Feb 22, 2016 | All About Tokyo Taxis – Part 1

In which I discover a minor taxi racket in Akasaka, ogle taxis from the top of Tokyo station, go taxi hunting, and end up calling myself an otakushii. You can get descriptions to all these photos by reading the alt text (hover) or by looking through this imgur album.

New York City has, for all intents and purposes, just two kinds of taxi cabs: yellow (medallion) and green, both managed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Transport for London licenses taxicabs, all of which are black. In Tokyo — population 13 million — no fewer than 10 large companies operate taxis across town, and they’re each a bit different. Uber is trying to make inroads here, but it’ll be a while before the taxis of Tokyo become replaced — if ever.

Four major companies operate as part an organized entity (Tokyo Yonsha) established in 1963, all with either lemon yellow and red stripe or black vehicles and globes for lights. These are:

If you rearrange the first characters of each (和自動車交通, 本交通, 都自動車, 際自動車) you get 大日本帝国, or Empire of Japan. There’s strong historic underpinnings to the usage of the name, however.

Kokusai-motors - one of the four large Tokyo Yonsha companies. All of the four have globes as lights and lemon-yellow or black vehicles. Nihon Kotsu - another of the top 4. There are more than 4,000 taxis in this group, making it one of the largest in Tokyo. Daiwa - Another of the Tokyo Yonsha. Teito - Another one of the four major companies.

There are at least 5 smaller associations:

These indicate that the vehicle is privately owned and operated, and that the driver is part of the Nikkoren group. These indicate that the vehicle is privately owned and operated and that the driver is part of the Zenkoren group. This peppermint blue cab ('green cab') is easy to spot around town. They have a dedicated stand at the Tokyo Medical University, where only these vehicles can stop. One of the largest associations of taxi groups, tied together by the fact that they shared radio dispatches once upon a time. Checker cab is owned mostly by Toyota Toyopet. Yellow with red stripes. I have not been able to find any information about this taxi. It had This was a new company to me, running around Akasaka (where it gets crowded and drunk salary-men make their ways swiftly into taxis at around 10:30~11:00pm). It turns out this is a taxi company from the next prefecture over, around a 30-minute drive (without traffic), far east of town. A relative newcomer to the scene, it started in 2004 and has since grown rapidly, now operating about 100 taxis in town. Their website plays back El Condor Pasa (http://www.condor-taxi.co.jp). They're a bit unique; they used to be part of Tokyo Musen but left, and now operate on their own, with their own fares and discount structure.

Here are some bite-sized interesting facts:

This particular group prides itself on being eco-friendly. It uses the Nissan NV-200, Toyota LPG Comfort with idling stop, and apparently also donates part of its profits to Costa Rica's Corcovado national park for preservation of its rainforest. A small outfit based out of Idabashi. White top and blue bottom vehicles. The 729 is another way of reading 'Shichifuku' (7 Fortunes) -- Nana (7) + Fu (2) + Ku (9). Shichifuku/Nanafuku is most often associated with 7 gods of happiness common to Japanese lore. With a name like this it's almost impossible for me to find out more about this company, sadly. This is one is one of my favorites; it has a frog in the front and Yume (夢) written in the back. Not much is available online about them. Their liveries are all beige. With its headquarters in Nishi Ikebukuro one of its distinctions is owning most of its office property and vehicles, as opposed to leasing.

In Japanese there’s a term called otaku which generally equates to obsession or deep fascination with a specific topic (generally things like anime or manga). As part of my quest to find out everything and anything about Tokyo’s taxis, I ended up buying these diecast models from a company called Targa, which 6 years ago released minatures of taxis. It turns out it’s not the only company to stock these sorts of model vehicles: Gulliver and Tomica have them as well, though Tomica’s are always out of stock.

Part 2 will cover the taxi racket in Akasaka.

Sources and additional references

This entry was posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2016 at 12:53 pm, EST under the category of Articles, Photography. Both comments and pings are currently closed.