Tokyo to teach tourist taxi drivers where to go

Tokyo to teach tourist taxi drivers where to go

Transport industry and tourist body work together to get drivers pulling double-duty as tour guides
Tokyo taxi
Tokyo taxis wait in vain for an incoming tourist to tell them where the nearest train station might be.

Aside from sushi, green tea and ramen noodles, pretty much any visitor to Japan will also have sampled the country’s incredibly expensive taxis -- usually just the once, though, as it’s not just the cost that’s a deterrent to repeat business.

The more-or-less-accurate assertion made by many that the average taxi driver has no notion where he or she is going is, however, about to be challenged by a new scheme to train cabbies to act as tourist guides while on the job.

The brainchild of various taxi-industry groups and the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau, the idea is to school around 50 drivers a year in how to be a more useful resource for sightseers and tourists.

There’s no detail yet on whether or not that will include a London-style “Knowledge” test that entails learning the name and location of every thoroughfare, nor is there an indication of the possibility of languages other than Japanese being used.

Skytree to the fore

Tokyo taxi'Ere, mate -- whassat place you're headed to? Tokyo Towertree or summat?What we do know so far, though, is that when courses start in August, drivers will need to bone up on major tourist spots -- Tokyo Skytree, of course, is prominent in the scant literature made public so far -- and sharpen customer-service skills.

Said skills include the ability to handle wheelchairs and accommodate elderly passengers.

Details on the course modules intended to stop cabbies peeing on the roadside and ignoring non-Asians looking for a ride have yet to be revealed.

We do know, however, that prices have already been set at a very reasonable ¥4,550 (US$58) for an hour of private touring, which could make for a useful addition to the Japan tourist scene.

Compared to the standard fare of ¥710 (US$9) just to get a cab moving, the projected cost is sure to win converts to taxi touring if the service is up to scratch.

Best of all, Japanese taxi drivers never accept tips -- they’ll likely return any gratuity, assuming you’ve made a mistake with the change.

More on CNNGo: See Skytree for free from the Tokyo Panda Bus