Dream Sleeper is a brand-new premium overnight bus service by Kanto Bus Co., Ltd. that started operating just some days ago. This is the first bus in the industry to feature completely private rooms, offering unparalleled comfort and convenience for all passengers on board!
To help you with your trip planning, here are more details about the service and recommendations for a better ride to your destination from someone who has personally taken the bus, in the form of an experience report. So hang on tight and enjoy the ride with us!
Where Have You Been All My Life?! The Birth of an Overnight Bus that Lives Up to Its Name
Long-distance travelers will agree: Finding an appropriate mode of transportation can be such a chore sometimes! The Shinkansen bullet train is obviously the transportation of choice for those wanting the fastest option, but what if you'd rather sightsee or shop for souvenirs during that time, since the Shinkansen only runs during the day? The answer many will likely arrive at is an overnight bus. You'll arrive at your destination first thing in the morning, even before the first Shinkansen, and this is a very appealing point to both businessmen and tourists alike.
On the other hand, since overnight buses spend a much longer time on the road, one can't help but wonder: Is it possible to find an overnight bus that not only brings you to your destination as you sleep, but is as comfortable as it is convenient?
Rejoice! For your voices have been heard! The Dream Sleeper bus is the industry's response to demands for a more premium overnight bus service. Without further ado, let's hop onto the bus and see just how well it lives up to its daring claims of a smooth and comfortable overnight journey!
The bus stop is located in front of Ikebukuro Station. Early birds are welcome to rest until departure at a waiting room
The bus runs from Tokyo to Osaka and back. The Tokyo bus stop is at the rotary just in front of Tokyo Metropolitan Theater, immediately after you come out from the West Exit of Ikebukuro Station on the JR Lines.
I was instructed to wait at the bus stop 10 minutes before boarding time, but arrived more than half an hour early in my excitement and ended up having to wait for departure time at a nearby waiting room.
The Ikebukuro Nishiguchi Information Center is in a building about a one-minute walk from the bus stop. It contains a makeup corner for the exclusive use of ladies. The center is also open until 12 midnight, which is the boarding time for the final bus of the day, and security guards patrol the place even at night. This means even female solo travelers can wait for the bus here in absolute peace of mind!
(Left) The ladies' corner is at the back. (Upper right) There's a bus schedule display on the wall facing the chairs. (Lower right) Power outlets are available for use as well!
Time to board the bus! Wait, what? I have to take off my shoes?
The bus rolls into the bus stop about five minutes before departure time. It doesn't seem that much bigger than other overnight buses at first glance. How is it possible to fit 11 private rooms in a bus like this? It's going to be cramped beyond belief, right? One just has to wonder.
The driver approaches and politely offers to help us stow our luggage away.
Larger luggage pieces are stowed at the bottom compartment of the bus. You'll be issued a ticket that you have to use to retrieve your luggage after disembarking.
▲The other half of this ticket is attached to your suitcase in order to help passengers avoid accidentally collecting the wrong luggage.
After all that's done, it's finally time to board the bus. All of a sudden, the driver requests all passengers to take off their shoes. No shoes allowed on the bus? This seemingly simple bus trip suddenly turns into a homey hotel stay. Not that it's a bad thing at all!
A space so private, you quickly forget you're on a bus
The search for the room number given by the driver begins...wait. What in the world am I looking at?!
▲A soothing fragrance touches your senses the moment you step onto the bus, which uses aromatherapy to help its passengers drift into dreamland in pleasant comfort.
There are rooms in the bus. There's a corridor leading to said rooms. And it looks like there's something else at the far end of this hallway, too. Suppressing my urge to explore, I look around for my assigned room first.
There it is!
▲The seat is wide enough to accommodate my average 160cm (5'3") body frame, and I was even able to turn around in my sleep!
▲Each room comes with buttons to adjust your seat inclination or ambient lighting. The buttons are labeled with easy-to-understand icons, so that even foreigners will have an easy time figuring them out!
▲There's a help switch located on the ceiling as well. If you're feeling unwell, you can let the driver know through this switch from within your room itself.
▲Each room comes with Wi-Fi access and an information sheet on how you can access it, Instructions are available in English and Simplified Chinese as well.
Right next to the soft and plushy reclining chair is a large and unblocked window looking out at the passing scenery. The lighting control panel is also within reach, and next to that panel is a fold-up table and air purifier. Did I mention that you get access to free Wi-Fi as well? It's almost as if you're traveling on a business or first-class cabin on an airplane! The comfortable seat has more than enough room for my 160cm (5'3") average body frame, making it easy to relax in. So easy, in fact, that the overpowering urge to fall asleep was hard to fight off!
Hotel-quality powder room and restroom
After leaving my hand luggage beneath the table, I start exploring the bus interior in more detail.
The one thing that intrigued me the most when I first boarded the bus was the powder room at end of the corridor, so I head there first. The lighting here has clearly been designed to make it easy for ladies to put on their makeup in the morning - a tasteful touch that tells you they've really thought this through! Q-tips or cotton swabs are also available for passengers to use.
Right around the mid-section of the bus is the restroom, situated about half a level lower than guestrooms, ensuring complete privacy. The toilet itself comes installed with a washlet. You wouldn't expect to see such high-tech toilet functions in a bus of all places, so it's a pleasant surprise for sure!
▲This high-tech toilet bowl is something you would expect to see in a posh hotel room. It's installed to keep level with the bus as it moves forward, so the constant moving won't hinder your business here at all.
Incredible hospitality, amenities, and service!
After my mini "bus tour", I return to my room and an announcement is made that we will be departing soon, and a crew member will be going around to greet passengers in their rooms. A short while later, the crew member reaches my room and knocks on the door.
It's the driver, who greets me politely and hands me a bottle of mineral water and a packet of hand towel.
This is done for every room on the bus, making all passengers feel welcomed and right at home!
I take some time to look carefully around the room as well, and spot an amenity pack.
▲Besides the items in the photograph, you can also borrow blankets, headphones, and USB cables.
The amenity pack comes with a toothbrush, ear plugs, surgical mask, eye mask, and other bus-related goods. The eye mask is my personal highlight - it releases steam to help you to relax!
Without further ado, I change into the house clothes the bus company has so kindly prepared for the passengers, lower the recliner chair, turn down the lights, and put on the eye mask, confident that I'll fall asleep in no time at all.
I fall asleep in no time at all.
Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy... I fell instantly asleep and slept like a baby, only waking up when the driver made an announcement that we've reached the halfway break stop!
The route that I'm on this time goes from Tokyo to Osaka in an eight-hour journey with one rest stop in between. The bus will drop by a service area, and passengers who wish to disembark for a while will be given this tag for identification purposes.
What a great idea! Since this is a service area where many buses stop over at, you may find yourself unable to locate your bus among the tightly packed rows of other similar-looking buses. Although the text on the card is in Japanese, it also comes with a photograph of the bus, so even foreigners who can't read Japanese will be able to locate the bus without too much difficulties.
The break lasted about 10 minutes before we set off again to complete the last leg of our journey. Needless to mention, I quickly fall asleep in my plush and comfy seat again.
Arriving at Osaka completely refreshed, I'm ready to play the day away!
Before I even realized it, the bus has arrived at Namba, Osaka. An announcement is made 10 minutes before reaching the bus stop, so you don't have to worry about waking up already at the bus stop and trying to pack your things together while still in a daze. Announcements are also made in English, so international visitors can rest assured as well! The driver helps us to unload our stowed luggage, marking the end of our overnight trip. Thanks for taking such good care of us throughout the long journey, Mr. Driver!
▲The same driver was in charge during my return trip to Tokyo as well! Thanks again!
The bus will stop at the OCAT Mall building, which is completely indoors and directly connected to Namba Station on the JR Lines. This means you'll be fully shielded from rain or shine all the way to the station, something those carting around large pieces of luggage will definitely appreciate!
*The bus is not currently stopping at OCAT due to a change in bus stops.
So there you have it - a full report on the Dream Sleeper bus where you'll find it hard to NOT fall asleep! The coolest part about the bus is how it takes you to your destination while you're sleeping and drops you off fresh and raring to go at a time that's conducive to a whole day of proper sightseeing - whether that means you'll be visiting Universal Studio Japan or taste-testing all the delectable gourmet food Osaka has to offer! If you're on a tight schedule and can't stay in an Osaka hotel overnight, can't be bothered to jump through even more hoops to book yet another hotel on your trip, or just want to make the most effective use of your time in Japan, you can do no better than to consider using the Dream Sleeper to firm up your itinerary!
Dream Sleeper Tokyo-Osaka
Stops: Ikebukuro West Exit No. 7 - Shinjuku Station West Exit No. 14 - Namba Station on the Nankai Line - In Front of Osaka Station's Sakurabashiguchi ALBi - Kodamashako
Fee: Adults 18,000 yen to 20,000 yen; Children 14,500 yen to 15,000 yen
*Fee varies depending on season.
*All seats are pre-assigned.
*This article is up-to-date as of April 2019. Please note that since the July 17, 2019, due to a rail network reconfiguration, the bus no longer stops at OCAT.
*Photo credit: KANTO Bus Co., Ltd.
English translation by: Huimin Pan