With their drivers’ faces hidden, these taxis are a peek into Japanese theater culture.
With their white-gloved drivers, automatically opening rear doors, and doily-decorated interiors, Japanese taxis are a unique slice of the country’s modern culture. But Yokohama-based taxicab operator Sanwa Kotsu, which also serves the Tokyo area, occasionally likes to add in a dash of traditional culture to its services as well.
Previously, Sanwa Kotsu let passengers engage in a bit of yabusame horseback archery-inspired target shooting from the back of its cars, and now it’s offering the pageantry of kabuki and other classic forms of Japanese stage art with its new Kuroko Taxi service.
Kuroko are the stagehands employed in Japanese theater productions, most commonly seen in kabuki and bunraku puppet plays (and, if you’re a fan of 1990s-era fighting video games, the Neo Geo hit Samurai Shodown). Dressed from head to toe in black, including a cloth face cover, kuroko’s monochrome outfits are supposed to be interpreted as not being part of the scene, and so audiences are supposed to ignore their presence and focus on the actors, scenery, and props. The irony, however, is that kuroko attire is so iconic as to be instantly recognizable.
▼ Sanwa promises that the drivers are always smiling, even if you can’t see their mouths.
Just like their stage counterparts, Sanwa Kotsu’s Kuroko Taxi drivers remain completely silent, greeting passengers with a written welcome to the cab.
As such, the company recommends the service not only for those who want a memorable, uniquely Japanese journey, but also those who just aren’t in the mood for small talk. But while the kuroko drivers won’t be doing any speaking, they are equipped to understand your words, as their cabs are outfitted with Google translation-compatible technology that allows them to understand more than 100 languages, including English, Sanwa Kotsu says.
▼ Keeping the car as clean as his clothes.
Oh, and don’t worry. When the car is in motion, the drivers remove their face covers in order to properly see their surroundings and ensure you get to your destination safely.
Given the niche marketing, Kuroko Taxis are available by reservation, with the online form found here.