OSAKA - Osaka Sky Vista, the first open-top tourist bus in Osaka Prefecture, has been well received - with repeat customers - since its launch about five months ago, as passengers are treated to a sense of space and quick trips to various Osaka landmarks.
The double-deck bus operates daily in the city on a fixed schedule.
"I was refreshed by seeing the blue sky. I also enjoyed the coloured leaves of the trees along the route," said Fumiaki Kimoto, 64, an auto mechanic from Chikugo, Fukuoka Prefecture, who took the bus tour in early November.
To attract customers in the upcoming cold season, which is less appealing for passengers on an open-top bus, the bus operator started operating the bus at night, too, coinciding with an illumination event in the city. In Fukuoka, a similar open-top bus traveling around winter illumination spots at night is very popular among couples.
The Osaka bus was launched by Kintetsu Bus Co. in July to provide a quick tour around popular tourist spots in Osaka. The bus departs from Kintetsu Railway's Osaka Uehonmachi Station and makes a guided tour of about 80 minutes four times a day, traveling near the Abeno Harukas high-rise building and the Dotombori entertainment district. The bus does not run in heavy rain. In light rain, rainproof cloaks are lent to passengers.
Passengers can enjoy unusual, impressive views as the bus' open second deck travels very close to traffic signals and other objects. The company has received inquiries from tourists and also many business travelers who want to make a short trip in Osaka using scarce free time.
The number of passengers varies according to the season and time. The average number on each service is a little more than 10. The number of passengers has not been affected very much by the cool autumn weather. On one weekday service in late October, the bus was fully booked, according to the company.
As the open-top section is windy, the bus operator is considering how to attract passengers in the winter season. As measures to cope with the cold weather, the company has started giving out disposable body warmers and lending blankets to passengers.
Starting in December, the bus operates at night, too, to coincide with the Festival of Light in Osaka 2014, an illumination event being held in central Osaka, so that passengers can enjoy illuminated trees and buildings along Midosuji avenue.
"The bus service is received well, but it should be better known," said an employee of Kintetsu Bus that operates the service. "Although the air is getting cold, we hope passengers become fans of the bus as they enjoy the illuminated night-scape in the city."
The bus tour costs ¥2,000 (S$22) for adults, and ¥1,000 for primary school students and younger. Children aged 3 or younger cannot ride the bus. For more information, call Kintetsu Kosoku Bus Center (Kintetsu express bus centre) at (06) 6772-1631.
Success in Tokyo, Fukuoka
Open-top tourist buses are popular in Tokyo and Fukuoka, too.
In Tokyo, Hato Bus Co. has operated open-top buses since 2009. The number of tourists using these buses, which travel around popular tourist spots for about an hour, has increased by 30 per cent over the last three years, according to the company.
In Fukuoka, Nishi-Nippon Railroad Co. has operated similar buses since 2012. Passengers on the night service, which is provided in winter to visit popular illumination spots, include many couples, who huddle together. An average of about 90 per cent of its seats are occupied, the company said.
Meanwhile, in Osaka, Nihon Suiriku Kanko Co. has provided the Osaka Duck Tour since 2007, operating a 40-seat amphibious bus, which has a roof but no window panes by its passenger seats.