Tokyo is the world's third most expensive city for taxi fares

While taxis may be plentiful in Tokyo, they're an expensive way to get around town. In fact, Tokyo ranked third after Zurich and Geneva in Carspring's 2017 Taxi Price Index of most expensive cities in the world to hail taxi rides.

But what if you could ride in the comfort of a taxi completely free of charge, and even get a bowl of noodles and prizes to boot?

Free taxi service!

If you're in Tokyo this December and know just enough Japanese to operate a mobile app, you can do just that!

In a limited collaboration with Nissin's Donbei brand of instant noodles, mobile service provider DeNA's taxi hailing mobile app MOV is offering "Zero Yen Taxi" service to customers from December 5th to the end of the year, as well one free Donbei Tempura Soba noodle bowl (while supplies last) between December 26th and 31st.

To qualify for a free ride, you need to hail the special taxi in Shibuya, Shinjuku, Minato, Chuo or Chiyoda Wards and specify a destination anywhere within those five wards or any of the other 18 wards of metropolitan Tokyo. In the morning, your ride must begin after 7 AM and at night, it must end before 10 PM. Once you have boarded the taxi, if you ask your driver to change the destination to anywhere outside the 23 wards, you will be charged full fare. Moreover, rides to Haneda Airport are excluded from the campaign and will be charged at full fare (for example, if you ask your driver to change your destination to Haneda Airport).

Hands-on report

On a sunny but cold morning earlier this week, our grape Japan staff tapped the MOV icon on his iPhone in hopes of hailing a free ride to Shinagawa Station.

Luckily, he was able to locate a Zero Yen Taxi within the first five minutes. The app shows you the Zero Yen Taxi with the distinctive Donbei noodle icon (circled red below) which stands out from the other taxi company icons usually swarming on the map. In case he needed more confirmation he had the right taxi, the app also displayed the taxi company offering the service and its license number (in this case, registered in Nerima Ward). The taxi was just two minutes away...

Photo by © grape Japan

Before he knew it, the taxi had pulled up in front of him... Looks like there was no need to worry about getting in the right taxi! It was decorated entirely with Nissin Donbei graphics...

Photo by © grape Japan

As the automatic doors opened, it was clear that the decorations continued inside as well...

Photo by © grape Japan

Even the video screen attached to the back of the passenger seat headrest displayed MOV ads...

Photo by © grape Japan

...and Nissin Donbei Tempura Soba noodle ads.

Photo by © grape Japan

When he arrived at his destination, he was handed a special commemorative card which said: "Thank you for riding" in English and a message in Japanese wishing passengers good luck in 2019. In fact, the whole theme of the campaign, in addition to promoting MOV's service and Nissin's Donbei noodles, is to celebrate the New Year, soba noodles being a traditional dish (called toshi-koshi soba) eaten on New Year's eve.

Photo by © grape Japan

The meter displayed 1,440 JPY (about 13 USD) but since this was a Zero Yen Taxi, the ride was entirely free.

Photo by © grape Japan

Finally, after getting out of the taxi, the MOV app displayed a message detailing the route taken:

Photo by © grape Japan

So how much can you really save?

1,440 JPY is not bad, but for those traveling further, there are surely greater savings possible.

For example, if you started in Sasazuka, Shibuya Ward and got off in Higashi Kanamachi, Katsushika Ward, your fare (according to Navitime taxi fare calculator) would be 14,970 JPY or 131.68 USD at today's rate (using toll roads). That's quite substantial!

© Google Maps

Note: This information is only provided to prove a point on possible savings, and we by no means wish to encourage our readers to reproduce this experiment since there are only 50 of these taxis in operation and they are in very high demand.

You don't even need to register a credit card as long as you limit yourself to Zero Yen Taxi, so tourists can use it too!

By - grape Japan editorial staff.