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News Navigator: Can passengers ride taxis without wearing face masks in Japan?

A taxi with a plastic sheet that separates the front and back seats is seen in this file photo. (Mainichi/Ami Jinnai)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about new rules on riding taxis in Japan amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Question: Is it true that we cannot ride a taxi if we are not wearing a mask?

    Answer: No, the new rules don't prohibit passengers from taking a taxi even if they are not wearing a mask. Instead, they allow taxi drivers to refuse passengers who are not wearing masks without valid reasons. The "valid reasons" include having a skin or respiratory disease that makes it difficult for a person to wear a mask. The rules have been set following requests from the taxi industry amid the spread of coronavirus infections.

    Q: Are taxi drivers normally allowed to refuse passengers?

    A: They can refuse passengers who are heavily drunk or violent. This is noted in the terms of transportation created by taxi companies. The central government checks any proposed rules, and if there is no problem with them, the rules are approved and take effect. Some 290 corporate taxi enterprises and some 6,800 individual taxi businesses (as of Dec. 18, 2020) now include the mask rules in their terms of transport, which have been approved by the central government.

    Q: Why are such rules necessary?

    A: Taxi drivers are fulfilling their duty to provide transport while risking getting infected. But some passengers speak loudly while not wearing masks, and drivers have apparently been voicing concern. By wearing a mask, you can prevent spreading infections to the next passenger.

    Q: Do we have to wear masks on other forms of transport?

    A: There are no set rules to refuse passengers, but airlines and train operators are urging passengers to wear masks and refrain from conversations while onboard.

    (Japanese original by Yoshitaka Yamamoto, City News Department)

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