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31 July


Tokyo to change taxis colors to make ride-hailing easier

Taxi company owners thinks pink colors will help to find the car

Photo: Japan Times

/NOVOSTIVL/ With the Olympics — and an anticipated influx of even more foreign tourists — a little more than a year away, local companies are finding more ways to get in on the act of showcasing Japanese know-how and enhancing the overall experience of visitors. This article appeared in The Japan Times.

Take taxis for example. While the industry is world-renowned for its white-gloved drivers and automated doors, there is still room for improvement.

In Japan, vacant vehicles display in red LEDs the Sino-Japanese characters of "kusha" (literally, "empty car") to indicate that they are available for hire. Naturally, the signage is lost on many tourists visiting from abroad.

Foreign visitors aren’t the only ones stymied by taxi displays. Due to the rapid aging of Japan’s population, more elderly people — and especially those who have had to give up their driver’s licenses — are utilizing taxis, and they too have complained how frustrating it can be to determine whether or not an oncoming vehicle is vacant, "reserved" or "off shift".

"Instead of customers having to squint at a moving LED display that might be even harder to see because of the low angle of the sun in wintertime, we thought we’d light up the whole car, so to speak," explained taxi company owner Teruo Isshiki.

From this month, Isshiki’s Kamereon Jidosha K.K. will commence service of what it claims to be the world’s first taxis that change the entire vehicle’s body color to indicate the vehicle’s status.

The pale pink color, which Isshiki said was designed to closely approximate the hue of the Somei-Yoshino (Prunus yedoensis) — Japan’s most beloved species of "sakura" (cherry blossoms) — can be switched on or off at the driver’s prerogative. Isshiki, however, can’t imagine why a driver of a vacant car would want to switch off.

"If you look at one of our cars coming down the street, say, at dusk on a rainy day, it sticks out like a flamingo among a bunch of crows. You can’t miss it!" he said.