Why does a red light mean a Japanese taxi is available?

“Obviously the Japanese eye is see the color differently than to foreigner. To you is is green, but to us it is called ‘blue’ or ‘aoi’. The blue means, ‘sorry, you will have to be out in the blue coldness for a while longer’ and the red color means, ‘welcome to the warm inside our taxi!’”

From this month’s Ask Kazuhide

More seriously, I’d always assumed it was because red gets your attention, but it still seems silly to me. Alternatively, maybe it is red for warning, getting you ready for the shock of how much you will have to pay.

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4 Comments

  1. November 6, 2010 at 5:58 am

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  2. Richard said,

    November 25, 2010 at 1:14 am

    Red means the taxi’s going to stop if you wave at it, whereas green means it’s going to keep going. The same as traffic lights according to the first Japanese page I found that tried to explain it, or at least tell you how to remember it.
    http://www.taxisite.com/dic/view/16.aspx

    You could probably draw some conclusion about Westerners focusing on the customer’s (individual’s) perspective, and a Japanese emphasis on the taxi’s (somehow representing society and group harmony) but it’s probably just initial coincidence that’s become established practice.

  3. thetriscuit said,

    February 7, 2011 at 5:54 am

    I have always wondered about that! I am currently living in Japan and I find it very confusing when I am trying to hail a taxi to remember if “red” means “taken” or “available.”

  4. alexcase said,

    February 7, 2011 at 5:57 am

    My latest related confusion is that light switches (little push panel ones) have a red LED to show that they are on and a green LED to show that they are off! I work in two places where that is the case, and one month later I still get confused almost everyday


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