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Japan’s first-ever taxi service aimed at foreign visitors begins in Kyoto

20 Comments

Kyoto City has partnered with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) to begin providing taxis catering specifically to foreigners in front of JR Kyoto Station on a one-year trial basis.

The taxis, which were launched Tuesday, are meant to meet the needs of the growing number of foreign tourists, officials said. If the taxis get a good response, the service will eventually be provided throughout Japan, Sankei Shimbun reported.

The certified “Foreigner Friendly Taxis” will accept payments by credit cards, store two large suitcases within the vehicle, and be driven by drivers who have undergone language training courses in English and Chinese. The participants in the trial, that will run until March 2017, include 23 companies, 69 vehicles and 87 designated taxi drivers.

In the past, Kyoto officials said there had been reports of taxi drivers refusing to pick up foreigners due to a fear of communication difficulties. However, by designating “Foreigner Friendly Taxis,” the city hopes to eliminate any future misunderstandings due to cross-cultural communication problems.

To celebrate the start of the new service, a ceremony was held Tuesday in front of the taxi stand at JR Kyoto Station. Among the attendees was a language instructor originally from Spain but now permanently residing in Kyoto, who said: “It was troublesome when some taxi drivers would ask for my destination written in kanji characters. But with this service, even if you can’t speak Japanese, it won’t be a problem.”

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20 Comments
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I used to say that, "Catching a taxi in Japan was like catching a taxi in Melbourne because the drivers can't speak English!" This is a step in the right direction, but considering most Japanese people study English for 6-10 years of their lives it's somewhat disappointing that less than 10% of the population have a basic communication skill in any foreign language, not just English.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

the service will eventually be provided throughout Japan, Sankei Shimbun reported. ....The certified “Foreigner Friendly Taxis”

Have had this "service" in Okinawa for decades, it's called "Authorized on Base"! Oh wait, "Foreigner Friendly"...my bad.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

separate but equal

8 ( +8 / -0 )

driven by drivers who have undergone language training courses in English and Chinese.

Undergone a language training? Of how long? Unless the drivers are very comfortable with speaking English I don't see any merit. Perhaps they should hire apple'ish staff, they speak great English.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Too small a business for world's third largest economy.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This is not a good idea. It is a nice friendly way to separate foreigner and Japanese. Just like the foreigner JR Express gate at Narita. I am fluent in Japanese and have lived here for 9 years, but last year when I came back from the US, a kind lady pulled me out of the Japanese JR booth line and told me to go to the foreigner line (which was twice as long and not advancing quick at all). I told her I live in Japan and spoke Japanese. She told me since I was a foreigner, I should use the other line, then she went on to grab other foreigners to guide them to the correct line. I ignored her and stayed in the regular line and got my ticket in less than 2 minutes. This new taxi service will give every other taxi driver a license to pass up foreign looking riders. Stop the separation. It is Jim Crow with a smile.

12 ( +12 / -1 )

Taxis in Kyoto have had this service for more than 20 years, you could specify and English-speaking, and lately even a Chinese-speaking driver when you booked the taxi, and they also offered full day guide services.

Looks like the oyajis in Kyoto City office have just woken up...

6 ( +7 / -1 )

"This new taxi service will give every other taxi driver a license to pass up foreign looking riders"

Oh yes, it's Japanese racism with a smile!!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The cynicism runs strong in these ones.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

This new taxi service will give every other taxi driver a license to pass up foreign looking riders.

In my experience, taxi drivers are some of the kindest people you'll meet in Japan. Most of the salaried drivers are themselves a social underclass who are discriminated against on the basis of their very low income. If they have a dislike for anyone, it's probably going to be other Japanese people. In any case, don't you think it would be rather unlikely that someone so xenophobic would decide to work as a taxi driver in one of Japan's biggest tourism cities in the first place? It would be like someone with a nut allergy applying to work in a peanut factory.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

My experiences with taxi drivers have been good almost across the board as well, with only a few notable incidents. And I catch taxis pretty much every day (instead of buying a car), and have for years.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

You could probably converse better with a stray cat than with the sluggards driving the taxis.

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

The certified “Foreigner Friendly Taxis”

The service may be friendly, but the name certainly isn't. How about "Tourist Friendly" or "Visitor Friendly" or "International" or anything other than the word "foreigner", which has an unpleasant connotation in English and was presumably chosen only because it is the canonical translation of 外国人.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Can't identify ever being passed up by a cabbie because I'm foreign, even before I could get by in Japanese. Any cabbie too nervous to pick me up for fear communication problems can sod off anyway, I've no interest in bedwetters so. Half the fun of being abroad was/is overcoming communication barriers.

It's a decent enough additional service but should be offered to all cabbies. The last think we need is some sort of public apartheid.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It's a great idea. Now if they would have more drinking establishments that cater to Foreigners it would be awesome! When I was stationed in Japan about 20 years ago, many establishments had a sign on their door saying "JAPANESE ONLY"! Maybe that has changed over the years, I hope so.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Apologies, pretty for English from me. What I meant was, The last thing we need is some sort of public transport apartheid.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Not that it matters to me personally, but if you don't speak English or Chinese, or Japanese, you're still SOL.

Which is another Japanese problem, thinking all foreigners speak American.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have used Japanese taxi service a few times when I was holidaying in Japan. Usually it was for travelling between the train station and the hotel we booked when we were carrying the big suitcases. I had the address of my hotel printed on a piece of paper and just showed it to the driver. In the last two times I had all the information of my travel stored on a tablet and just asked the driver to read it from the screen. A little planning and preparation goes a long way. Anyway it is a nice idea and I wish it the best of luck.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oh ffs, we don't need cabbies to be friendly, we need them to know the destination, to get there without scamming the passenger by taking the long route, to give the correct change and use the credit card machine, and to help with luggage if necessary, and to be polite and not be dicks.

We need passengers to know where they need to go, and preferably have someone write down their destination in Japanese, to have Japanese currency, and to be polite and not be dicks.

This plan is a nonsense. Cabbies don't need to speak another language. At most, they need a bi- or tri-lingual crib sheet with stock phrases they can show the passengers, and point at.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hey Debio,the same thing happened to me several times and what I did was show them my daughter's passport and say in Japanese,"What are you talking about?Do I look like a gaijin?".Their expressions were priceless.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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