Tokyo is one of those cities with a very outspoken and recognizable style. This becomes even more clear when you take a look at remarkable lights on the roof of its taxis. The Japanese capital is filled with these colorful expressions that give identity to each of the cabs. Lifestyle and travel blog Been Seen refers to the Takushi signs as a “passing parade of neon art”.
The British photographer Alexander James shows some of the greatest taxi top artworks in his book Tokyo Taxi. Some of the signs have letters and numbers, while others only show drawings of little puppies, frogs and fishermen. Each of them represent a different taxi company, with less serious visual language that we are used to in Western European cities. In fact, all the different signs together represent a taxi identification system that, although hard to understand for strangers, seems to work pretty well. Tokyo has a punctual and friendly taxi system and was awarded best taxi city by Trip Advisor in 2012.
Light signs can tell a lot about the identity of a city. In Tokyo the taxi signs represent a typical Japanese design style that is famous for the use of color, iconic figures and waving cats. No one has ever decided about this style, but it arises from many individual style decission taken by individuals such as apparently taxi company owners. For a city it’s interesting to have such a remarkable own style, that is not only based on history but represents current state of culture and design.
A couple of years ago we wrote an article about the visual style that Berlin developed thanks to the amazing collection of light signs you can find across the city. This style of light obviously represented the rise of Berlin as a emerging creative capital in Europe over the last decade. In an article called ‘Addicted To Health’ we showed what the ubiquitous pharmaceutical light signs in France and Italy tell about the obsession with health in those countries. In Dublin we recently found out that the crafts-oriented style of commercial street signs says a lot about the country’s design potential.