The night bus

Travel between Japan's two largest cities can be done in a mere two hours via the Shinkansen bullet train, which rockets through the country at speeds up to 200 mph (300 km/h). Alternatively, you could pay more and take seven and half hours and ride a bus [*]. 

 Boarding the 'Dream Sleeper'.

Boarding the 'Dream Sleeper'.

Taking the night bus between Tokyo and Osaka brings you into Osaka at 6:30am; a couple of hours before the first Shinkansen of the day arrives. This potentially makes it the better choice for maximising your time during a visit, which was exactly 0.00% of the reason why I opted for this transport.

I took the bus because there were beds. In your own personal cabin. On a bus. 

BEDS ON A BUS! It's the movie sequel to 'Snakes on a Plane' but with blankets.

I'd seen the 'Dream Sleeper' on SoraNews24, which covers all the news in Japan that I really want to read. The bus leaves Ikebukuro in Tokyo at 10:50pm and has only 11 seats, each in their own individual area with closing door. 

To increase the feeling of stepping into your own bedroom to sleep, shoes are removed before you board the bus and you are offered a pair of slippers. I was to promptly lose these while rolling about on my seat and subsequently padded around the bus in my socks. This probably would have shocked my fellow business-suited passengers, but they were snoozing when I started creeping around in the early hours of the following morning. 

The seat doesn't actually go completely flat. Instead, it cradles you in a horizontal position that is pretty comfortable if you're on your back, but works less well if you roll sideways. Like most of Japan, all is perfection if you confirm to the expected system, but small deviations lead to an exponential falloff of in comfort [**].  According to SoraNews24 (and possibly the brochure in my cabin that was in Japanese), the seats were designed using NASA-technology. It was not impossible to think you might launch into space. Zoom. 

 The seat had a host of controls, an air ioniser and a pair of quality headphones. 

The seat had a host of controls, an air ioniser and a pair of quality headphones. 

The announcements take a while, so it was worth not getting too comfy too quickly. One was even in English, which was a pleasant surprise. The bus website allowed booking in English, but I hadn't expected much language support once I boarded. However, two announcements (at the beginning and end of the trip) were in English and the conductor who came around and passed me a bottle of water and wet towel even spoke some English. The other two initial announcements were in Japanese and seemed to say the same (though I'm not to be well trusted in this regard). One was an automatic recording and the second was from the bus driver. Maybe making announcements is just fun.  

The bus stopped twice enroute, but these pauses were not announced and no one left as far as I could see. Of course, there was little need to (BEDS ON A BUS!). There was a toilet in the middle of the bus that had the full bidet option with far too many buttons, unlike the squat pot that was on the night train I'd previously taken (BEDS ON A TRAIN! Hey, I at least I have a consistent theme). Even for Japan, the rest room was tiny, but that didn't stop the bus providing a pair of bathroom-specific slippers. I'd lost my normal slippers by that stage, and just stepped on top of the bathroom pair. Even rotating them 180 degrees to slide my feet in was a tricky prospect.

 Toilet and 'powder room'.

Toilet and 'powder room'.

At the back of the bus was a 'powder room'. This turned out to consist of a sink with mirror and presumably drinking water, since there was also a stack of paper cups and --slightly more oddly-- a pack of those cotton-tipped ear cleaning sticks. Due to the potential for accidents (likely with said ear sticks), a fold-down seat had been provided that the previous announcements were very insistent you used. I ignored both the sticks and any potential for powder, but I did clean my teeth when I woke the next morning. We'd been given complimentary toothbrush, but with a bristle strength suited to dust off fairy wings, I used my own.  

I didn't actually grab an extended sleep, but this was because YAY! BEDS ON A BUS! Who would want to sleep? Also, they provided free WIFI and an electrical outlet. 

One of the surprisingly great things was the window. Having a whole length of a person's worth of glass gave a great view of the city flashing past. Black-out curtains were provided for anyone who actually did want to sleep on a sleeper night bus, which I admit was useful due to the seizure inducing flashes of street lamps once you closed your eyes. In the morning, the view over the fields surrounding the outskirts of Osaka was great wake-up scenery. 

 Views from the bus.

Views from the bus.

The bus makes two stops in Osaka itself, both about half and hour or so from the central station on the subway line. I reluctantly stepped out and bemoaned the fact I'd not booked the bus for the return journey. Instead, I admit to be taking the return journey in two hours via bullet train. If life is truly all about the climb, then this now seems awfully wasteful.  

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[*] I believe you could also pay substantially less and ride a different bus. But this post was not about cost efficiency. It was about BEDS ON A BUS. 

[**] Don't, for example, sit out on your balcony. The rail will be at the wrong height for any kind of view because it's not for that activity. It's for laundry. The rail is the perfect height for laundry.  Also don't take your town bike out of town. It's for town. And it has no gears.