As Tokyo’s skyline becomes dotted with more and more sights to see, tour bus operators are taking advantage of increased business opportunities.
With new structures such as Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Gate Bridge now on full display, open-topped double-decker bus tours are gaining in popularity as they allow unobstructed views of tall buildings.
Anticipating that the number of people who want to see these sights will continue to grow, sightseeing bus operators are exploring new courses or increasing the number of vehicles they use.
Passengers on a recent bus tour operated by the Hinomaru Limousine Co. were excited as Tokyo Skytree, the world’s highest free-standing broadcast tower, came into view on a clear day in May.
“You can see right up to the top of the 634-meter tower because this is an open-topped bus,” explained Yumiko Ikegami, a 29-year-old bus tour guide, as all 36 passengers on board turned in the direction of Tokyo Skytree.
“Without a roof, we can see (Tokyo Skytree) so well,” Shinichi Ikeda, a 65-year-old visitor from Chiba Prefecture, said with a look of satisfaction.
Hinomaru Limousine started running open-topped sightseeing bus tours in Tokyo in 2004. Despite many cancellations on rainy days and fewer passengers in winter, the total number of passengers has been steadily increasing. It was at 30,000 in the first fiscal year, and by fiscal 2010 the number had jumped to 120,000.
“Tokyo has many high-rise buildings,” noted Takako Uchida, an official with the company’s tour division. “With nothing hampering your view, open-topped buses are very popular.”
The company has already asked the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Tourism and Transport for permission to use new courses.
Hato Bus Co., another sightseeing bus operator, introduced open-top buses in 2009 and they also have a course that includes a view of Tokyo Skytree. An average of 156 people a day joined their bus tours during the August-October season in 2011, an increase of 41 passengers per day over the same period the previous year.
“You can enjoy a view of the city from above and feel the wind in your face,” said Masahiro Nagano, Hato Bus’s chief public relations official. “Young people say it feels like they are riding an attraction at an amusement park.”
Other transport companies have followed suit in a bid to get in on the action. Fuji Kyuko Co., in Fuji-Yoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, and the Nishi-Nippon Railroad Co. in Fukuoka introduced open-topped tour buses in 2010 and March this year, respectively.
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