Japanese Service Makes Calling a Taxi Easier for Tourists

Japanese Service Makes Calling a Taxi Easier for Tourists

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Go Taxi service
Picture: Go Kabushiki Kaisha
It's not always easy to grab a taxi in Japan as a visitor. Now, one company is making it easier for tourists to hail a ride.

The subway systems in Japan’s major cities are very convenient for getting around. Sometimes, however, you just wanna hail a ride back to your hotel. Now, Japan’s premier taxi-hailing company is making it easier to do just that.

Getting around Japan’s major cities

Taxi driver in Japan
Picture: yosan / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Since Japan re-opened for tourism, business has been booming. Japan’s National Tourism Organization last month announced that 2023’s tourist numbers are even beating the levels seen in 2019 before global health issues shut down travel worldwide.

This flood of new visitors needs a way to get around town. In the major cities, the easiest travel methods are subways and buses. Tourists can grab rechargeable subway passes that last 30 days or even add transportation IC cards, such as Suica and Pasmo, directly to their phones.

Sometimes, however, you want a faster way to go from point A to point B. Maybe you’re just tired and don’t want to hassle with figuring out which company’s line in Japan’s sprawling transportation system you need to take to get back to your hotel.

You can grab a taxi from taxi loading zones (タクシーのりば) near subway stations. But what if you can’t find one or aren’t close to a station?

In these circumstances, local residents use apps like Go Taxi or S.Ride to call a taxi to their location. Historically, these apps – like many convenience apps in Japan – require a Japanese phone number to register and use.

Go Taxi opens up to foreign phone number registration

Thankfully, Japan’s most downloaded taxi-hailing app is making things easier for visitors.

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Go Taxi has slowly been working to expand its user base to appeal to foreign visitors. In 2022, it build integrations with popular messaging/payment apps used in Asia, such as Kakao Talk in South Korea, AliPay in China, and Grab in Southeast Asia. Go says that 60% of South Korean visitors – the largest source of foreign tourism for Japan – use the link with Kakao Talk to hail a ride.

Now, as of November 2023, visitors from outside of Asia can easily use Go as well. The company announced that it’s opened the app up to allow registration using non-Japan phone numbers. It’s also updated the app to include full English translations.

Go Taxi service - screenshot

Using the app is simple. Users from countries such as the United States can download the app from the US App Store or Google Play Store and register with their home phone number. You can then register a major credit card, including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diner’s Club (people still use that?), or JCB. Then, just call a taxi from your desired taxi company in your service area and you’re good to go.

You also don’t have to worry about potential language difficulties. Go informs taxi drivers if you’ve set the app to a non-Japanese language. In that case, the driver will ask to see the confirmation number in your app. After that, you’re good to go.

But…are there any taxis available?!

Go Taxi in from of Tokyo Station
Picture: masy / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Go has a large service area that covers all 45 of Japan’s prefectures. That means the odds that you can get a taxi wherever you go in Japan are pretty good.

The issue is whether there are any taxis available. Thanks to the boost in tourism, taxis are becoming increasingly hard to hail. Unlicensed taxis are rushing to fill this gap, potentially putting tourists in danger.

To address the shortage, Japan’s government says it will put forward a plan to allow ridesharing during limited hours. Currently, you can only use rideshare apps like Uber to hail licensed taxi companies; Japan doesn’t allow so-called “shiro-taxi”, or unlicensed citizen drivers. The plan would open up ridesharing to gig economy drivers near popular tourist locations when traditional taxis are at minimal capacity.

Until then, make sure any taxi you hail has the green plates and displayed license inside the car that’s standard for any licensed taxi driver. Or use an app like Go Taxi, which guarantees you’ll receive a legit ride.

What to read next

Sources

No.1タクシーアプリ『GO』 訪日外客の利用対応を本格的に開始. PR Times

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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