Prowling the city of Tokyo are hoards of taxis, chasing down lonely passengers on their way, to and fro. Characteristically, all are equipped with automatically opening doors and a driver’s white gloves. However, little distinguishes these roaring vehicles, classically Japanese, outside the small glowing beacon perched on the center of their tops – each company from every region set themselves apart with their own special logo and shape. How practical, since, from far, a passenger can see what type of ride they are in for that night! Today, PingMag spots some of the great variety of roaming lights for you.
Written by Ryoko
Translated by Kevin Mcgue
First of all, when did taxi light begin to be used? We contacted Takeuchi Industries, a well known taxi manufacturer based in Tokyo. According to them, taxi lights were first used only in emergency situations. When taxis became widespread, they were considered luxurious extravagances, enjoyed by wealthy patrons. Many robberies and other crimes targeted taxi drivers and their passengers. Then, a crime prevention law, introduced in 1954, allowed taxis to install lights that could be flashed during a hold up, to send out a distress signal. In the past, the light had an important role in keeping the driver and passengers safe. Today, lights include the taxi company’s name, fares, and sometimes even serve as advertising space.
Now let’s take a look at some Tokyo taxis. Nihon Kotsu taxis have lights bearing a cherry blossom with a bold “N” in the middle as logo. And interestingly, Checker Taxis, known as “the face of New York” between 1920 and 1999, influenced the design of Sanwa Kotsu’s taxi lights, which are oblong with checker designs on the ends. Stylish!
Nihon Kotsu’s logo with a cherry blossom motif.
This “checker” design of Sanwa Kotsu’s light found inspiration in “the Big Apple.” Yes, exactly.
No, that’s not meant to be a pyramid! Tokyo Musen’s unique rooftop light was designed with the Tokyo Tower in mind – one of the city’s most famous symbols. Note that at the base of the cone, the passengers are reminded to leave their cigarettes in their packs for the trip home.
Use it as advertisement: as this Condor Taxi makes its way along Omotesando, one can’t help but notice the long sign mounted on the rear side of the roof top. What might it be for? It informs passengers of special bargains! To catch your attention, the light gradually changes colours from blue, to indigo, to yellow, to pink, to green, to white, making it unmissable in the Tokyo night. Light show!
Next we found a Kojin Taxi bearing a light with three stars on it. You have to know that these can only be proudly displayed on taxis driven by “master drivers.” In other words, drivers who have not had a traffic violation or accident in at least a year…
Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture
We headed northbound from Tokyo to Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, and found several taxis that seemed to have a fascination with ladybugs. They bring luck, for sure! Other companies sported royal crowns, which might suggest a regal ride, or wings, floating over the surface of the road. How fancy!
Kawaii! A red ladybug…
… and one in blue.
Choose the “royal ride,” which is fit for a king.
… or the peaceful journey of a dove, spreading its wings.
Simple and honest – just the name of the company printed on a sphere…
… or how about these two bold and obtuse shapes for Hamada taxi.
So cute for a cab! A plum blossom-shaped light!.
For instant recognition, the Maruichi company cleverly places a horizontal line in a circle.
With a sense of tradition, this light actually reads from right to left (“taxi” in Katakana.)
Go for the local heritage! This light illuminates an image of Tsuruga Castle, a famous 14th century landmark.
However, designing one of these lights is not as easy as it seems: although there are many creative examples, some restictions are imposed on the industry, regarding colors and the size of a sign. For example, red colors can only be used in some regions and the dimensions of non-smoking signs are also regulated.
In Hiroshima, many taxis have oblong lights. Not to mention the different fares that might be printed on these signs – the minimum fare in a Tokyo taxi is ¥710, but in Hiroshima it is only ¥560.
At a bargain price of ¥560? Hardly a Tokyo taxi!
This “Kato-chan Taxi” has such a cute name – and a cute sign.
Wow! Sleek retro design…
… and “Green” – a ride for the environmental conscious?
Finally, we went south to have a look at the taxi lights in Fukuoka. Interestingly, we came across a lot of rounded or Japanese fan-shaped taxi lights in this region!
Look, a paper fan! At least this sign resembles it a bit…
… and this small cute detail, a peach, draws your attention to it for sure.
A rough, hand-written font…
… and a green reef displaying a Japanese coat of arms.
A big, bold and blue light…
…and a more delicate one with a nice logo in soft green.
As always, thanks to everyone who helped us with this! Next time you hop in a taxi, pay attention to its elaborate logo!