New pricing system makes some taxi rides over 40 percent less expensive than they used to be.

The costs of life in Japan often get exaggerated, but taxis really can be startlingly expensive. The shock is even bigger if you’re just taking a short ride in Tokyo, since up until now cabs would charge you a minimum of 730 yen (US$5.80), even if you were just going down the block.

As of January 30, though, quick taxi trips have gotten much more affordable in Japan’s capital. Taxis operating in Tokyo’s 23 wards have adjusted their prices so that the meter now starts running not at 730 yen, but 410, making the initial ride more than 40 percent cheaper than it used to be.

However, there’s a slight catch. Whereas the previous, 730-yen starting fare would take you two kilometers (1.2 miles), the new 410-yen rate only covers the first 1.052 kilometers, a distance seemingly chosen so that once additional charges start kicking in, a two-kilometer ride will cost as much as it did under the old system.

Still, with subway tickets in Tokyo starting at 160 yen per person, the 410-yen starting fare could make taxis an attractive alternative for groups of travelers heading one station over, say from the Shibuya neighborhood to Harajuku, or Hiroo to Roppongi. The door-to-door convenience of a taxi also cuts down on the need to walk and minimizes the chance of getting lost along the way, and as such taxi operators expect the shift to a lower starting fare to lead to more frequent taxi use by foreign tourists and elderly Japanese.

Source: Yahoo! News Japan/Nihon TV via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’d like to offer a special thank-you to the taxi driver who taught him interesting new Japanese phrases after he missed the last train home.