. Govt & Education
The first difference you'll notice between Japanese cab drivers and their American counterparts is the white gloves. It's like, they're afraid they'll get hepatitis from the steering wheel or something. There is, of course, far greater risk of this in an American urban cab. But the white gloves are in keeping with the cleanliness of Japanese taxis. The Japanese cab labors to offer a welcoming atmosphere -- starting with the passenger-side (left; as in England, the driver's side is on the right) door that swings open of its own accord to greet you and let you out. And unlike American cabs, the Japanese cab does not impede that all-important personal relationship between driver and passeneger with an acoustically impenetrable sheet of bullet-proof plexiglass.
On the other hand, another difference is considerably less pleasant: Tokyo cabs start at a base fare of 680 yen -- about seven bucks. And that won't get you very far. Expect to fork over about $30 for any cab ride far enough to be worth taking a cab. The good news? No tipping!
There is one thing that Japanese and American cabbies have in common. Neither of them speak English (rim shot). Unless you're headed for somewhere around one of the major train stations, or a well-known neighborhood, it can be difficult to just "grab a cab" to wherever without either a basic knowledge of Japanese or at least a pretty good idea how to explain where it is you are going.
The serpentine Tokyo subway map
Frankly, there's not much reason to take a cab in Tokyo, unless it's after 12:30am, when the trains stop running. Seems a little weird that in the world's busiest city, the trains do, in fact, stop running. Rumor has it that, in the true Japanese spirit of cooperation, the cabs themselves are the reason. They're so expensive -- and the train network so extensive -- that no one would ever take hail a hack if the rail ran 24 hours.
It is indeed possible to get anywhere in Tokyo via train. In addition to the 12 subway lines, there are four JR (Japan Rail) lines serving the city (several more extending from Tokyo to outlying destinations) and a spider's web of privately operated lines that tend to originate from, and be run by, major department stores. The private rail lines are often the only service to certain remote areas of Tokyo, and they snake far out into the suburbs -- so they can be murder at rush hour.