January 21, 2014
by Akane Ogawa & Maria Kakiuchi
Many tourists visit Kyoto every year, so naturally they take taxis to get around the city. Therefore, it is useful to know more about the taxi companies that operate in Kyoto city.
It is said that there are about 270,000 taxis in Japan. In Kyoto, there are about 9,000. Taxi fees are different according to each company. Generally, they cost 650 yen for the first two kilometers, and then 80 yen per 339 meters, or 80 yen per 2 minutes. As taxis in Tokyo cost 750 yen for the first two kilometers, taxis in Kyoto are a little cheaper.
There are three major taxi companies operating in Kyoto: MK, Yasaka, and Miyako. Read below to find out more about each one.
Probably the most famous taxi company in Kyoto is MK. It was first established in 1960. What makes MK unique amongst other taxi companies in Kyoto is that they place great emphasis on English communication skills. For example, in 1985, MK started offering English conversation taxis with drivers who could guide passengers in English. Then in 1992, MK started offering study-abroad programs in English-speaking countries.
According to an MK employee, the number of foreign passengers each day is several dozen during the spring and fall seasons. For this reason, MK helps their drivers learn the English language. For example, at morning roll call each day, drivers all recite easy English greetings and conversational phrases used commonly in taxis.
The company also splits its drivers into two different English levels. The top level is comprised of drivers who are able to have conversation with foreigners, while the other level consists of drivers who are only able to greet passengers. These language level groups are decided by tests twice a year.
Regardless of their English language level, all MK drivers are careful. They pay close attention to direction and always check to make sure the temperature in their cabs is comfortable. MK’s slogan is: Without accident.
Another feature of MK drivers is their ability to guide foreigners. For example, they offer 8 different sightseeing courses that are designed to show visitors the best of Kyoto.
‘Yasaka’ means ‘happy’ in Japanese. It also happens to be the name of a famous shrine in Kyoto: the Yasaka shrine. Therefore, it is an appropriate name for a taxi company whose birthplace is Kyoto.
The symbol or logo of Yasaka taxi company is the 3-leaf clover, called ‘Mitsuba’ in Japanese. For this reason, many people refer to Yasaka as Mitsuba. Both names are used interchangeably, and you can see this green symbol on the doors of all 1,400 Yasaka taxi cabs in Kyoto. The three leaves of the logo symbolize Yasaka’s company slogan: safety, comfort, and trust. Indeed, if a passenger has large baggage, the driver will happily put it in the trunk for the customer.
If you pay close attention long enough, you may get lucky and see a 4-leaf clover on one of the cabs. The 4-leaf clover symbolizes happiness. In fact, there is an origin to this story. One rainy day, a customer called Mitsuba for a ride. Then he saw the three-leaf logo along with a raindrop that looked like a fourth leaf. He showed this to the taxi driver. From then on, the company placed the 4-leaf clover on just four of its 1,400 taxis. It is said that if you are lucky enough to see a 4-leaf clover on one of the taxi cabs, it will bring you happiness.
Yasaka cabs offer customers souvenir cards, on which is written in Japanese, ‘I hope you will have good fortune’. Also, the origin story of the 4-leaf clover is written the back.
Like MK, Yasaka also promotes drivers learning English. And since many drivers assume sightseeing guide duties, many of them try to become licensed tour guides. For this reason, the official tests are often held in Yasaka headquarters.
The third popular taxi company in Kyoto is called, Miyako. Similar to Yasaka, their slogan is ‘safety and comfort’. They offer a variety of different types of taxis, for example for sightseeing and for elderly care.
The number of drivers in the company is about 800, ten of whom are able to speak English well. Miyako is trying to improve this number. This is important so that they can communicate with foreign passengers, especially if a problem arises, like the passenger leaving a camera, bag, or cell phone behind. Also the cab drivers can explain things to the passenger, such the history of famous buildings, or to make recommendations on where to go, especially if the foreigner forgot their guidebook.
Address: 63-1 Nishikujyo higashishima town, Minami ward, Kyoto city
Address: 1 chudojikushige town, shimokyo ward, Kyoto city
Tel: 075- 841-6261
Address: 30-2 kamitobatounomoto, minami ward, Kyoto city