Japan’s government is cautioning tourists against using unlicensed taxis, as increased tourist arrivals has led to heightened demand for transport in Tokyo.
Officials from Japan’s Transport Ministry have been handing out fliers with warnings printed in English and Chinese at Narita Airport in Tokyo since early November, Mainichi Shimbun reported on Nov 18.
The fliers describe unlicensed taxis as “illegal and unsafe”, said the report, adding that passengers who sustain injuries while riding in these taxis may not be covered by insurance.
The fliers also tell the public how to differentiate between a licensed taxi and an unlicensed one – the former has a green licence plate with a green frame, while the latter would have a white plate.
Mr Mitsuteru Yanase, head of the ministry’s office in Chiba, said: “To ensure safe travel, we want travellers to use authorised taxis and vehicles that are well-managed.”
While ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Grab have become popular alternative options to taxis in other countries, Japan continues to ban services that allow private-hire drivers to serve as unofficial cabbies.
The Uber app is available in Japan, but it can be used to book only licensed taxis.
However, calls from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and former prime minister Yoshihide Suga to expand the ride-hailing market have grown recently due to a shortage of taxis in rural places and tourist spots.
In October, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the government will discuss allowing ride-hailing companies to operate in Japan.
The report stated that the taxi industry is opposed to the introduction of competition and the Transport Ministry remains cautious, citing concerns about the lack of rules on who would be responsible for the health of drivers and maintaining the vehicles.