Do you need a taxi?
Easy! Prepare yourself.
There are plenty of taxi in Japan. They are cheap, easy, they won't try to cheat on you, they have white lace cover seats and they are safe. You even feel like a VIP when the driver has white gloves.
But their driver might not understand other language than Japanese, and worse, he might not know the way.
First problem: only Japanese.
Well, the best way is to prepare yourself and get an access map and the address of the places you want to go. Keep a map of your hotel just in case too.
Second problem: they do not know the way.
It is quite usual in Japan where urbanization is somehow, hem, highly creative.
In Tokyo, most of the taxi have a navigation system. It helps.
A good way is to explain that it is close to a famous spot: It is close to Roppongi Hills, or, close to the post office of Shibuya, or close to a large hotel... And then, you might need to navigate your driver from there if you know the way. If you do not know, the map you have prepared in case the driver does not speaker English will help too.
In Kyoto, things get tough because, although the city is well organized, the way to tell the address is unorthodox.
Interesting conversation in taxis
If you speak a little Japanese or, if the driver speaks a little English, you might discover interesting things...
Usually, the driver will start the conversation and say something like:
-oh, you speak well Japanese (don't think that he is lying, it is just a prompt to start the conversation...)
- where do you come from (best case), are you American? (not best case)
Depending on your driver, you can get a talk on politics, on economy, on his life, ...
My top 3 best drivers have talked to me about:
- the (quite old) car of the Emperor: he does not need a new one!
- the life of a sailor on a salmon fishing boat (they prepare they hooks during the whole trip from Japan to the Scandinavian Sea)
- a race pigeon lover and I have learned that Japanese people buy Belgian pigeon for mating only because their feathers are not adapted to the humid climatic conditions. But mixed to Japanese blood, they made very nice hybrid winners!