We’ll make this quick: Is it worth it? Yes. If you’ve got limited time to spend in Tokyo, the Sky Hop-on Hop-off Open-top Bus is a thrilling way to see the top spots quickly and without wearing out your legs.

But if you’re looking for a detailed review — including what course to choose and spots to get off at — you’re in the right place. We’ve got a treasure trove of Cheapo tips.

How the Tokyo Sky Hop-on Hop-off Bus works

The Sky Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Bus is a double-decker, open-top bus that allows you to get on and off at major tourist sites around Tokyo. Once you’ve purchased a bus pass, you’ll receive a QR code which the bus attendant will scan as you enter and exit the bus. Depending on how you buy the pass, you may have to exchange your voucher for a ticket, but this can be done at any bus stop on any route. There’s no need to go to the beginning of the route to start.

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What a mighty fine bus. | Photo by Alex Ziminski

To search for your closest bus stop to where you are staying, check out Sky Bus’s digital map. It also includes times and how busy the buses are. Once boarded, you’ll receive a paper map and timetable along with earbuds — you can also bring your own headphones — for the digital audio commentary. Languages include Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, French, and German.

Take the bus from any Sky Hop Bus stop, including this one in West Shinjuku. | Photo by Alex Ziminski

Where can I buy the pass?

The one-day pass costs ¥4,500 and the two-day pass costs ¥6,500. You can buy tickets easily from Headout or Klook; on the Sky Hop Bus website; or on the bus on the day.

Note: Even if you enter a specific day, unused tickets are valid for up to three months from the purchasing date.

Which course should you choose?

There are three different bus routes to take advantage of and all are accessible with just one pass. They come in the primary colors red, green, and blue, and while all three are doable in a day, if you plan to get off and on (as Sky Hop Bus intends) then you may only end up riding one or two.

tokyo station marunouchi area
All courses come with a side of the Tokyo Station Building. | Photo by iStock.com/kokouu

All courses begin and end in front of the Mitsubishi Building near Tokyo Station, so its stand-out redbrick building is a landmark you’ll see no matter which routes you choose.

Green Course: Skyscrapers and city sights

Course length: Just under 2 hours
Highlights: Shinjuku, Shibuya Scramble Crossing, and Tokyo Tower
Recommended stops: Tokyo Tower and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Central Park
See the Government Building from the top of the bus or go to the top and enjoy one of the best free views of Tokyo. | Photo by iStock.com/K2_keyleter

If you’re a fan of the hustle and bustle of the city and want to see the iconic skyscrapers of western Tokyo, then the Green Course is the only way to go.

You’ll set off from Mitsubishi Building and head directly towards Shinjuku; here you can get off at stops for Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Shinjuku Southern Terrace, and West Shinjuku. On the way, look out for the entrance to Kabukicho, known for its Godzilla and nightlife; the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, which looks more like a silver bullet than a cocoon; and the Tokyo Metropolitan Building, a Cheapo must-see.

Tip: As buses are infrequent on this route (every 2–3 hours), consider making your own way to/from Shinjuku and exploring the area before or after your desired course. We got on at the West Shinjuku stop and rode until the end.

You get to go through the iconic Shibuya crossing on the Green Course. | Photo by Alex Ziminski

Next up is Shibuya with a stop just before the famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing. The journey from Shinjuku will take you briefly past Yoyogi Park, Harajuku, and Omotesandō, although you won’t be able to see much except for the Yoyogi National Stadium. Once in Shibuya, you’ll spot — and hopefully not run over — pedestrians dashing over the busy crosswalk outside Shibuya Station. You’ll also hear the tale of Hachikō — a dog immortalized in a statue nearby.

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Finished with the west side of Tokyo, the bus will make its way back towards Tokyo Station, but not before taking a break at one of the most iconic sights of the city: Tokyo Tower. (It only stops here twice a day, so make sure to check the timetable.) You can get off here and stroll through nearby Shiba Park before making your way up the tower — by stairs if you want a challenge. Get tickets for the observatory here. This is also a good opportunity to connect to the Blue Course as the timings line up nicely.

Red Course: Temples, tradition, and Tokyo Skytree

Course length: 1 hour 30 minutes
Highlights: Tokyo Skytree, Sumida River, and the Kaminarimon Gate
Recommended stops: Tokyo Skytree, Asakusa, and Ueno Station

Stretch your neck to see Tokyo Skytree from the open-top bus. | Photo by Alex Ziminski

The Red Course has the most stops of the three bus lines and comes the most frequently — around every hour. It also has major tourist destinations on its route with stops for Tokyo Skytree, Asakusa, Ueno, and Akihabara. Provided you start early, you can have a lot of fun hopping on and off this line.

Firstly, you’ll head towards Ryōgoku, the town known for its sumo wrestlers. If you’re lucky, you may spot one or two walking the streets here. Not long after, you’ll get to see the tallest building in Japan and the tallest tower in the world: Tokyo Skytree. Get tickets here.

You’ll only get to see the Kaminarimon Gate from the bus, so you’ll need to get off for a full view of Sensōji Temple. | Photo by Grigoris Miliaresis

If you stay on, then it’s over the bridge — notice the frothing beer and golden poop buildings to your left — as you proceed to Asakusa. Disembark for a stroll down Nakamise Street and around Sensōji Temple. You won’t be able to see the temple from the bus, only the Kaminarimon Gate and waving rickshaw drivers, so it’s worth getting off here for a closer look.

Akihabara is a place to load up on anime and manga goods. | Photo by Alex Ziminski

After getting your fix of old-school Tokyo, you’ll arrive at Ueno Station. Alight here for the local museums, Ueno Park, and Ameyoko Shopping Street. Honestly, there’s not much to see from the roof of the bus in the Ueno area but things get more exciting as you approach Akihabara, an electronics and sub-culture hub. See smiling anime girls greet you from the sky-high building’s fronts and watch the nerds of the city do their shopping rounds. Lastly, the route swings by the historic Nihonbashi Bridge on the way back to the Marunouchi area.

Blue Course: Night views, Rainbow Bridge, and Tokyo Tower

Course length: 1 hour 16 minutes
Highlights: Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Tower, and night view
Recommended stops: Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Teleport Station

The lights of Tokyo Tower had just twinkled on as we pulled up. | Photo by Alex Ziminski

Cheapos are suckers for city lights at night — they’re free to view, after all — and the Blue Course delivers some of the best in Tokyo. As the only route that runs when the sun goes down, you’ll get to see Tokyo shine the brightest. Although just as enjoyable in the daytime, we recommend taking it at the end of the day.

Depending on the time of year, it will either be dark by the time it starts or the sun will just be setting. Heading through Marunouchi, you’ll pass by plenty of government buildings before arriving at Tokyo Tower, which turns its lights on at dusk.

Not a bad view. | Photo by Alex Ziminski

Now on to the most unique experience of all: driving over the Rainbow Bridge. This bridge connects mainland Tokyo to the manmade island of Odaiba. An open-top bus is one of the only ways to experience an unobstructed view while crossing over the bay as visitors are unlikely to have a car. You can cross the bridge on foot, as well as via the Yurikamome Line, but both won’t offer you a vista like this. It’ll be extremely windy, so hold on to your hats… and phones.

Once you’ve made it over to Odaiba, there will be a stop for Tokyo Teleport Station. If you’d like to grab some lunch or dinner at one of the department stores along Odaiba Seaside Park, the restaurants there offer a beautiful view of Tokyo’s skyline and a glowing Rainbow Bridge.

Crossing the Rainbow Bridge is a once-in-a lifetime experience. | Photo by Alex Ziminski

You can also skip dinner and cross back over the Rainbow Bridge on the bus. This direction is even more impressive as it offers a full-frontal view of Tokyo Tower. Before finishing your day at Tokyo Station, you’ll go through Ginza and experience the glittering lights of the fanciest neighborhood in Tokyo. Here you can see the Hattori Clock Tower above the Wako Department Store, which survived the bombings of WW2; the Shinkansen overpass, where you can see bullet trains coming in and out of Tokyo Station; and Kabuki-za, the famous Kabuki theater.

Ginza in all her glory. | Photo by Alex Ziminski

Conclusion: Is the Tokyo Sky Hop-on Hop-off Bus worth it?

The bus is a perfect way to give you a sample of what Tokyo has to offer. If you use it on your first day in the city, you can get a sense of what’s worth a visit and what isn’t. It’s also comforting for those who have mobility difficulties — a peaceful alternative to rushing about one of the largest cities in the world.

Tip: If you are strapped for time and can only pick one or two routes, then we’d avoid the Green Course unless you have a lot of time or desire to see Shibuya or Shinjuku.

Tokyo Sky Hop-on Hop-off Bus FAQs

How often does the Tokyo Sky Hop-on Hop-off Bus go?

Some routes (like the Red and Blue) go more often than others (Green), but even then, you could be waiting for around an hour or so for the bus to pick you up again. Though times do change depending on the season. To avoid heartache, keep the timetable handy and consider only getting off at your must-see spots. Also, start early. Buses go from around 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (until 7:20 p.m. on the Blue Course).

Do I have to get off the bus?

You don’t need to get off the bus. In fact, we recommend only getting off if you’re going to spend more than an hour in one area as the bus will not come back around again that often. Key stops to transfer to other courses are Tokyo Tower (Blue and Green) and Mitsubishi Building (all three).

Can I do all courses in one day?

If you are strategic and get up early, it is possible, but you may only be able to get off once or twice.

What is the difference between the Tokyo Sky Bus and Sky Hop Bus?

This is not the bus you want. | Photo by Alex Ziminski

Sky Hop Bus also operates another sightseeing bus that you can’t hop on and off of. It is called Sky Bus Tokyo and includes a tour guide (Japanese only). Sky Bus also departs from outside the Mitsubishi Building and will have the blue label “Sky Bus Tokyo” on the front.

What happens if it rains?

The bus will still operate in light rain and you will be provided with ponchos. Some buses also come with a rain cover attached. However, the bus may be suspended in heavy rain and stormy weather.

What types of seats and buses are there?

Buses will have a small roof at the front for those who need shade, and on some of the newer buses, these seats even have air-conditioning (a blessing for Japan’s summers).

What if the bus is full?

Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait for the next one as you are not allowed to stand on the bus. You can check the status of buses on the map mentioned before. This is one of the benefits of getting on at the Mitsubishi Building (the first stop).

Which is better, the train or bus?

You may be wondering if it is worth catching a sightseeing bus when Tokyo’s train system is one of the best in the world. While it is not as cheap as the train can be, the bus can be a lot quicker — traffic permitting — and offers you views on the way. There are no transfers that will slow you down and you get to see major destinations without the fuss of getting off — just be ready with your camera.

Final tip: Bring a brush. You’re going to need it to untangle your windswept hair.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

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Alexandra's Tokyo favorites are: Kewpie Mayo Terrace
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