[From April Issue 2014]
High-class overnight buses that resemble hotel lounges have begun trending. Characterized by spacious seats, the bus’ interior creates a calm atmosphere. Slightly more expensive than normal, but replete with a high-class atmosphere, these kinds of buses are on the rise and have been gaining popularity.
Compared to using airplanes, shinkansen, or other rail travel, bus travel takes longer. In addition, some say that traffic jams add to the journey time and that it is tiring sitting in the same position for long periods. However, bus fares are cheaper and more economical than other means of transportation. To get more people to opt for taking the bus, bus companies have begun to move towards creating a more comfortable travelling space.
Connecting Tokyo and Tokushima, “My Flora” of Kaifu-kanko Co., Ltd., Tokushima Prefecture, is popular. There are only 12 seats on a motor coach that usually sits 45. Each seat is self-contained, like a private room in a travelling hotel. A spacious restroom, where one can change clothes, is installed in the rear.
It is common to use an airplane to get from Tokyo to Shikoku, but the fare costs 29,670 yen one way. However, My Flora costs 13,000 yen one way, less than half the price of the plane fare. Public relations officer, YAMAMOTO Hirofumi says, “Because the bus goes direct to its destination, it saves you the hassle of traveling to an airport. Also car rental arrangements are possible from the bus stop, making it convenient for sightseeing. We want to establish more bus stops in future.”
Featuring high-performance seats – available depending on the vehicle – WILLER EXPRESS is an express bus laid on by a company called WILLER EXPRESS JAPAN Co., Ltd. (Osaka City, Osaka). The “Executive” in the first floor part of the double decker is especially luxurious and popular. The soft, fluffy seats are 80 centimeters wide and can be extended flat like a bed, making it possible to stretch your feet out as far as you like.
Additionally, with seats arranged diagonally, “the Cocoon” has an atmosphere similar to a capsule hotel. Either seat is installed with monitors, so a movie, TV, or games can be enjoyed. On top of that, to secure privacy and safety, the seats can be blocked off with a partition. This is available mainly for the routes that link the Kansai area and Tokyo. If the bus departs Osaka at around 10 pm, it will arrive in Tokyo at around 7:30 in the morning the next day.
Public relations officer, IKE Aiko, says, “You can discover a new lifestyle if you utilize the overnight bus effectively. Rather than waking up early to depart, if you have a good sleep on the bus the night before, the day begins comfortably.” Bus fares are from 8,000 yen to 12,000 yen, and, depending on the season, there are also discount sales campaigns.
New high speed omnibus regulations were enforced last August. One of its provisions to “secure bus stops” is difficult, and in some cases, passengers must board the bus from a location distant from a train station. The issue now for bus companies is securing more convenient bus stops. WILLER EXPRESS bus stops have cafés adjacent to them; forgetting the inconvenience they are popular with users.
Text: MUKAI Natsuko