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31 July


Tokyo taxi system is starting to change

One of the taxi companies decided to introduce new ideas into the business

Photo: japantimes.co.jp

/NOVOSTIVL/ Growing up in Canada, Alex Lipson never imagined he would one day become a taxi driver — especially not on the other side of the world in Tokyo. This article appeared in The Japan Times.

"I didn’t have some childhood dream to be a taxi driver," said the 34-year-old, who joined cab firm Hinomaru Kotsu Co. late last August. “People have negative opinions and not-so-negative opinions about the taxi industry, but it seemed really interesting as a way for me to have a new experience in Japan".

Hinomaru, which operates in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture, began actively recruiting non-Japanese drivers last spring. The company already employed a handful of drivers from overseas and had been impressed with their performance. It was also keen to capitalize on the record number of tourists that have been flocking to Japan.

Drivers typically work 11 days in a month, with each working day comprising a basic 19-hour shift, during which at least three hours of break must be taken by law. Drivers arrive at the depot before 7:30 a.m. to get changed, take a Breathalyzer test and health check, inspect their vehicles and then begin work at 8 a.m. Day- and night-shift schedules, where drivers work 11-hour shifts 22 times a month, are also available.

Once the training period is over and they begin work, drivers are guaranteed a monthly salary of ¥300,000 for the first six months or ¥250,000 for the first year, as long as they fulfill certain requirements that include providing a guarantor to vouch for them. After the salaried period is over, they are paid on commission, receiving anywhere between 52 percent and 62 percent of what they take in.

"Foreign drivers work very hard when they first start," said Kazumi Otsu, global recruitment section chief in Hinomaru’s personnel affairs department. "That doesn’t depend on their nationality, but they are very positive about doing their job. When the Japanese drivers see that, it acts as an incentive to spur them on."

By the end of February, 31 of the company’s roughly 1,500 drivers were born overseas, comprising 15 nationalities. The company hopes to have 100 foreign-born drivers on its payroll by July 2020, when the Tokyo Olympics begin.