A sightseeing bus whose “roof was ripped” now runs around in Kagoshima, where volcanic ash from Mount Sakurajima falls when it erupts. (Tomoya Nozaki)

KAGOSHIMA--A tourism company here is offering tourists a chance to experience what most residents would rather not deal with--falling volcanic ash.

The ash often falls all over Kagoshima from eruptions of Mount Sakurajima, causing breathing discomfort and irritating the eyes.

The company started operating a sightseeing bus with no roof on Aug. 2 to offer the natural nuisance as part of the attraction for visitors.

Operated by Kyushu Miyabi Kanko, the company, which handles chartered buses and offers other sightseeing options, wants tourists to also be able to enjoy volcanic ash by providing them with protective tools.

According to Kyushu Miyabi Kanko President Masaki Motomura, there were concerns about the operation of the open-top bus in the city. But the president decided to proceed with the project, saying that it would be a good experience for travelers although volcanic ash is a nuisance for the locals.

Goggles and breathing masks are always kept in the bus for passengers to keep volcanic ash out of their eyes and mouths.

“We may suspend the operation when a huge amount of volcanic ash falls, but it can be enjoyed when it is just a certain amount of ash,” Motomura said confidently.

The double-decker, open-top Kagonma Sora Bus, with a capacity of about 40 passengers, was unveiled on Aug. 1 for media outlets. The company offers five routes going around sightseeing spots, the city-center and other places for about two to three hours, making stops at the bronze statues of local heroes Saigo Takamori (1827-1877) and Okubo Toshimichi (1830-1878), the Sengan-en garden and other famous spots.

One of the routes takes passengers to the volcanic island of Sakurajima on the other side of Kinko Bay. Passengers can enjoy spacious views of the prefectural capital from the upper deck, where they can look down at streetcars when the bus runs side by side with the trams.

But when Sakurajima erupts, volcanic ash falls on the city depending on the direction of the wind, with accumulated ash stirred up on roads.

“It is rare worldwide to see an active volcano sitting right next to a city. Goggles can also be a tool to enjoy sightseeing,” said Keisuke Kogi, who gives advice to the Kagoshima prefectural government on its sightseeing policies.

The bus tours around the city are available for 2,000 yen ($18) for junior high school students or older and 1,000 yen for children 4 and older. The route running around Sakurajima is offered for 3,000 yen for junior high school students or older and 1,500 yen for children 4 and older. Children younger than 3 are not allowed on any of the tours.