Japan Today

Kyoto 'Silence Taxi' service prohibits drivers from instigating small talk

By Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

Quick, comfortable transportation in Japan is pretty popular, which is why you’ll see taxis running about major cities. But once again, not everyone likes the small talk between passenger and driver that often comes with a taxi ride.

Unfortunately, it’s kind of rude to tell your driver “Please stop talking” if you’re not in the mood for chitchat. So for those who’d prefer a quieter ride, one Japanese company has begun what it calls the "Silence Taxi" service.

Miyako Taxi, which mainly operates in the Kyoto area, has designated a number of cars in its fleet as Silence Taxis. A notice written on the back of the passenger seat headrest informs customers that aside from offering a greeting when they hop in and confirming their desired route, the driver will not speak to them unless he is spoken to (excepting, of course, emergency situations where communication is critical).

“This service is currently in a trial stage, with the goal of creating an in-car atmosphere that provides the most comfortable ride for passengers through limiting the driver’s speaking,” announced Miyako Taxi in a surprisingly loquacious declaration of its anti-small talk measures.

Ordinarily, Miyako Taxi has no policy either way regarding whether or not drivers should attempt to make conversation with their passengers. But the company feels that while some taxi users enjoy hearing about Kyoto’s numerous sightseeing attractions, some are already well-informed on such subjects, especially those who happen to live in the city. Rather than pressuring passengers to keep up their end of a conversation on subjects they may have no interest in discussing, the company feels that it might be better to let passengers who wish to enjoy the ride in silence do so. For passengers who are feeling chatty, the Silence Taxi drivers aren’t prohibited from speaking after being spoken to, though the program does leave the ball in the passengers’ court as far as making the first conversational move.

Currently, Miyako Taxi has five Silence Taxis running about the streets of Kyoto. The program quietly began in late March, and the company is gauging customer response while considering whether to extend or expand the program.

Related: Miyako Taxi Source: Traffic News via Otakomu

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Tokyo taxi driver AMA: Our reporter gets the low-down -- Tokyo making big changes to taxi service and fares, looking for a few “testy” drivers -- Anime taxi cab enters service on streets of Tokyo, just in time for Japan’s biggest manga event

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Iilence at times is truly golden! Particularly since I am paying for it! I am paying for the taxi service, not to listen to some old guy try to get my life story from me!

2 ( +6 / -4 )

What's wrong with just telling the cabbie that you've had a rough day and you don't really feel like talking? Is that too difficult? It seems like this service is a symptom of a troubled society where people have never learned how to communicate their most basic needs and desires to other human beings.

7 ( +12 / -5 )

"Where are you from?" etc does get really boring and annoying depending on your mood, I am paying for the ride or the food, not to be questioned. M3M3M3 is correct though.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Let's persuade humans to be less human.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Some people do really enjoy the talk though.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I'm going to start offering a 'silent eikaiwa' service.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

I think it should be initiated in quite a few other service industries.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

They should do this at election time, instead of those ANNOYING voices, drive around with a banner we can read or not as we wish!!!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Maybe most Japanese riders get a talkative taxi driver but I don't. Even my Japanese wife doesn't. Maybe it depends on the city / neighborhood/ company?

But this will get riders who expect talkative drivers used to self-driving cars with no drivers. Just plug in your Apple pay and select Talkative Driver / Japanese on the menu and away we go!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I would gladly pay extra for a service like this. I don't often use taxis, and when I do it's because I'm dead on my feet, so the last thing I want to have to do is make small talk with a complete stranger.

Now, if only beauty salons offered the same treatment... I swear I get estheticians telling me their vacation plans while they are tweezing hairs from my vulva.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )


2nd paragraph is TMI.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

could be a clever business plan to make way for other nationalities to drive cabs in Japan?... just a thought.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Tessa reminds me of taxi experiences with introverted Swedes: teasing words from my Volvo (driver).

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Quick, comfortable transportation in Japan is pretty popular, which is why you’ll see taxis running about major cities.

Yeah, this is what is unique about the place. Some things are just not so popular around the world. Give them time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The service sounds great. They should totally do this... Or they could try not to fix what's not broken.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

You can go through your whole day without having to talk to anyone. Living in fear, we have a society as a haven for the terminally petrified.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Obviously what was needed was a LAW to be even less socially interactive!?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Welcome news. I hate chatty taxi drivers. It's stupid to talk to your passengers anyway.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I can see why people might welcome this, but for me it seems like making a 'thing' out of something that mostly naturally works itself out during the journey in the cab - if a chatty cabbie gets no response, or monosyllabic replies, s/he will stop talking.

And anyway, are most passengers really so effing special that they deem the driver too lowly to speak to?

I used to get tired of the "okunihadoko" questions, but then I just started turning it around, and I ask them if they are "[city] shushindesuka". A lot of the drivers are from out of town, especially the older ones, and all of them have a story to tell - about losing their job, having to move away from their hometown , families, travel, life as a cabbie, etc. Why not take advantage of the opportunity to talk to someone for a bit?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Sucking the humanity out of what is already a mundane job. Lots of drivers to become depressed and suicidal when they have to be like robots all day, merely picking up passengers and dropping them off, without being allowed to have a chat about the weather etc..

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I can understand why so many gaijin on this site would support such a service. Lots of social misfits among the expat community in Japan who feel right at home among the hordes of socially inept in that country.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I can see the sense in this. My student (a Japanese lady) was hassled by a taxi driver (in Kyoto) to go out for a cup of coffee with him instead of taking her directly home one night. She politely refused him (over and over), but he went from persistent to pretty insistent, she said to me. Finally, they reached her address, and as she was getting out of the taxi, he said, "So, this is where you live." That really surprised her. After that, whenever she used a taxi, she had the taxi driver drop her off a block away from where she lived.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Hang on, so the only indication it's a "Silence Taxi" is a sign on the inside? So how do you know if it's a silence taxi before you get in? Will people ask before they get in? If so, won't it be more awkward to ask than just telling the driver to please be quiet in the first place (in a regular taxi)? Seems rude to ask the driver first "Is this a taxi where you are going to talk to me?" oh, Japan...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The simplest thing to do is have a button in the rear of the car/taxi that says something like,,私は沈黙が必要です Watashi wa chinmoku ga hitsuyōdesu, It can be a button that is connected to a little light on the driver dash board, this way all taxi drivers then respect someones peace, and if its not lit up he knows he can talk to his passenger.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Don't see while socializing is such a bad thing. Some many different people have interesting lives and experiences. Chat with me anytime. I love hearing people's stories. What is wrong with being friendly??

3 ( +3 / -0 )

What is wrong with being friendly??

Nothing wrong with being friendly, and people should keep that in mind.

But for myself, I catch on average 10 taxis a week, and going through the same five questions in the majority of those taxi rides can get boring, especially if it's at the end of a day where I'm tired. So a lot of the time I'd rather not talk at all. I'm not rude about it, but I usually just get in the taxi, tell them where I need to go, then put in headphones.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Makes sense, it's a bit much to tell a talkative driver to pipe down and shut up, so an opt in type service is better

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Another win for the antisocial who would rather the tell the World their life story on Twitter, Facebook or a website comments section than actually use their God-given vocal cords.

I actually like chatty taxi drivers in Japan because it makes me feel welcome than being treated like an alien ready to take over the country. I still don't like the feeling of no one sitting next to me on the train.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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