Our friend Takuto had invited us to his hometown in Takatsuki and we decided to take the opportunity to visit his hometown for 12 days in June last year. Takatsuki is a town located in between Osaka and Kyoto and for us, it was a nice base location to travel around the Kansai region.
To get to Takatsuki, we chose to take the Willer Express to get to Kyoto. There are several ways to get to Osaka/Kyoto. You can take the bus, the shinkansen (bullet train) or you can take a plane. Depending on the season you can get your bus tickets to Osaka/Kyoto for as low as 3,600 yen! The bus may be one of the cheapest option to take to go to Osaka/Kyoto compared to the shinkansen or plane but it takes longer to reach the destination (8 hours or so). If i remembered correctly, our tickets cost us about 4,600 yen. Takuto ordered the tickets for us so all we needed to do was to just show up at the bus area that was located at the kajibashi parking lot near to Tokyo station.
The shinkansen ticket would would cost 13,000 ++ yen one way but, it would be one of the fastest option with reaching your destination in 2 hr 30 min. The plane ticket would cost 5,000++ yen one way (depending on the offers that some airlines have even lower!) and the duration of the flight would be 1 hour but that does not include the the price you would need to pay to take the train to the airports (be it Narita or Haneda) and also, it would mean that you would need to be at the airport earlier for check-in.
There are several bus operators that serve the Kanto- Kansai region but it can be said that Willer Express has some of the cheapest fares available!
Finding the bus terminal area was a challenge after getting off Tokyo Station but we managed to do so and we sat outside of the terminal to wait for Takuto to arrive. I assumed that there would be some seats around the terminal but there wasn’t much so we were left with sitting at the side curbs or standing around the area. Takuto arrived a little after us and we went in to wait for our bus.
The bus is usually on time but on the night that we were taking the bus (18 Jun 2014), it was somewhat delayed and we had to wait a while at the terminal that did not have much sitting area. What I thought was rather interesting was the portable toilets available at the terminal and that it was so clean! I was really amazed at that because I was so used to portable toilets in Singapore/Malaysia being so gross and dirty.
Before we boarded the bus, as we were lining up, there was a bus personnel checking our ticket (it was an email on Takuto’s phone). Upon knowing that we are 3 (2 males and a female), the first thing the personnel told us (in Japanese of course) was that if the passenger sitting beside Takuto is a female, we would need to swap places and that I would be sitting with that female instead. I found the request to be rather odd but J was telling me that they do this as a precaution incase there are male perverts sitting beside a lady or in a nice way, so that ladies don’t feel uncomfortable sitting beside a guy in the bus. With the ladies seat policy, I can say that solo female travellers can feel safe this way.
J placed our big travelling bag into the luggage compartment located just below the bus and once we got on the bus, I have to say that I was rather shocked on the configuration of the seats, with the first rows seats being spaced and the four seat configuration at the back part of the bus. I was also a little excited about the head covers that were located just above the seats!
Takuto demonstrating on how to use the head covers available on the seat. We were kinda lucky because the passenger beside him was a guy so I got to sit beside J for the trip to Kyoto.
There was also an information pamphlet in the seat pocket. I wish that they had stuff like this in those buses in Malaysia because I find that people who travel on the buses there are rather rude in a way that they would just recline their seats waaaay back without even asking making you lose that already little leg space you have.
Trying our the head covers of my seat. I have to say that I was impressed with the covers because it meant that I could fall asleep without worrying about showing my not that great sleeping face to people on the bus. On our family bus rides to or from Kuala Lumpur, my elder brother always took rather unglam photos of me sleeping and well, if we had this in the bus in Malaysia, I think my brother would never have the chance to take those shots!
22:54 at night and we are waiting for the bus to depart. Once it did depart, I have to say that it was one of the smoothest ride I had. The seat was comfortable, there was ample leg space and of course there was the head covers that gave awesome privacy. The lights were dimmed pretty fast and for those who wants to sleep, they can pretty much do that.
The bus stopped at a rest stop after 2 or 3 hours and we got to stretch our legs and most importantly, go to the toilet! The shop at the rest stop had pretty much a lot of souvenir things to buy and we got some nuts to curb our hunger a little. I felt bad falling asleep in the bus as J can’t fall asleep in a moving vehicle. It has always been a habit for me to sleep in buses or airplanes and it is a really hard habit to break.
After a rather nice sleep, I woke up at about 5 am to continue writing a research paper that I had to finish. We reached Kyoto station at about 7am or so and after getting off the bus and taking our bags we headed to take the local train to Takatsuki. We could have stopped at Osaka too but it was faster to drop off at Kyoto and take the train from Kyoto Station to Takatsuki station.
All in all, the bus ride was one of the nicest bus ride I have ever taken and I am pretty sure it would be unfair if I were to keep comparing the bus rides I’ve taken in Malaysia to this bus ride but all I can say that it was a pretty comfortable one.