A Big Yellow Taxi

My bike is on the fritz. I don’t know that bikes can actually be on the fritz, but I don’t know proper bicycle jargon, so there you go. Anyway, my bike is on the fritz, so I’ve been walking/taking the bus to the station for the past week or so. I’m not such a fan of it I must confess. I miss having my bike. But that’s not the point of this blog. The point is that I have to make a confession. Sometimes when I come home in the evenings, I’m pretty tired, and I totally indulge myself and take a taxi the one kilometer distance from the station to my apartment. So, I thought it would be appropriate to tell you about taxis in Japan.

First, taxis are not yellow here. Most are either white or black, which make them a bit harder to spot in busy traffic, but it seems a bit more posh, like I’m being chauffeured around. Second, it’s a little unusual to hail a taxi at least in most places in Nagoya. Other cities could be a different story. There are a lot of taxi stands where the taxi drivers just line up and wait for passengers. Every station usually has a taxi stand, and there’ll be one in front of most hotels and even a few upscale companies. Of course, the number of taxis waiting at those places is much less than at the station. But I must say that it’s a great way to get business, and it saves on your gas bill.

One of the biggest differences I think is that the doors on taxis in Japan are automatic. The driver just pushes a button and the door opens for you. He pushes the same button and the door closes behind you. You never actually have to touch the door at all. Japan is the country of convenience. But for me, from the do it yourself country, this is a hard concept to manage. I’ve gotten accustomed to the door opening for me, but I always have to check myself from closing it, especially when I get out of the taxi. I’m somehow always afraid that the driver will just try to drive away with his door hanging open or something. Of course that never happens, and he probably thinks I’m a little weird for closing the door, but oh well. Some things just take time to get used to.

And once you get in the taxi, it’s like another world! Taxi drivers decorate their taxis like they’re little old grandmas. And of course, this is no way an offense to my grandma because she doesn’t have the decorating taste of a little old grandma. But the seats are covered with plastic and doilies and other crazy decorations, including Stitch stuffed toys hanging in their rear view window. And most taxi drivers are middle-aged men. Welcome to Japan.

And the last big difference is that you have to pay  at least 6.80 just to get into the taxi. There’s no such thing as a cheap taxi. Since there’s no tipping here, they have to charge more money to even things out.
In reality, I only pay about $2 to take the taxi form the station to my house. It’s that flat rate that gets me.

Taking a taxi here can be a little intimidating, what with my lack of Japanese skills, but the last time I gave directions, the driver didn’t even have to repeat anything back to me. He understood where I wanted to go and went there! One small step at a time. And thankfully, we live next to a pachinko parlor, so it’s fairly easy to get home. Taxi drivers just think the crazy foreigner is going to gamble for the evening.

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