There’s a secret tip to identifying these special cabs.

In Tokyo, there are about 40,000 taxis on the roads, and Nihon Kotsu, the largest cab company in the industry, runs about 5,000 of them.

Out of all these taxis, its a little-known fact that seven of them harbour a very special secret. They’re called “lucky taxis“, and not many people know they even exist until they find themselves in one.

Needless to say, when our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma heard whispers of these cabs through his contacts, he began investigating ways to find one, sniffing out leads until Nihon Kotsu eventually agreed to set up a meeting for him on the streets of Tokyo.

▼ Behold, a lucky taxi!

According to Nihon Kotsu, there is a way to distinguish the lucky cabs from others on the roads, and it’s as simple as looking at the lantern on top of the vehicle. The company’s regular cabs display a round globe with an “N” inside a blue cherry blossom, and “gold taxis” driven by experienced, veteran drivers have an “N” inside a gold-coloured cherry blossom.

 ▼ The mark of a veteran cab driver.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the taxi in 2012, vehicles with pink cherry blossom lanterns were added to the fleet. At that time, these cabs were used solely by drivers responsible for sightseeing bookings, but after a review in 2019, the five pink cherry blossom lantern cabs were put into regular use, with their rarity leading them to be called “lucky taxis”.

In July 2021, the number of lucky taxis was increased from five to seven, which slightly increased the chances of people encountering them. And people really do have to encounter them, as it’s not possible to request a lucky cab when making a booking, which the company says makes the joy of finding one feel even greater if it does happen.

Of course, you can increase your chances of finding a lucky cab by making a booking for a Nihon Kotsu taxi, which will narrow down the probability from seven out of 40,000 to seven out of 5,000. And it really is worth trying to find one, because if you do, the driver will slip you something special when you slide into the vehicle.

▼ Lucky cab passengers receive a special commemorative boarding pass!

The special message of congratulations printed on the card is enough to make even the weariest of passengers smile, and on the back is another heartwarming message:

“The sakura-coloured lantern on the taxi you’ve boarded appears on only seven out of 5,000 Nihon Kotsu taxis. The lucky “N in sakura” marks this miracle encounter [“N” is a play on the word “en” which means “fate” or “destiny”]. We hope you have many more wonderful encounters in your lifetime.”

For Masanuki, this card, and the whole idea of the lucky taxi, embodied the Japanese concept of “ichigo ichie”, which is all about treasuring the moment and making the most of one-off encounters. And the man who gave him the card, Mr Kimura, was a total professional, polite and poised at all times, having been the driver of a lucky cab for three years.

Mr Kimura told Masanuki that he used to give passengers the commemorative boarding pass when they were leaving the taxi, but when they said it would be nice to receive it at the beginning so they could relish the special ride, he decided to hand it over as soon as they got in.

▼ Customer satisfaction is always a top priority for Mr Kimura.

When Masanuki asked the driver how people react to being given the card, he simply said:

“It puts a smile on every passenger’s face.”

That’s a reaction Masanuki could certainly relate to, and after he parted ways with the lucky taxi and its courteous driver, he couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day. Rare encounters like this one really do leave a lasting impression, and he’s now keeping that lucky boarding pass in his wallet, for some extra luck the next time he visits this vending machine that makes wishes come true.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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