about to make its final trip south from Shinjuku [it was the red lobster, if any of you have any inkling of what I am saying, the Kanji on the front of the first car did look like a well cooked lobster]. I hailed an independent cab and said “Shinjiku eki, nishi guchi, hayaku!” [Shinjuku station, East gate, Hurry] and puckered up my asshole for a memorable journey, no seat belts then. That was the night that I discovered that a Datsun 410 or 411 taxi traveling down the middle of the road could squeeze between 2 opposing trolley cars at full speed! Thank god for fender moumted outside rear view mirrors! At that time, independent cab drivers were painted green and most drove Nissan or Datsun sedans depending on the initial price drop on the meter. I asked the independent 90 yen [I am cheap] drivers why they so orten chose Datsuns. The answer was always “Good car, strong engine, never break!”

  6. LB1 says:

    Not as exciting as the other stories here but I once was engaged to a girl who works for the largest TV network in Japan (shhh channel 8). We lived in a mansion (condo) in Setagaya, Tokyo. On the days that she had the early shift, she would have to leave like 3am. So the company would send her a taxi on those mornings.

    So on those mornings there would always be a taxi waiting outside with the hazards on and they would come very early, too, and wait – so Japanese like. I would then make her coffee and then we kiss good bye. Then during the day I would see her on TV. (Getting sentimental here…)

    Because she works for that network, every time we get into a taxi anywhere, the driver would thank her and the network for the patronage, “itsumo taihen osewani nattemasu.” She never pays cash but instead hands the driver something like a voucher with which the network would pay the taxi company. I think we always got free taxi rides. lol

  7. dickie says:


    that time crabspirits found the USDM Cressidas converted for Taxi duty in Michael Bay’s childhood assassinating Transformers movie starring Marky Mark and a bunch of funky robots.

    i wonder how many of these cars donated their “famous” parts to his VG30ET-powered, Laurel-faced x8?

  8. Steve says:

    you’ve already mentioned the driver operated passenger door but: It was 1970, the first time I went to Japan to see the Tokyo Expo and meet my cousins for the first time. On one of our outings, we hailed a taxi. I reached for the door but it just opened by itself! “Whoooooooaaaa! Neeeeeeeeeaat!!! (“Cooool” wasn’t invented yet.) I spent the whole ride trying to figure out how the driver did that but finally saw the linkages when we got out. I use taxis a lot when I go to Vegas (hate that traffic on and around the strip) and on business trips but I have yet to see, in 2016, any taxi in the US with the driver operated doors. But I keep hoping and looking…

  9. moominsean says:

    Been in taxis a few times in Japan since, but the first time I went by myself I got off the train in Shibuya and planned to take a taxi to a friend’s house. Only two taxis even bothered to stop for this gaijin and when I tried to show them the address and speak my poor Nihongo, they waved me off and drove away. I ended up walking through the rain with my luggage for what should have been about 3/4 of a mile, but thought I would take a shortcut across a campus only to find a brick wall and a locked gate at the other side. So I had to walk back and walk around, staring at my computer printed paper map hoping I was heading in the right direction!

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