Bus picks up revelers who missed stations in western Tokyo

In tune with the year-end party season, Nishitokyo Bus, a bus company based in Hachioji, Tokyo, that operates fixed-route buses mainly in the western Tama district, has started to operate a “relief” bus for passengers who miss their stops and find themselves stranded at JR Takao terminal station on the last Chuo special rapid train on the JR Chuo Line.

If people take the special rapid train bound for Takao Station, which leaves Shinjuku Station at 12:11 a.m., and miss their stops by dozing off until the Takao terminal station, where the train arrives at 12:55 a.m., no Tokyo-bound train is available to help them correct their error.

The station is close to Mt. Takao and there are few overnight lodgings available in the neighborhood, so more than a few stranded passengers can be seen loitering around the station especially on weekends, according to the bus company.

A bus driver at the bus company himself had such an experience when he worked for another company, so he proposed the idea of the relief bus service to Nishitokyo Bus.

In December last year, the bus company provided the service to carry passengers who had fallen asleep to an urban area in Hachioji, where there are many accommodation facilities and stores that are open until late at night.

According to the bus company, the service was popular, even though the fare of ¥880 is double the daytime fare. A total of 150 people used the service over seven days.

The company decided to operate the bus service in the early morning hours on Saturdays in December this year. Six people used the service in the early morning of Dec. 12, and another 24 people used it a week later. An official at the company said, “It is best not to sleep too long or drink too much, but if people face this situation, we want them to use our service.”

Just before 1 a.m. on Dec. 19, the area around the JR Takao Station was pitch black and very quiet. Passengers, including some people walking drunkenly, streamed out of a ticket gate. Holding up a placard, a bus company employee guided the passengers in front of the station through the cold night.

“I’m moved. There is something good in life,” Taro Morita, 45, a company employee, who lives in Hachioji, said with improved humour. He said he had overslept and missed his station, Hachioji, two stations before Takao Station, as he drank too much wine at a year-end party.

The experience was not limited to people living along the Chuo Line. Some people had taken the wrong line and went in a completely different direction.

A young man who looked at a loss said, “I intended to go to Chiba but I when I arrived I noticed I was in Takao.” He appeared to be considerably drunk.

Many of the 24 people who got on the bus looked like company employees.

The passengers included two women. Although the smell of alcohol could be detected in the air, it was very quiet in the bus.

When the bus arrived at the terminal of the north exit of JR Hachioji Station, people got off as if they were attracted by the station lights and walked away unsteadily, calling for taxis or seeking accommodation facilities.