Photo/IllutrationThe giant torii gate of the Heianjingu shrine in Kyoto’s Sakyo Ward, which measures 24 meters high and 18 meters in width, can be seen from an open-top double-decker Sky Hop Bus Kyoto. (Provided by JTB Corp.)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KYOTO--With the city struggling to serve the growing numbers of tourists, a company that provides double-decker bus tours is hoping to take some of the load off the public transportation system.

Sky Hop Bus Kyoto takes visitors to many of the must-see spots including Kinkakuji temple (Golden Pavilion) and Nijo Castle, both UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Skyhop Bus Marketing Japan Co., a joint company of JTB Corp., Keihan Bus Co. and Hinomaru Jidousya Kougyo Co., started a similar service in Tokyo in 2012. More than 90 percent of their customers are foreign visitors, according to an official.

In recent years, a rapidly increasing number of tourists from overseas are flocking to Kyoto, causing congestion in regular city buses.

“We hope our services will help alleviate the phenomenon of so-called ‘overtourism,’ where local people’s lives are affected by too many tourists,” said a JTB official.

Passengers are allowed to board a Sky Hop Bus Kyoto and disembark at any of 11 stops that are magnets for tourists. The buses run 17 round trips a day every 30 minutes, with the first bus setting off from Kyoto Station at 9 a.m. and bound for Kiyomizudera temple, the final stop. The final bus of the day departs at 5 p.m.

Each double-decker bus has a capacity of about 50 passengers and can accommodate foreign visitors. Explanations on sightseeing spots and precautionary warnings are announced in seven languages.

The round-trip tour bus stops at the Kitano Tenmangu shrine, the Kyoto Imperial Palace, the Heianjingu shrine and the four-centuries-old Nishiki Market, which boasts a 390-meter-long shopping avenue called the “kitchen of Kyoto.”

Skyhop Bus plans to introduce cashless payments including by QR code and expand the transportation areas.

A ticket valid for 24 hours for adults is 3,500 yen ($31.30) including tax. For children from ages 6 to 11, the fee is 1,700 yen.

If a customer purchases a one-day ticket at 3 p.m. on June 30, it will be valid until 3 p.m. on July 1. A 48-hour ticket is priced at 6,000 yen for adults and 3,000 yen for children.