Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Japan's Largest Bus Terminal above Shinjuku Station

Japan's largest expressway bus terminal is located just above JR East Shinjuku Station

Tokyo is a super-high density city. More than 30 million people live in this small metropolitan area. It has been spreading into the air, underground and into the suburbs. They are skyscrapers, underground shopping malls, subways, underground expressways and suburban new towns. Is there any space left?

Yes, there is. We still have vast spaces in the center of the city. One of the typical examples is the overhead spaces of surface railway stations. Look at the top photo. It is Japan's largest expressway bus terminal constructed just above the platforms of JR East Shinjuku Station.

Shinjuku is the world's largest railway station. The ridership of this giant terminal is 3.5 million passengers per day. Trains of six operators arrive at and leave this station. The largest operator, namely JR East, has a surface station there. In other words, they have a vast overhead space just above the platforms. The best utilization for this space is the expressway bus terminal, as it is convenient for passengers to change from and to the trains.

On April 4th this year, Japan's largest expressway bus terminal, named Basta Shinjuku, was opened just above the JR East's railway platforms. A total of 1,625 services operated by 118 companies arrive at and leave this giant terminal every day. It is always busy with passengers, who are mainly young people and tourists who can afford the time.

Gate D10 of Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal (Basta Shinjuku)

Official information of Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal (in Japanese):

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Centram: Convenient Transit in the Local City

Electric car Toyama Chiho Railway De9000 series leaves Toyama Station on the Route 3

Toyama is the main city of Toyama Prefecture, about 390 km northwest of Tokyo. This local city is facing the Sea of Japan, and had poor access from Tokyo, which is located on the side of the Pacific Ocean.

The situation totally changed in 2015, when the Hokuriku Shinkansen was opened. Now, it takes only 2 hours and 10 minutes from Tokyo by super-express train, Kagayaki (brilliance) with a maximum speed of 260 km per hour. Needless to say, tourists are flocking to this beautiful city and its suburban area for sightseeing. I was also one of them this summer.

Centram is a must-ride streetcar in Toyama City for rail-fans. Its formal name is the electric car, Toyama Chiho Railway De9000 series. This modern vehicle was launched in 2009, when the Circle Line was opened. It is included in the category of low floor type LRV (light rail vehicle). So far, a total of three units have been built by Niigata Transys.

Different from the other cities in Japan, Toyama creates a tram network as a main urban public transportation system. As you may know, tram routes in Japan were abolished one after another due to heavy traffic jams. They just stay in people's minds in many large cities such as Yokohama, Nagoya and Sendai; however, the merit of tram systems is now being recognized once again, mainly in local cities, from the point of view of environmental protection and barrier-free.

Centram... it is a convenient transit system in the local city.

Electric car Toyama Chiho Railway De9000 series travels on the Route 3

Official information about the tram in Toyama City:
Official information about the rolling stock of Toyama Chiho Railway (in Japanese):

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

World Heritage Area on the Takayama Main Line

DMU JR Central KiHa 85 series travels on the Takayama Main Line

Gassho-zukuri is one of traditional farmhouses seen in the snowy areas of Japan. It has a steep straw-thatched roof to counter the snowfall by increasing the slidability of the snow accumulated on the roof. Along with the famous Shirakawago in Gifu Prefecture, Gokayama in Toyama Prefecture is also known as an area of Gassho-zukuri village. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Until the late 19th century, Gokayama was a hidden place for the Maeda family in Kaga Domain to produce ensho (material of explosives). Even strong Tokugawa Shogunate (central government) couldn't sniff it out, since Gokayama was an isolated "non-existing village" surrounded by deep and snowy mountains at that time. 

There are two routes to get to Gokayama. One is from Johana Terminal on the JR West Johana Line. The other is from Takayama Station on the JR Central/West Takayama Main Line. The Takayama Main Line is a trunk route connecting Gifu on the Tokaido Main Line and Toyama on the Hokuriku Shinkansen. Its total line length is 225.8 km. The track is single and un-electrified. The gauge size is 1,067 mm.

The leading train on the Takayama Main Line is a limited express "Wide-view Hida", the DMU JR Central KiHa 85 series. This DMU was launched in 1989 to replace the old model, KiHa 82 series. Thanks to the two powerful 350 PS diesel engines made by Cummins in the U.K., the DMU KiHa 85 series exhibits the same performance as EMUs.

Gokayama, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Official information of the DMU KiHa 85 series  by Nippon Sharyo:
Official information of the DMU KiHa 85 series  by JR Central (in Japanese):