Nick’s Nippon Notebook: At Midnight Your Ride Home Becomes A Pumpkin (Part 2)

Posted by Guest Author on Sep 4, 2008 in Fandom |

Nick's Nippon Notebook

Part 2: In Japan public transportation stops running at around 12 AM and starts again around 5 AM. That makes for a predicament if one is out late away from where they are staying. I’ve been trying out some scenarios of what one can do over a few recent trips to Japan. One obvious solution would be to just pay for a taxi back. Last year I tried that. Basically to get in a taxi and (in theory) not go anywhere the minimum fare is over $6. Helping to reinforce the possible validity that taxi companies had politicians make sure no public transportation runs at night is that taxis have an additional 30% late night surcharge.

It’s often quoted that a daytime taxi from Narita Airport to downtown tokyo is somewhere over $300. It’s not a case of tourists being tricked what supposedly happens to some foreign tourists in America. That would be the normal fare, though I guess most times someone states the $300 taxi fare factoid they neglect to mention the airport is well over an hour from downtown tokyo. It had to do with the older Tokyo airport Haneda (you’ll see it in old movies) becoming too small over the years, but not soon enough to be able to buy enough land closer to Tokyo. As a comparison, the cheapest train to tokyo is around $12, though a lot of luggage might be awkward and it’s not that fast. There are many more trains and busses in the $20 to $30 range though that are direct and can deal with luggage.

The 12 AM last run for trains means that shows at clubs typically start at 7 PM and end around 10:30 so people who live further away can get home. A fair number of clubs with space for dancing will open (or reopen after a live band set) around 11 PM and have DJ sets until dawn. This is especially true on Friday and Saturday nights.

Taxis usually have different shaped roof lights that remind me of crystal balls. The shape is different depending on the fleet they belong to.


There is no uniform color like yellow though the color does tend to be one regular cars aren’t manufactured in. Also the sedans tend to be quite different models from anything you see as Japanese imports outside of Japan. White taxis seem fairly common. I get them confused with police cars quite often though in details they are quite different as well as not seeing many police cars to begin with. The doors are remote control open and close like I’d seen on TV shows about Japan though no washing machine in the trunk like I saw on some old TV program about eccentric Japan once.

I was catching internationally known DJ Takkyu Ishino do a set Friday night in a club in Ebisu. He’s also founder of the band Denki Groove as well as a solo musician and producer with a number of side projects. Generally the big cub spaces tend to be literally deep underground, at least half dozen or so ones I’ve been to. Actually I was walking around all day so I fell asleep after stopping at my hotel in Shinjuku and realized it was around 11:45 PM and should have been arriving at the club when I woke up. So I ran out at top speed because I had to catch a train there. So that was a good time other than the panic after being late. At around 4 AM the friends I was with decided to go home by taxi and kind of shuffled me off into the first cab they could catch. I was thinking the first train was under an hour away and if I were to walk to the station that would be even less time. Also I had been thinking of Ebisu the last few years. A lot of the good clubs and restaurants are there. Not a lot to visit during the day, but the night scene is really solid without the tourist trap or mindless party kid vibe. I bailed out really early a few times since I wanted to catch a train to my hotel. On the other hand I wasn’t with any friends.

This time I was with friends so the night didn’t feel long. It was maybe 4:10 AM and my friends wanted to get me back to the hotel. I guess I was kind of tired but not drunk or anything bad news. So being in the taxi with my friends waving I couldn’t actually get out, though I was thinking I could just hang out and catch a train around 5. And I realized while a long long walk, at any point Ebisu wasn’t even an impossible walk to Shinjuku. Yebisu Beer began there, though I’m not much of a beer aficionado.

But I wasn’t unprepared for a taxi. I have a card with a little Japanese map showing my hotel. I was rather annoyed that he couldn’t read the map. I have no idea why. It could be it was hard to decipher or not clear. I kind of suspected that since some areas near the hotel are definitely “red light” he didn’t want to go there. Actually the hotel was in basically a Korean neighborhood. I myself like the fact that hotel was in Shinjuku but I’m not thrilled by the people and stuff going on not too far away. So I thought it was best to go to Shinjuku Station to make things easy. So it was maybe a 10 – 12 minute $40+ ride that was another 10 minute walk to the hotel and I think only 10 or 20 minutes before I could have caught a $2 train from Ebisu.

Nick Kent is a New York based artist who works with electronic media and is an occasional pop culture pundit.

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