Uber or Taxi in Tokyo – Which is better?

Posted on Apr. 19, 2024 Uber or Taxi in Japan

In the bustling city of Tokyo, you see the swarm of  people going to and fro in the busy streets, making it to their destinations on foot. Walking is the main method of travel in Tokyo.

However, there are other modes of transportation: the taxi services and Uber. When drunken salary men or club go-ers leave in the early mornings after the trains have closed, they get taxis and Ubers to get back home safe and sound.

Let’s delve into which mode of transportation is better for those visiting or working in Tokyo:

Using a taxi in Tokyo


– Easily accessible –

In Tokyo, you can see little black cars everywhere with the red signs peeking through the windows. There are many taxi service apps you can use to order a taxi from your house. You can easily access it through google maps, or the app itself. Many Japanese taxi apps are: GO, Didi, and S Ride.

– English speaking –

Many taxi drivers in Tokyo can speak passable English and can help you in finding your destination.

– Service –

Japanese taxi drivers will give it their all to make sure you have a satisfying ride in their  care. From opening doors to putting in your luggage and sometimes providing water and snacks. Their doors automatically open and close, ensuring you don’t have to lift a finger. For those who drink to excess, taxi drivers will help them out of their cab and in the care of someone else. 

– Time saving-

Despite the usual traffic jams that occur in Tokyo, Taxis are immensely faster than riding the train. (These drivers were probably taught by the F1 by how smooth they traverse through the tiny lanes!)


 – Price –

The average starting point in a taxi in Japan starts at 500 yen. The total depends on the duration of the destination and not the mileage. A 5 minute drive can rack up to 1,000 yen (equiv. $6.40) while hour rides can reach the hundreds. You can easily spend up to $300 from Narita to Tokyo by taxi. Not to mention the surcharge after 8pm. The prices of taxis skyrocket!

 – Size –

Japanese Taxis are almost always the same type with three seats in the back and one next to the driver. If you are a party of more than 4, then you will need to use a taxi app to get a larger taxi. 

 – Not so hidden fees – 

As mentioned, a taxi driver is responsible for their passengers as well as their car. Many people prone to imbibing tend to vomit, leaving a sight for sore eyes. You will have to pay upfront  for cleaning costs. If you cannot, the taxi driver will take you to the nearest police station and wait until you are sober enough to pay. 

Using a Uber in Tokyo

Unlike taxis, Uber in Japan is relatively new, coming into service in Japan in 2018 and hasn’t put a foothold in the Japanese transportation market.  It’s only available in larger cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. This is due to several reasons:

• The law is highly regulated on who can drive on the streets. Uber drivers need a separate license in order to drive around. 

• Ride-sharing is frowned upon. The Uber you know in other countries is vastly different from Japan’s. Japan’s Uber system had to change for its demographic and is basically a taxi-hailing app instead of ride-sharing. Ride-sharing is based on trust, and this causes a lack of security in who is driving and the customer. The Japanese mentality is highly influenced by professionalism, so if they see a teenager driving  a car, they would not be impressed! 



 – Familiarity –

Uber is a large conglomerate of transportation in many countries in the world. Those who visit Japan can easily access the app, as the format is mostly the same. For tourists, an Uber may be easier and can ease stress when finding transport. 

 – Size –

Uber’s use limousine vans that cater to 4+ people and can rack up to 6 large suitcases. Many taxi services offer this as well, but Uber is easiest when booking in advance. 

 – Tourism –

At airports, many tourism guides will have co-operations with Uber that can give you tours in Tokyo for fixed prices. If you are here for a short time, it is something to look into if you want something fast and cost-efficient.

 – No late-night surcharge –

The price is always set at the  standard. Unlike taxis that bump their prices after 8, Uber does not do that. You can be rest assured that the price at the  beginning will be the price you pay at the end. 



 – Price and hidden fees – 

The price-point is a little bit pricier to taxis and  sometimes even more expensive depending on the size of the Uber. In app, you will pay upfront for the cost, which is a good thing. However, there are many fees like (appointment  fee) where you pay to order an Uber. This is already included in the final price set for you, but many customers don’t know how the price is delegated as it varies from each taxi company, so you don’t know what the best rate is for you. There is no transparency when it comes to cost breakdown.

 – Inaccessible –

For many Japanese locals, Uber is not even an option for them. So finding an Uber in the wild is extremely hard. Only in large cities like Tokyo and Osaka can you find their presence. And since Uber is app-based, many people would rather hail a cab than wait for an Uber to arrive. Since the market is so small, there are not many Ubers in the area, thus making customers wait upwards to 30 minutes. It’s very inconvenient for both the customer and the Uber driver.

 – Booking – 

Uber is a cashless transaction  and uses other forms of payment methods. However, as a tourist, sometimes your card might not work or you  will need  a valid phone number to access the app. In this case, Uber becomes obsolete, and you will have to resort to Japan’s cash-based society. 

Overall, my opinion is solidly in the corner of taxis. Despite their disadvantages, it is less time-consuming, less stressful and cheaper than the Uber equivalent. The taxi is far superior and a much simpler option. But what do you think? Would you rather take a taxi or an Uber in Japan?

Author: S.C.Y.H – ALT in Musashino