“I wanna see Osaka’s architecture!” “I wanna see Osaka Castle!” “I wanna get wet!” “I wanna hear people jabbering in Osaka dialect!”
If this is you, the amphibious bus Duck Tour in Osaka can make all your dreams come true – all at once!
You’ll see the sights, laugh until your gut hurts, ride on the water, and hear all kinds of crazy sounding Osaka lingo all in 90 minutes! It’s an unforgettable Osaka tour.
Osaka Duck Tour
Duck Tour on the Kappa Bus
Hop on board the amphibious kappa (mythical Japanese duck-like creature) bus to explore both land and water without having to change vehicles! SPLASH! Being able to do both land and river at once is double the fun, and you can enjoy the local pastime of cruising on the water.
It makes total sense that the amphibious bus is named after the also amphibious kappa creature, but why is the tour named the Duck Tour? Apparently, it’s just another term given to the buses – ducks don’t seem to have any particular relationship to the tour itself.
The busses depart from the 1st floor of Osaka’s Hotel New Hankyu, easily accessible from nearby JR Osaka Station. Prior to departure, each participating group takes a picture with a kappa mascot (this appears to be compulsory!). 2 pictures can be purchased for 1000JPY.
After you’ve taken your picture, be sure to get a look at the back of the bus. You can tell it was constructed to be an amphibious vehicle. It’s an interesting sight to behold. The propellor is so small that it’s a wonder how it even moves the boat. There’s a pipe running up high to release the exhaust, and the bus is decorated with dancing kappa.
The third boat on Wednesdays departs from and arrives at the Umeda Sky Building
The Kappa Bus
The entrance to the bus is much higher up than normal busses. As you enter, you pass by the driver’s seat, which looks the same as one you’d see in a normal vehicle. However, if you look really close, you can see the kappa bus’s amphibious controls. The steering while in the middle is normal, but off to the right side is the steering wheel for driving in the water, along with a bunch of buttons. Aside from the driver’s area, the bus has no windows! It’s a really open feeling space.
However, the real reason for the windowless design is to reduce weight, as it’s illegal for a small sized tour boat to weigh over five tons. There was also talk of incorporating bamboo screens into the design, but it was abandoned due to the danger of things flying out of the bus. Before the tour starts, I thought to myself, “This is AWESOME! No windows!”, but once the bus starts moving, the wind blows right through. This feels nice and cool in the summer, but would probably necessitate warm clothing in the winter. And remember — there are still no windows on a rainy day, and you’re not exactly able to use an umbrella in there, so don’t forget your poncho. Just in case, though, they’re selling them on the bus. They only cost 100JPY if you buy them off the street, but they’re 300JPY on the bus. Gotta make money somehow!
When the flashy kappa bus cuts through Osaka’s main street Midosuji, you can hear the tour guide inside talking to the guests in heavy Osaka dialect, which sounds really different from normal Japanese. Check that one off the list!
You’ll also notice people pointing cameras all over the place. You never know whose photo you’ll end up in, so be sure to take the tour with a smile!
Amazing Osaka Castle Photo-op
As you head towards Osaka castle on Midosuji Street, you’ll pass by lots of modern architecture. Once you pass the NHK building (shaped like a yacht’s sail), the castle will come into view. If you’re sitting on the right side of the bus, get your camera ready once you pass the government headquarters and the office for the Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper.
Between the buildings, you’ll be able to see the beautiful Osaka castle! If you’re lucky, you may stop at a stoplight. If not, be sure to change your camera settings to prevent blurry pictures. You can get a great shot of the castle similar to the one above.
Before going into the river, the driver will change out with the boat’s captain. The driver has a license for both automobile and boat operation, but changes out with a captain in order to perform a safety check.
Driving into the river is undeniably awesome! It’s definitely the main highlight of the Duck Tour. Warning to riders at the front and sides – you WILL get wet! The bus drives into the river pretty forcefully as the captain yells (in Japanese-sounding-English) “SPLASH INNNNNN!!!!!” over the mic. It only takes a second, but it feels like you’re on a fun ride at a theme park. The boat ride is much slower than the bus ride. You’ll be able to see Osaka castle, the currency mint, and some famous cherry blossom locations in what could be a relaxing boat ride were it not for the guide constantly talking and joking over the microphone. During cherry blossom season, the driver will make jokes like, “Oh! Look, the blossoms are beautiful, just like me! And they’re waving at me!”. The guides are great at getting along with guests.
The boat will make a U-turn at the halfway point, Nakanoshima Park. If you’re lucky and the timing is right, you’ll be able to catch a view of it from underneath the fountain at the water’s edge.
Just when you think you might actually enjoy a quiet ride back, they start selling souvenirs. I found the Kappa Folktale DVDs (500JPY for one) to be the most intriguing. The pitch went something like,
(Translated from Osaka dialect) “Lately, everyone’s talking about these Kappa DVDs, and we’re selling them like hotcakes! Think they’re suspiciously cheap? Prove it and just buy one!!”
As for what’s on the DVDs… you’ll just have to buy and see for yourself.
After the guide explains the goods and starts coming around to sell them, a song starts playing. With just one jingle, it goes something like,
“Kappa kappa kappa no pa-pa-pa!” on repeat. The lyrics and melody are pretty funny.
When the souvenir sales have finished the bus will begin driving on land again. As you head back towards the starting area, you’ll be able to see Tenjinbashisuji Shotengai, the longest straight shopping street in Japan. It’s interesting to listen to the tour guide banter on in Osaka dialect about the city and the people who live there.
Osaka Duck Tour
The Double-Fun Duck Tour
The Duck Tour will give you a great view of Osaka from both land and water. The guides are great and their heavy local dialects are interesting to hear.
Advance reservations are available to make planning smoother, but you can also purchase same day tickets and ride if there is a time slot available. The 90-minute tour promises to leave you with plenty to talk about.
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