Living in Japan is amazing in so many ways. However, it can sometimes be hard for a “gajin” (foreigner). While you may be trying your best to learn and adapt to all the customs, language differences and life style, then comes the dreaded phone experience.
I lived in Japan for years, in the first six months it was like a horror movie gone bad whenever the phone rang. I avoided it like the plague. I let it ring and go to the answering machine for months. I didn’t feel my Japanese was good enough to listen to the person on the other end of the phone or respond correctly. At work, I let others answer the phone even though I was sometimes the closest person to the office phone.
This was the case for ordering taxis for the airport and getting that home food and pizza I was craving for, (not Japanese style pizza – American pizza). I let my American housemates/co-workers call for me since they lived longer in Japan than me. This lasted until one day, my housemate said that I needed to pick up the phone and order for myself. It was like the “make or break” moment for me. All these thoughts came rushing into my head, “Would my Japanese be OK? Could I understand the person I was talking to? What if I ordered something incorrectly?”
This was how I panicked. However, I took the initiative and believed that I COULD do this. I wrote out all the information I needed to ask and checked it with some housemates. I was able to get all the general questions I would hear and the answers I needed to respond. That piece of paper was a lifeline for me. I kept it by my phone whenever I needed to order a taxi or food delivery until I felt my Japanese was good enough to “go it alone.”
Things have changed since I first lived in Japan, there are so many convenient ways today to get along with things– even without speaking in Japanese. Here are some tips to help you make that easy.
How to Arrange For a Taxi
If you have lived in Japan for a while, chances are that you may have had to arrange for a taxi to pick you up. Most foreigners tend not have a car unless they live there for a while. Instead, they rely on public transportation as the main way to get around. This is very convenient for the most part. However, sometimes, it can be challenging, especially if you need to go to the airport or train station with luggage or the weather is just rainy and yucky. Here are some options:
If you like to do things via your smart phone, then this app will help you. It is nationwide. So, you can use it anywhere. It is Japanese, but if you can read that, it will allow you to do everything online. The app will find the closest taxi company to your location and will come at the time/date/location you input in the app. It is very convenient.
Another super popular option in Japan these days is Uber. You can use the Uber app to find a ride nearby your location. Many new foreigners or tourists like this option. The site below is for any city in Japan and can be used in English. You just need to input your city information and your specific address. I used Tokyo as a reference point for you to view.
How to Get Where You’re Going
Simple and helpful trick
If you have uploaded all your information into an online app, then you will not even need to explain where or how to get to your destination as everything has been provided when you requested the taxi or ride.
However, if you do need to communicate with the driver, use this simple trick and it will save you the anxiety of wondering if your Japanese is proficient enough.
Pack a printed/type or clearly handwritten business card or piece of paper in your wallet at all times.
It is best if it is protected (e.g. laminated or in a protective cover), so that it cannot easily be wet, bent or destroyed.
Have your name, address and telephone number printed in Japanese and English on the paper.
If you have it in Japanese, you can just show the information to the person.
What Does a Taxi In Japan Look Like?
If you are new to Japan, maybe you don’t know this info yet. For most cities in Japan, they are four door sedans. The color can vary due to the area of Japan, but for most cities they are black, green or orange. The inside is covered in white cloth to protect the seats, and the driver is dressed in a uniform or suit with white gloves. If you don’t know Japanese, use the tip that I mentioned above regarding the address written in Japanese. Just show the address to the driver. If you traveling to a new location, write down the address beforehand and hand it to him/her.
In Japan, you do not need to worry about the safety of using a taxi in Japan. Unlike in some other countries, taxis are convenient and helpful for foreigners – especially if you don’t have a car/vehicle or friend to drive you, have to travel a longer distance or visiting a new place. They are easily recognizable and are generally located at designated taxi stops or along major streets/intersections.
Seatbelt Law: Seatbelts are required for the backseat as this became a law in Japan in 2008. Child safety seats are still not required. However, the infant to adult must use a seat belt. This might sound contradictory, but in Japan, a child safety seat is still optional.
The cost of the trip does not need to be negotiated in advance like in some other countries. In Tokyo (for example), the driver inputs your designation into a computer screen. It will show the fastest route, the arrival time and total cost that you should pay.
The amount will be displayed on a meter.
Unlike other countries, you also do NOT need to tip the driver. The total cost of the trip is the only amount you need to pay. The cost is regarding how much time the trip takes rather than the total distance.
Note: If you call a taxi to your location, you will be charged 200-400 Yen (depending on the city/location) as a base fee. This might not be the situation if you use a smart phone app since the taxi sent to you will be the closest to your location.
Nighttime: Cost is more to use a taxi between 10 PM – 5 AM. The first initial charge/fee might be same as during the day. However, the meter rate will increase faster than during the day. Be prepared if you need to use this option at night. This can happen when you miss the last train and choose to take a taxi home.
How Do I Pay?
Be sure to bring Yen (cash) or Suica/Pasmo as it is expected of most taxi drivers. Suica and Pasmo are only accepted in taxis with this sticker on the window. It will look like the picture below.
Credit cards are accepted in many major cities, but iPay options are still NOT widely accepted. You might find drivers not accepting credit card option because the credit card surcharge will be charged back to the driver.
So, it is best to bring enough cash (Yen) in order to be certain that you can pay for the cost. If you are traveling to the same location several times (e.g. from the train station to your apartment), you will get to know your general travel cost and can plan accordingly.
You may be craving for that famous pizza you ate back in your home country. You have tried Japanese pizza, but it seems not just okay . So, you decide to order from your home country
What Should I Know When Ordering Pizza from Home?
First, you might be surprised at the “sticker shock” for ordering pizza in. The cost of pizza in Japan is expensive. If you order from home, expect to pay between 1800-4000 Yen per pizza (depending on size and toppings). Your total bill can easily cost you 5000 Yen if you order a few different items.
If you order from a computer website, you can use the option of ordering via credit card. However, if you order by phone, you might need to ask your options. If you choose to pay in cash, you will pay the driver when s/he comes. So, be prepared.
The size of Japanese pizzas are smaller than what you will get in the U.S. So, be prepared to order a bigger size if you are used to eating several pieces.
Pizza companies in Japan have a wide selection of side dishes and dessert items for you to add to your pizza order. Some of them are specifically “Japanese” style items that you will not get the opportunity to order anywhere else in the world. So, if you are in the mood, try them!
You do not need to pay the driver a tip. Again, in Japan, the delivery service is complimentary.
Japanese Pizza Companies
There are a wide variety of pizza companies in Japan. You can find local Japanese companies and the standard American options like Dominos and Pizza Hut.
If you live in a residence for any length of time, you will probably get a complimentary menu sent to you. It will look something like the picture below.
Technology has made things much easier for foreigners who are yet comfortable to communicate in Japanese. These days, you can find website with English language options. Many major companies offer English websites, so that you can easily use them. Gone are the days you HAVE to know how to communicate in Japanese via phone. Below shows you an example of Pizza Hut’s English website:
Another English based website is: www.dominos.jp/eng/ Try it out!
Order Via Phone in English
Some companies have English speaking staff, so you can order easily on the phone. See if your pizza company has someone to help you in English.
Japan is constantly changing, so some fast food chains (such as McDonald’s) have a delivery option too. You can order from their website IN ENGLISH and it will be delivered to your home. It is hot, and you do not need to worry about speaking in Japanese.
Check out all the options that are available to you in your neighborhood!
Hope these tips help you to enjoy ordering a taxi or hanging out ordering a pizza or fast food from the comforts of your residence/couch. Until next time, have a great day!
Peggy / United States