The heart of Japan is really a terrifying place.
One of Tokyo’s Top 3 Areas
Here’s a little taxi trivia for you! Among the taxi drivers of Tokyo, the city’s Chiyoda Ward, Chuo Ward, and Minato Ward are known as the Top 3 Areas (3高エリア in Japanese). Experienced drivers will tell you to stick to these parts of the city if you really want to keep your revenue up. But for all of you Tokyo experts, you might have noticed.
Yep, that’s right, these Top 3 Areas are also on my list of the worst parts of Tokyo to be a taxi driver. The unfortunate truth is that the bulk of taxi passengers are found in some of the city’s busiest areas, and these frequent-flyer taxi passengers are likely to have high expectations for their drivers, making it especially stressful.
The Horrors of Chiyoda Ward
What makes Chiyoda so very scary? Let’s look at the major points of stress:
① Mornings Are Tense
Chiyoda is home to the head offices of many of Japan’s biggest companies, and office buildings line the streets. During rush hour, passengers are always in a rush, and everyone is on edge.
“Can’t you go any faster?” Even when driving at the speed limit, passengers won’t hesitate to pressure you, trying to get you to go faster and faster. Even seasoned drivers dread the anxiety-laden atmosphere of rush hour traffic. Some drivers just decide to step away from the stress entirely, passing potential customers by, and taking a break to eat a relaxing breakfast instead.
② There Are SO MANY Lanes!
All around Chiyoda Ward, it’s not uncommon to see streets with four or even five lanes. With all those lanes, what could possibly go wrong?
Unsuccessful lane changes cause accidents! Even aside from the physical danger, sometimes ending up in the wrong lane will literally send you speeding in the opposite direction of where you’re trying to go. Backtracking to fix that mistake is not only a waste of time, it can also run up the meter, which isn’t going to make your customer very happy.
③ Real Horror Stories
Once upon a time, in the early hours of the morning, in a land called Otemachi, a figure appeared from behind a building. The voice in my head whispered “There’s nobody in Otemachi past 2 am…” and I was ready to continue on my way, when the figure started frantically waving its hands. Could it be? Was this ghostly apparition some kind of scary spirit?
It was, in fact… a living, breathing person! The shock! I couldn’t help but ask “Excuse me sir, but do you always work this late at night?” And he answered me truthfully, “Yep. Well, it’s technically overtime… but I’ll be heading back to the office in the morning anyway. This is pretty normal for me.”
Perhaps the true horror story is the delayed reform of Japan’s work-life balance.
④ Near-Misses in the Dark
Another late-night saga from Chiyoda Ward comes courtesy of a customer who got in at Kita-no-maru Park, on the northern end of the Tokyo Imperial Palace grounds. Their destination was Takebashi – just a couple minutes away.
Late at night, long after (most of) the busy office workers had headed home for the night, the area was pitch-black and visibility was surprisingly low. Fortunately, we made it safely to our destination, and the passenger left the taxi and went on their merry way. A happy end for this dark and gloomy story. Or so I thought! I went into reverse to get back onto the road, and found myself a hair’s breadth from slamming into the Imperial Palace walls. For a moment, I think my heart stopped beating.
Chiyoda in Retrospect
Back when I was actively working as a taxi driver, I was really haunted by the pressure of anxious passengers and the frightening prospect of a car accident around every corner. I understood the struggles of earning a living in a whole new way. I felt it deep in my bones.
So these days, the new me who spends her days doing things like turning silly taxi stories into articles is still a bit of a surprise!
Next up is our fifth and final installment of “The 5 Worst Parts of Tokyo, According to Your Taxi Driver”! For all of you readers who live or work within the borders of Tokyo, are you (secretly, deep at the bottom of your heart) hoping your own neighborhood might be next? Even if your favorite Tokyo haunt doesn’t make it onto this particular list, you should know: for a taxi driver, anywhere in Tokyo is a new battleground! But to find out the final location on this list of terrible places to be a Taxi driver, you’ll just have to keep an eye out for my next article!
Tokyo Trivia: Did you know that the holy land of Japanese nerds and all things otaku culture, Akihabara, is also a part of Chiyoda Ward? Stop by for a dose of “Cool Japan,” and pick up some Gunpla kits while you’re at it.
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