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People on package tours to Tokyo are now being treated to free bus rides to the newest attractions to rise far above old Edo — a number of massive and gleaming redevelopment projects that have recently opened their doors for business.

JTB Corp. started such a bus service Oct. 1 to cater to increased domestic tourism amid a decline in the number of people making trips abroad.

Hato Bus Co., which has become synonymous with tourism in Tokyo, is now operating buses that tour such locations as the Roppongi entertainment district, which is growing ever more popular because of the Roppongi Hills complex of skyscrapers, high-rise apartment buildings, mall and multiplex theaters.

Hato’s Hatomaru-kun buses have glass upper front sections that offer passengers easy viewing of the new high-rises.

JTB’s free bus service — Tokyo BayRex — covers the new Shiodome redevelopment site, Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Disney Resort, among other locations.

Shiodome, virtually a small city unto itself near both Shimbashi and Ginza, has just emerged as a must-see for tourists and includes high-rise office buildings, restaurants, bars, a hotel and TV station, with even more facilities under construction.

The nation’s biggest travel agency plans to operate the bus service from morning till night at one- to two-hour intervals through next spring. The catch — bookings are restricted to people who are staying in Tokyo and its vicinity on one of the company’s package tours.

In the course of a bus ride, passengers can view see-through elevators running up and down at high speed along a hotel tower in Shiodome before being transported to the Odaiba district, built on an artificial island in Tokyo Bay.

The bus then proceeds over Rainbow Bridge to the newly renovated JR Shinagawa Station, which has just become the newest stop on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line.

Passengers taking an evening tour by bus are treated to Tokyo’s cityscape brimming with lights and illuminating Japan’s newest jewels, including Roppongi Hills.

Shigeki Wakatabe of JTB’s Ace Planning Section is one of the employees who came up with the idea for the bus service. He was transferred to Tokyo six months ago after spending about 10 years in the Kansai region.

He said the concept came partly out of self-interest — because the metropolis seemed exciting but overwhelming when he was first transferred — and partly from ideas from other employees who were working outside the capital.

Kazuyuki Goto, deputy chief of Hato Bus public relations, said that while Tokyo’s public transportation system is convenient, “many tourists say they find it daunting to use because it can be complicated. Such people take part in our bus tours.”

And of course, he added, the bus offers a great view.

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