Taxis in Japan’s most refined city seek to minimize unpleasant, awkward conversations.
Hamburgers are pretty universally loved, right? Pickles, however, tend to be more of a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing.
Similarly, quick, comfortable transportation is pretty popular, which is why you’ll see taxis running about major cities. But once again, not everyone likes the small talk between passenger and driver that often comes with a taxi ride.
Unfortunately, while no one gets bent out of shape when you go to a restaurant and ask them to hold the pickles on your burger, it’s kind of rude to tell your driver “Please stop talking” if you’re not in the mood for chitchat. So for those who’d prefer a quieter ride, one Japanese company has begun what it calls the Silence Taxi service.
▼ Which is a much nicer-sounding name than “Sit Down and We’ll Shut Up.”
Miyako Taxi, which mainly operates in the Kyoto area, has designated a number of cars in its fleet as Silence Taxis. A notice written on the back of the passenger seat headrest informs customers that aside from offering a greeting when they hop in and confirming their desired route, the driver will not speak to them unless he is spoken to (excepting, of course, emergency situations where communication is critical).
“This service is currently in a trial stage, with the goal of creating an in-car atmosphere that provides the most comfortable ride for passengers through limiting the driver’s speaking,” announced Miyako Taxi in a surprisingly loquacious declaration of its anti-small talk measures.
Ordinarily, Miyako Taxi has no policy either way regarding whether or not drivers should attempt to make conversation with their passengers. But the company feels that while some taxi users enjoy hearing about Kyoto’s numerous sightseeing attractions, some are already well-informed on such subjects, especially those who happen to live in the city. Rather than pressuring passengers to keep up their end of a conversation on subjects they may have no interest in discussing, the company feels that it might be better to let passengers who wish to enjoy the ride in silence do so. For passengers who are feeling chatty, the Silence Taxi drivers aren’t prohibited from speaking after being spoken to, though the program does leave the ball in the passengers’ court as far as making the first conversational move.
Currently, Miyako Taxi has five Silence Taxis running about the streets of Kyoto. The program quietly began in late March, and the company is gauging customer response while considering whether to extend or expand the program.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s still grateful to the Tokyo taxi driver who taught him the phrase “tsuki to suppon.”