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The End of the Road for Tokyo’s Iconic Taxis

The End of the Road for Tokyo's Iconic Taxis — EYExplore

In the world of automobiles, certain vehicles become ingrained in the fabric of society, transcending mere transportation to become iconic symbols of their era. One such vehicle that I would argue has made it to this legendary status is the Toyota Comfort which over time became the mainstay of the taxi industry in Japan for over two decades. During this time it also made a name for itself in the Hong Kong taxi industry while also making appearances in Singapore, Macau, and Indonesia.

Toyota Comforts doing their job on the streets of Shibuya, 2024
Toyota Comforts doing their job on the streets of Shibuya, 2024

The Birth of an Icon

Introduced in 1995 it quickly became a common sight on the streets of Japan, as the preferred choice for taxi operators. With its spacious interior, robust engineering, and reputation for longevity, the Comfort embodied the qualities essential for a successful taxi. There were a number of different engine options with not only the common petrol and diesel, but also LPG.

While I couldn’t find an accurate number of how many were produced I did see the figure 350,000 floating around, but it was unclear if that referred to the total production run or to a single year.

Although there were a number of variants to the Comfort they stayed true to the simple yet elegant, essentials-only design, all the while somehow being cool. This combined with the sheer number that were on the road, imbued the Toyota Comfort with iconic status.

No More Taxis — Extinction of the Toyota Comfort - EYExplore
Toyota Comfort in 2024
A slow evening in Ginza
A slow evening in Ginza

Even when it was first introduce it already had a nostalgic feel to it, as the design hadn’t really deviated drastically from its predecessor. Even Nissan’s competing vehicles, the Crew and Cedric which were discontinued in 2009 and 2015 respectively, didn’t exactly go out on a limb with their designs. Together these factors made for a very iconic image of what a taxi in Japan should be. For photographers it allowed us a chance to capture a moment that, although taken recently could feel as though it was from an era long gone.

Nissan Cedric in Kabukicho
Nissan Cedric in Kabukicho
Nissan Cedric in Osaka
Nissan Cedric in Osaka

The End of an Era

With times changing and technological advancements reshaping the automotive industry along with the gradual move towards a world where cars drive themselves, Toyota inevitably announced the end of production for the Crown Comfort. With the final examples rolling of the production lines in early 2018.

The Comfort's replacement, the Toyota JPN Taxi, hard at work in Kabukicho
The Comfort’s replacement, the Toyota JPN Taxi, hard at work in Kabukicho

While the Toyota Comfort and its variants are slowly disappearing from the streets and the opportunities to catch them in a shot are fading, its legacy will certainly live on in the photos of street photographers exploring Tokyo in its heyday. With this in mind it highlights an important principle in photography: we should photograph things now rather than later, not expecting anything to last forever.

Taking a break
The taxis are changing, but taking a break hasn’t changed one bit.

These days the Comfort’s replacement, the Toyota JPN Taxi, is becoming a common sight in Tokyo’s streets. Will it have its turn as the iconic symbol of Japanese transportation? Time will tell. In any case, with the last Comfort having been produced in 2018 I imagine we are slowly drawing nearer to the days when they become a truly rare sight on the road. With this in mind I would suggest capturing what you can while you can—I will certainly be—as the Toyota Comfort slowly fades into history.

Toyota Comfort navigating through Kabukicho with JPN Taxi waiting its turn the background
Toyota Comfort navigating through Kabukicho with JPN Taxi waiting its turn the background

Go on the hunt for retro taxis on our Tokyo Cyberpunk Streets photo adventure!

Tokyo Taxi Gallery

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