At first I didn’t like the idea of a bus tour. It seemed too – ordinary. As though it lacked adventure. But since our trip to Tokyo was a long one, and since I really knew nothing about what I was getting myself into, I though a bus tour might be a good primer on the city.
The Shoebox Chef and I gave our third day of the trip over the Hato Dynamic Tokyo full day bus tour.
The yellow and red busses scurry from one Tokyo attraction to another. If you visit a major attraction, odds are there’s a Hato bus in the parking lot.
The tour cost 12,000 yen per person (approximately $120). They picked us up at our hotel, took us to the bus terminal, processed our tickets, gave us green stickers for our shirts, and we were off.
The busses have assigned seating, just like most major airlines. The seats are a little snug, but not too bad. If you was a little extra space, try to get a seat on the left side of the bus, because those aisle armrests will lift up.
The tour took us to Tokyo Tower, a Tea Ceremony, BBQ lunch at the Four Seasons, the Imperial Palace Nijubashi Bridge, a half hour river cruise, and finally, the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. (Future posts will detail those visits.)They then took us all back to the bus station and we all boarded shuttles for our hotels.
The primary challenge of a bus tour is getting everyone on and off the bus in a timely manner. Unlike touring on your own, you are a slave to the bus schedule. You don’t have the option of lingering. And one you are on the bus, odds are you still have to wait for others before the bus can leave. Touring starts to require a stop watch.
At the sites, there is less exploring. Because you are on the mission and time table you follow your guide. In this case, we spent the day following a golden Koi around the city.
Our guide, Nobu-san, was awesome. She was knowledgeable, entertaining, and funny. She shared great trivia and history about Tokyo, and taught us all a few key phrases of Japanese. Her English was excellent.
The biggest disappointment on the tour was the stop at the Sensoji Temple. It was the last day of a 3-day festival there, which sounds like it should be the perfect time to be there. Unfortunately, the crowds were just too massive. Most people in our group ended up not visiting the temple itself because it would have taken too long to get there and then get back in time to catch the bus. I can’t really blame Hato for that, however.
Despite the limitations of the genre, I’m glad we took the tour. We got to see and do things we certainly would not have otherwise. On our own, we wouldn’t have participated in an abbreviated tea ceremony or had that BBQ lunch. We might have made it Tokyo Tower and the Imperial Palace, but without the context Nobu-san brought.
The cost is the only thing that keeps this from being a full recommendation. It’s just a little more than I would like. I would likely have felt better about the cost of the stop at Sensoji went a little better.
But I’m glad we did it.
This video is the first 10 minutes of the tour. Most of the video is the streets of Tokyo we drove through. You can hear Nobu-san introducing the tour in the background.