Saturday, 31 December 2011

Railway Heritage and Wintersweet Field in Gunma

Railway heritage, electric locomotive ED 42 1 is preserved at Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park

Usui Pass (960m), which is located on the border between Gunma and Nagano prefectures, has been well-known as a place of heavy traffic. It is about 100km north of downtown Tokyo. If you approach from Gunma Prefecture, you have to climb nearly 600m on foot to the pass within a 9km horizontal distance.

In 1893, the railway, Shinetsu Main Line was opened crossing this steep area. Since then, the 11.2 km section between Yokokawa Station on the Gunma side and Karuizawa Station on the Nagano side had been operated using the rack-and-pinion railway system. It had been used until 1963, when a non-rack operation was introduced. Today, Nagano bullet trains breeze through Usui Pass with a maximum speed of 210km per hour at inclines of up to 30 per mill.

If you visit Yokokawa, you can still see the old electric locomotive, Type ED42 in Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park near the station (see the top photo). Type ED42 was specially-manufactured for the rack-and-pinion system railway between 1934 and 1948. The total number of manufactured units was 28. Among them, the top number unit, ED42 1 is designated as a Railway Heritage

In the meantime, I stopped en route to Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park at Wintersweet Village in Ananaka City near Yokokawa. Wintersweet is a flowering plant, which has yellow colored blossoms from December to February. It has just come into bloom, but I enjoyed lovely flowers and sweet perfume (see the bottom photo).

Gunma is an attractive area, isn't it?

Wintersweet field in Annaka City, Gunma Prefecture

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

At the Year-end in Tokyo

EMU Tokyo Metro 02 series arrives at Ochanomizu Station on the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line

Only several days are now left in 2011. People in Tokyo are rushing all the time to complete their work and meet their year-end deadline.

2011 was a special year in which we experienced a giant earthquake and tsunami on March 11th. Nearly, 20,000 people are dead or missing. To make matters worse, Japan has been facing difficulties with the nuclear power plant disaster that followed the earthquake. The Japanese government recently declared Fukushima Nuclear Plant stable, because it has reached a cold shutdown, a major milestone. But the recovery is going to be a long process. It's going to take a lot of hard work and patience.

In the meantime, people in Tokyo have returned to their daily routine. Tokyo Electric Power Company announced that it had avoided the power shortages predicted for midsummer. The situation is still the same in winter. Railway companies in the Tokyo metropolitan area are providing normal train services. I felt happy while out for a walk in Ochanomizu, when I saw the trains on the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line operating as usual (see the top photo). It is simple and routine, but the greatest happiness can be found in everyday things.

The illumination in Wadagura Fountain Park in the business district near my office is also normal even at the weekend. A couple was enjoying walking and taking pictures themselves (see the bottom photo). It was a tranquil and peaceful sunset.

May the New Year turn out to be the happiest and the best for you.

Sunset in Wadagura Fountain Park near Tokyo Station on the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line

Monday, 26 December 2011

EMU Enoden 500 series and Revisit to Kamakura

502F of EMU 500 series arrives at Enoshima Station, Enoshima Electric Railway

As I mentioned in my July 25th blog, Kamakura, about 40km south of Tokyo, is known as a historic city where the Bakufu (shogunate government) was located from 1185 to 1333. This city is located on the Pacific Ocean to the south. Meanwhile, there are steep mountains to the north, east and west as a natural fortification in the Samurai (warrior) era.

In the meantime, Kamakura is also known for its warm climate. Even in winter, it remains warm in the city. Last week, I revisited there to enjoy the final stage of its "autumn leaves" and tranquil gardens in the Buddhist temples.

I took the Odakyu Line from my stop, Chitose-funabashi and got off at Katase-enoshima Terminal. Then, I transferred to the "Enoden", Enoshima Electric Railway and headed to Kamakura. This time, I rode an EMU 500 series, which is the newest train on the line launched in 2006. It is a two-car train with Jacobs bogie. AC traction motors with VVVF inverter control system are used to promote energy savings (see the top photo).

After arriving at Kamakura Terminal, I visited Myohonji Temple. It was only 10 minutes walk from the station. Although it was the weekend, the precinct of the temple was quiet. I saw very few visitors and only a stray cat. I could focus on stilling the mind and viewing the beautiful "autumn leaves" there (see the bottom photo).

Winter in Kamakura is a best-kept secret. I became a big fan and repeat visitor of Kamakura.

Early winter colors in Myohonji Temple near Kamakura Station, Enoshima Electric Railway

More information about EMU Enoden 500 series (in Japanese):

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Advent of Winter in the Business District

EMU JR East Joetsu Shinkansen 200 series mounted with a snowplow at the front

Finally autumn has gone and winter is here in the business district in Tokyo. The leaves on the ginkgo trees near Tokyo Station have already turned yellow and started defoliation (see the bottom photo). Once a cold wave comes, it always snows in the Tohoku District on the Japan Sea. In contrast, it is always clear in the regions here on the Pacific Ocean. 2000-3000m high mountain ranges, which run nearly the full length of the country, give the Japan Sea and the Pacific Ocean sides of Japan vastly different climatic patterns.

If you visit Tokyo Station, you can see the special Shinkansen train, which mounts a snowplow at the front (see the top photo). It is an EMU JR East 200 series on Joetsu Shinkansen. Connecting Tokyo and Niigata, the largest city on the Japan Sea, the Joetsu Shinkansen was fully opened in 1991 after challenging engineering work. The total operating length is 269.5km. Currently, the maximum speed of the train is 240km per hour.

The route of the Joetsu Shinkansen has a variety of different landscapes. For example, Dai-shimizu Tunnel, which penetrates the border between Gunma and Niigata prefectures, was the world's longest tunnel (22.2km) when it was completed in 1978. If you ride the Shinkansen train and head to Niigata in winter, you will find the snow covered land as soon as the train comes out of the Dai-shimizu Tunnel.

Winter railway travel is also very attractive in Japan. I will report it soon.

"Winter color" in the business district near Tokyo Station

Thursday, 22 December 2011

View of Mt. Fuji from Izu Peninsula

EMU JR Central 371 series, "Asagiri", passes through Chitose-Funabashi Station on the Odakyu Line

Fuji is the highest and most symbolic mountain in Japan. It is located about 100km west of Tokyo and categorized as a "dormant volcano". Mt. Fuji last erupted in 1707, but it is still active because we sometimes detect volcanic tremors at the foot of the mountain.

We can see Mt. Fuji, the highest peak (3,776m) of the nation from our capital city of Tokyo. It is a very unique feature out of all the capitals in the world. But it is a bit far from the capital. So, to get a closer look at this beautiful volcano, Izu Peninsula is one of the recommended areas. You can see both the noble Mt. Fuji and the blue Pacific Ocean there.

Earlier this month, I rode the EMU JR Central 371 series (see the top photo), limited express "Asagiri (morning mist)" from Machida Station, a western suburb of Tokyo. This train is directly operated from Odakyu to the JR Central Line. Limited express "Asagiri" is jointly operated by two companies using the EMU JR Central 371 series and the Odakyu 20000 series, Romance Car, Type RSE.

After reaching Numazu Terminal, the gate city of Izu Peninsula, I transfered for a bus and visited Cape Oosezaki, the famous point for viewing Mt. Fuji (see the bottom photo). It was a clear and bright day after heavy rain. I could see a superb view of the freshly snow capped summit backed by a blue colored sky and Suruga Bay of the Pacific Ocean. Then, I visited a sushi bar in Numazu City and enjoyed some local dishes.

I enjoyed a relaxing time.
View of Mt. Fuji (3,776m) from Cape Oose-zaki near Numazu Station, JR Central

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Annual Event in the Giant Earthquake Year

EMU JR East 209-1000 series leaves Omotesando Station, Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line

The winter illuminations are an annual event in Japan. We can see a lot of beautiful illuminations here and there. According to the media, over 70 percent of people said that illuminations reminded them of the approaching Christmas and New Year holidays.

In Japan, now there are about 2.6 million Christians in total. They make up only 2 percent of the population; however, Japanese people alternate between being Christians at Christmas and Buddhists at New Year - very flexible (!).

Joking aside, the most traditional and famous illuminations in the Tokyo metropolitan area are on Omotesando Avenue in a downtown area. Omotesando is a well-known fashion town, which was built 90 years ago.

Last week, I visited Omotesando Avenue on the way back home from my office. I saw many visitors, who were smiling and enjoying this annual event, the same as previous years (see the bottom photo). But, as you are aware, this is a special year in which we experienced the giant earthquake and tsunami on March 11th. Nearly, 20,000 people are dead or missing. Half a year ago, I couldn't imagine that the "Omotesando Illuminations 2011" would be able to be held on schedule. I am really pleased that we could hold this annual event peacefully, overcoming the electric power shortage after the nuclear power plant disasters in Fukushima.

For your information, to get to Omotesando Avenue, it is convenient to get off at Tokyo Metro Omotesando Station (see the top photo). 3 subway lines reach this station; they are Ginza, Hanzomon and Chiyoda lines.

"Omotesando Illumination 2011" is held near Omotesando Station, Tokyo Metro subway lines

More information about Omotesando:

Sunday, 18 December 2011

E3+E5 Operation Has Started on the Tohoku Shinkansen

EMU E3 (left) and E5 (right) series in a state of coupling at Tokyo Station, Tohoku Shinkansen

On November 19, JR East launched 3 more sets of the Shinkansen EMU E5 series to enhance their transportation capacity. As a result, we became able to see coupling operations of E5 and E3 series on the Tohoku Shinkansen (see the top photo). As I mentioned in my July 7th blog, EMU E5 series is the newest Shinkansen train with a maximum speed of 300km per hour.

Since its debut on March 5th this year, 3 sets of E5 series have been operated alone as super express train "Hayabusa (Falcon)". But after launching 3 more sets of E5 series, JR East has started coupling operations of E5 and E3 series as super express trains "Hayate", "Yamabiko" (E5) and "Komachi" (E3) as well. (The detail commentary on the "coupling operation" on the Tohoku Shinkansen is described in my October 27th blog.)

In the meantime, EMU E5 has several new facilities as the newest Shinkansen train. One of them is "Gran Class (First Class)". The seats are similar to those of first and business classes in aircrafts. Meals, drinks and several amenities such as scuffs, a blanket, an eye mask and magazines are provided at no extra charge. I would like to ride this attractive "Gran Class" someday. But of course the price is also handsome.

For your information, JR East plans to raise the maximum speed of Tohoku Shinkansen to 320km per hour in early 2013 using EMU E5 and E6 series.

Front view of  E523-7 (Tc) in the EMU JR East E5 series at Tokyo Station, Tohoku Shinkansen

More information about "Gran Class", EMU E5 series (in Japanese) :

Friday, 16 December 2011

View of "Eight Peaks" from Kofu Basin

EMU JR East 115 series, a "Nagano color" local train leaves Isawa-onsen Station, the Chuo Line

Come winter, I became to see snow capped summits from my office in downtown Tokyo. Last weekend, I visited the countryside to get a closer look at the beautiful mountains. My destination was Kofu in Yamanashi Prefecture. As I introduced in the previous blog, it is convenient to take the Chuo Line to visit there. I chose a local train, EMU JR East 115 series this time.

The EMU 115 series is one of the trains with a long life in Japan (see the top photo). It was first manufactured in 1963 under the name of JNR (Japanese National Railways). The design is quite similar with that of 111 series, but the 115 series is modified from the 111 series to operate on steeply sloping routes, such as Chuo and Shinetsu lines. The large rounded front lights are very attractive for me. The sound of the 120kW DC motor also fills me with nostalgia.

After getting to Kofu Station, I changed to the JR Central Minobu Line and visited Mitama-no-yu Hot Spring again (see my August 6th blog). It is my favorite place because we can enjoy a superb "onsen" (hot spring) while viewing the beautiful Kofu Basin and its surrounding mountains. It was a bright and clear day. I could see snow capped "Yatsugatake" (Eight Peaks, 2899m at the highest) to the north (see the bottom photo). A seasonal local garden-fresh vegetable, "Otsuka-ninjin" (Otsuka carrot) made a great salad in the restaurant.

I had a really good weekend again.

View of Yatsugatake (Eight Peaks) Mountains from Kofu Basin, Yamanashi Prefecture

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Electric Car, Keio 500 in My Grandpa's Photo Album

Electric car Keio 500 and railway engineers in 1931(?)

As I mentioned in my October 22nd blog, my grandpa, who passed away in 1999, was a railway engineer in Keio Electric Railway Company. Since he was quiet and reserved, I don't know his affairs in detail. But, I can learn a bit about it from his photo album.

Look at the top photo. It is the electric car Keio number 500, which was manufactured by Amemiya Works Ltd. in 1931. It's a VIP car for the imperial family to visit Tama Goryo, the imperial mausoleum. For that purpose, the car body is very elegant. For example, you can see beautiful arched windows on the side and a modern rounded single roof at the top of the body.

It's probably taken just after its completion. According to published literature, Keio 500 was completed in "March" 1931. It was early spring, but still cold in Tokyo. That's why several railway engineers in front of the car were wearing overcoats. All of the engineers seem very proud of the fact that they are introducing a new elegant electric car.

But later in 1938, this car was converted to a standard commuter train (new car number was 2501A, then 2503), because the imperial family took the Chuo Line to visit the mausoleum. Then, after World War II, the "VIP car", Keio 500 was lost in the mists of time. Eventually, this car was retired in 1968 from the Keio Line.

Friday, 9 December 2011

The Last of Overnight Sleeper Train on the Tokaido Line

EMU JR West 285 series, overnight sleeper train, "Sunrise Express" arrives at Tokyo Terminal

As we move forward in the twenty-first century, all of the time people manage to save is actually making their lives more hectic. A typical example is the decline of overnight sleeper trains.

In the 1970s, overnight sleepers were star trains on the trunk lines in Japan. Many reputable trains, such as Fuji (the highest mountain in Japan), Sakura (a cherry blossom) and Asakaze (morning breeze), were operated with high occupancy rate. Some of the tickets were called as "platinum tickets" due to the difficulty of reservation.

But now, almost all sleeper trains have been abolished because people have transferred to other transportations such as the Shinkansen or air carriers. Certainly, they are faster and more convenient than those of sleeper trains; however, people are busier than ever. Consequently, there is only one overnight sleeper train on the Tokaido Main Line; "Sunrise Express" (see the top photo).

Sunrise Express is an EMU that has comfortable berthing. Connecting Tokyo, Takamatsu (the gate city of Shikoku Island) and Izumo-shi (a historical city in San-in Region), it travels through the night on the Tokaido and other branch lines. When the train bound for Takamatsu crosses the Seto-oohashi Bridge, which links Honshu and Shikoku islands, the passengers can see the beautiful sunrise on the Sea of Seto-naikai.

Although comfortable and scenic travel is provided, it has not been possible to put a stop to its long-term decline of passengers. I think that it is now literally in danger of being abolished.

Sunrise Express; it should be designated as an endangered species.

Side view of EMU JR West KuHaNe 285-1, the top number car of 285 series at Tokyo Station

More information about Sunrise Express (Interior photos with captions in Japanese):

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Sky Blue Trains Connecting Three Prefectural Capitals

EMU JR East E233-1000 series arrives at Tokyo Station, the Keihin Tohoku Line

When Tokyoites think of "sky blue colored trains", they imagine the JR East Keihin-Tohoku Line. Connecting Ofuna and Omiya, it penetrates the Tokyo metropolitan area from south to north. There are 35 stations over a total operating length of 59.1km.

Formally, the Keihin-Tohoku Line is divided into three lines. The southernmost section, which connects Ofuna and Yokohama, is called the Negishi Line. The central section, between Yokohama and Tokyo, is a part of the Tokaido Main Line. Finally, the northernmost section, between Tokyo and Omiya, is a part of the Tohoku Main Line. Although, the formal names of the line are discrete, people call it the Keihin-Tohoku Line, because trains are directly operated on three lines.

One of the features of this line is that it connects three prefectural capitals in the Tokyo Metropolitan area. They are Yokohama City of Kanagawa Prefecture, Tokyo, and Saitama City of Saitama Prefecture. Because of its line alignment, the Keihin-Tohoku Line trains are always full with commuters and students. Nevertheless, 10 car trains are operated every 2-3 minutes during rush hours and every 5 minutes during the daytime, I always see packed trains at Tokyo Station.

In the meantime, the most attractive place on this line is Akihabara, where Japan's largest oasis for "otaku" -- a subculture lover, who likes anime, gaming, electronics etc. Whether you are an otaku or not, Akihabara will have more than enough to make a visit worthwhile. So, I will introduce this subculture town some time in the future.

The Yamanote Line E231-500 (left) and the Keihin-Tohoku Line E233-1000 series

Monday, 5 December 2011

Yatsu Higata on the Keisei Main Line

EMU Keisei 3000 series at Keisei-Takasago Station

After visiting Yatsu Rose Garden (see my November 26th blog), I stopped off briefly in Yatsu Higata (Yatsu Tidal Flat), which is accessible from the garden.

Yatsu Higata is well-known as a habitat of migratory birds. Especially, the black-winged stilt is a representative bird in this flat. It was sundown. The sky was beginning to darken (see the bottom photo). In the stillness of twilight, it looks beautiful and peaceful. Local people were enjoying jogging or walking their dogs on the walking trail in their own way.

I know this area has a long history of an environmental protection movement. Back in the 1950s, Yatsu Higata was one of the largest tidal flats in Japan. But, since the 1960s, many tidal flats in this area have been reclaimed by the local government. Yatsu Higata is the final local tidal flat that escaped from land development. Eventually, 40  hectares of wetland were preserved and designated a Ramsar Site in 1993.

After enjoying the beautiful rose garden and the tidal flat, I headed to Yatsu Station again. I took the Keisei Main Line and went back home. Transferring from a local to a limited express train at Funabashi Station. It took half an hour to Ueno, which is a terminal station in the eastern part of downtown Tokyo.

I enjoyed two beautiful sightseeing spots where we can see both plants and animals. As a railfan, I also enjoyed riding the fast Keisei commuter trains. It was a valued short trip to an eastern suburb of the Tokyo metropolitan area.

FYI - I have swapped links with "Jumitetsuan" website (in English and Japanese). Please visit and enjoy Japanese and Asian railway topics.

Sunset of Yatsu Higata (Yatsu Tidal Flat) near Yatsu Station, the Keisei Main Line

Friday, 2 December 2011

Rival Railway Story, Keio vs. Odakyu

EMU Keio 9000 series at Keio Yomiuri Land Station

"Tama New Town" is located in a south-western suburb of downtown Tokyo. The population is nearly 200,000.

In the 1960s, Tokyo was suffering from a major problem; an explosion of population. Specifically, the housing shortage was serious. Tokyoites needed houses or flats at reasonable prices. To solve this issue, the central and the metropolitan governments jointly had launched a "new town" development project in the Tama Hills area.

As part of the development, two railways were constructed separately; the Keio-Sagamihara and the Odakyu-Tama lines. Both of them connect Tama Center, a core area of the new town, with Shinjuku, a giant subcenter of downtown Tokyo. Keio and Odakyu became good rivals.

Keio Electric Railway operates trains every 5 minutes during rush hour and 6-7 minutes during the daytime. The fastest train travels the route between Tama Center and Shinjuku in 31 minutes. The fare is 330 Yen. Meanwhile, Odakyu Electric Railway operates trains every 6 minutes during rush hour and 7-8 minutes during the daytime. The fastest train travels the above route in 35 minutes. The fare is 360 Yen (except "Romance Car" services; see my September 4th blog).

So far, it looks like Keio has had the edge over Odakyu in terms of frequent operation, travel time and fares. But, Odakyu is steadily planning a comeback. The key strategy of Odakyu is the construction of another double track in the downtown area. Once it is completed, the transportation capacity and travel time will be drastically improved.

The two companies competition is set to continue.

EMU Odakyu 4000 series at Kyodo Station

More information about Keio:
More information about Odakyu:

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Winter Cherry Blossoms on the JR East Hachiko Line

DMU JR East KiHa 110 series near Tansho Station on the Hachiko Line

Although there is no designated national flower in Japan, many people think it is the cherry blossom. From March to April, the cherry trees bloom in pink all over the Japanese archipelago. On weekends at this time, major viewing spots in Japan are crowded with people who come to see the flower.

But, some cherry trees also bloom in winter. They are called "Fuyu-zakura (winter cherry)". So, viewing Fuyu-zakura is one of the amusements for flower lovers. Last weekend, I took the JR East Hachiko Line and headed northwest. My destination was Tansho, a small station located in Kamikawa Town, Saitama Prefecture.

Connecting Hachioji, a western suburb of Tokyo and Kuragano in Takasaki city of Gunma Prefecture, the Hachiko Line penetrates the north-western part of the Tokyo metropolitan area from south to north. The operation length is 92km. The Hachiko line is divided into two sections at Komagawa. The southern section is a commuter line, electrified at 1,500 V DC. Meanwhile, the northern section is non-electrified, a typical single track local route. DMU KiHa 110 series is operated hourly on average. So, I had to change from the EMU to the DMU at Komagawa Station (see the top photo). It's a bit inconvenient for passengers.

After arriving at Tansho Station, I took a bus and visited Sakura-yama (Cherry Mountain). It was a steep mountainous area, where 7,000 cherry trees were planted. It was late bright fall. I enjoyed both autumn leaves and cherry blossoms at the same time (see the bottom photo).

I had a great weekend again.

Winter cherry blossoms in the Sakura-yama Mountain near Tansho Station, the Hachiko Line

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Autumn Roses on the Keisei Line

EMU Keisei 3600 series at Senju-ohashi Station, the Keisei Main Line

In Japan, the roses look great when in full bloom in May. But, autumn roses also look beautiful, especially from October to November. So, I took the Keisei Main Line and got off at Yatsu Station to visit Yatsu Rose Garden. Connecting Ueno, a subcenter of Tokyo, and Narita Airport, the Keisei Electric Railway has an extensive network in the eastern part of Tokyo and Chiba Prefecture (see my September 13th's blog). It took only half an hour from downtown Tokyo to Yatsu on the Keisei trains (see the top photo).

Yatsu is located about 20km east of downtown Tokyo. It belongs to Narashino City, which is one of the commuter towns in Chiba Prefecture, the Tokyo metropolitan area. In addition to the function of the residential area, Yatsu has several sightseeing spots as well. The most famous one is Yastsu Rose Garden, which was opened as a part of Yatsu Amusement Park in 1957.

As soon as I entered the garden through the gate, I could feel the lovely breeze blowing off of Tokyo Bay, and it carried the rose-scented air. I associate the smell of roses with my parent's house, as it was full of rose blossoms in spring. I think it's true that the sense of smell and the storage area of memories in our brain are close to each other.

I fully enjoyed red, pink, white and yellow colored roses in bloom in the reputable garden today.

Yatsu Rose Garden near Yatsu Station, the Keisei Main Line

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Tokyo's First Linear Motor-Driven Subway

EMU Toei 12-000 series, a linear motor-driven subway train at Tochomae Station

The Toei (Tokyo Metropolitan Government) Ooedo Line is the second newest subway in Tokyo. The line was partially opened between Hikarigaoka and Nerima (3.8km) in 1991. Then, it was extended to Tochomae in 2000. Currently, the route consists of the circle section (Tochomae - Ryogoku - Tochomae, 28.6km) and the branch section (Hikarigaoka - Tochomae, 12.1km). The total operation length is 40.7km.

One of the features of this new subway line is that linear motor technology is adopted for the train driving system. A linear motor is an electric motor that doesn't have a shaft. It moves in a straight line, while a conventional motor has a rotary movement. You can see a special box,"reaction plate" between the rails (see the bottom photo). This technology allowed downsizing of the tunnel section.

The problem of the Ooedo Line is that it runs very deep under the ground, because underground utilizations in Tokyo, such as existing subways, express roads, parking and water supply systems are in an overcrowded condition. New construction is forced to go deeper and deeper. As a result, the platform of Roppongi Station is located 42.3m below the ground. Passengers have to walk down 7 flights of escalator and stairs. It takes 6 minutes including ticket purchasing time. I think it's a disincentive for potential passengers and weakens the competitiveness of the Ooedo Line.

The Oodedo Line; it was born through exploitation of the state-of-the-art technology, but is a slightly inconvenient subway line in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Rails and reaction plate of the Toei-Ooedo Line at Tochomae Station 

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Visit to Cosmos Field on the JR East Yokosuka Line

EMU JR East E217 series at Nishi-Ooi Station, the Yokosuka Line

I visited a vast cosmos field again. This time, I took the JR East Yokosuka Line and headed south.

The Yokosuka Line was initially opened in 1889. Officially, the name Yokosuka Line is defined as the section between Kurihama and Ofuna stations (23.9km), but the passenger service of this line usually extends to Tokyo Station (a total of 73.3km length) or further.

The blue and cream colored train, EMU 217 series is operated on this line. The blue and cream body color has been a tradition of trains on the Yokosuka Line since 1951, when the EMU 70 series train was launched. It is said that the Pacific Ocean is represented by the blue color, whilst the sandy beaches along the line are represented by the cream color.

After arriving at the Kurihama terminal, I visited "Kurihama Hana no Kuni" (Kurihama Flower World) to view a large community of cosmos. Although some areas had been ruined by the typhoon, which hit the Tokyo metropolitan area in September, a narrow valley was filled with a carpet of cosmos flowers (see the bottom photo).

Another attractive spot in this area is "Ashi-yu" (foot bath) adjacent to a herb garden. Visitors can enjoy bathing their feet in a herb-treated hot water tub. I felt the warmth starting from my feet and spreading throughout my body.

For your information, admission to the Flower World, the herb garden and the foot bath are all free. Thank you.

Cosmos Field in Kurihama Flower World

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Enjoying the Autumn Leaves in Hakone

 Odakyu Romance Car EXE, EMU 30000 series at Chitose-funabashi Station

Autumn begins to deepen in Japan. The leaves have begun to turn red in some places in the Tokyo metropolitan area. One of the most famous places for enjoying autumn leaves is Hakone (see also my blogs from October 3rd and July 11th), a western suburb of Tokyo.

I took the Odakyu Romance Car EMU 30000 series, "EXE" (see the top photo), and headed to the Hakone mountains. EXE stands for "Excellent Express". It was commissioned in 1996 to replace the old Romance Car EMU 3100 series, "NSE". Since one set of the train is composed of ten twenty-meter cars (a total length of 200m), it has a greatly increased passenger capacity. One set can be broken up into six and four car sections to enhance operational flexibility as well.

After arriving at Hakone-yumoto terminal, I visited Hakone Glass Forest Museum where we can enjoy beautiful autumn leaves in the beautiful garden (see the bottom photo). The autumn leaves had just begun. I could see some red maple and yellow zelkova leaves there. This year we can view the best condition of autumn leaves in mid-November.

In the museum, the Venetian glass exhibition was going on. Most of the pieces, which were made in 17th to 19th century in Italy, have bird, flower, dolphin or dragon motives. Some of them looked like lace making, combining transparent and colored glass materials. They were very delicate and brilliant.

I enjoyed beautiful nature and antique glass art in the Hakone mountains.

Autumn Leaves in the garden in front of Hakone Glass Forest Museum

Sunday, 13 November 2011

C-Train, the Most Successful LRT in North America

Calgary Transit 2200 series (Siemens 160-SD AC LRV) at Brentwood Station on the Route 201

Recently, I had an opportunity to visit Calgary in Canada. Although I was very busy there, I tried to make an opportunity to ride the reputable C-Train, which is one of the most successful light rail transit (LRT) systems in North America.

The C-Train has been operated by Calgary Transit since 1981. The line consists of two routes, known as Route 201, which serves the southern and north-western areas, and Route 202 in the north-eastern sections of the city. The two routes merge along 7th Avenue in the downtown area. The total operating length is currently 48.8km.

Two types of vehicles are operated; one is the old model Siemens U2 LRV (2000s in car number, see the bottom photo), and the other is the new model Siemens SD-160 LRV (2200s in car number, see the top photo). DC motors are adopted in U2, whilst AC traction motors are used in SD-160. 2 cars of U2 (2100s in car number) exceptionally have AC traction motors.

I rode the train during the daytime in the weekend. But I was surprised that most of the seats were occupied. It's more crowded than I had imagined. Another amazing thing was that the downtown section of the line is fare free. What a big-hearted railway it is! The insides of trains were clean, and passengers were well-mannered. So, I had an enjoyable time during my short trip to the suburbs.

LRT will draw more and more attention as a means of transportation in urban areas throughout the world.

  Calgary Transit 2000 series (Siemens U2 DC LRV) at 6th Street Station on the Route 202

More information about C-Train:

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The East Garden of the Imperial Palace

The newest model, EMU Tokyo Metro 15000 series at Nishi-kasai Station, the Tozai Line

The Tokyo Metro Tozai Line is one of busiest subway routes in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Connecting Nakano and Nishi-funabashi (30.8km), it penetrates downtown Tokyo from west to east. The trains directly merge into the JR East Chuo Local Line to Mitaka and the Toyo Rapid Railway to Toyo-katsutadai, therefore, its maximum operation length reaches 56.4 km. Ten-car trains operate every 3 minutes in the morning, and every 5 minutes on average during the daytime.

One of the features of this subway is the "Rapid Service". In the eastern part of the line between Toyocho and Nishi-funabashi, Rapid Service (express) trains operate to enhance the convenience for long distance passengers.

The Tozai Line runs along the northern border of the Imperial Palace in the center of Tokyo, so, we can visit several sightseeing spots in the palace area. For example, I often wander around the East Garden, which is close to Takebashi Station. There is a castle ruin, which was constructed in 15th century (see the bottom photo). Although the main tower of the castle was demolished in 19th century after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, we can still see the stones of the terraced walls of the castle. It's a viewpoint for the central part of Tokyo.

The Tokyo Metro Tozai Line. It plays an irreplaceable role in the Tokyo Metropolitan area both for commuters and sightseers.

Ruins of the Main Tower, Edo Castle in the Imperial Palace near Takebashi Station

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Good-luck Yellow Trains, Toei 8800 & Tokyu 300 Series

Good-luck Yellow train (Car 8810,Type 8800) on the Toei Arakawa Line

Do you know the Japanese word "Toshi-densetsu"?

Toshi-densetsu means an urban legend, which is rumored by city dwellers. For example, a power spot, which is said to make people healthier and more energetic, is a typical Toshi-densetsu in Tokyo.

Currently, the most popular Toshi-densetsu among Tokyoites is the "Good-luck Yellow Trains". It is said that a person, who rides a yellow colored train, will obtain happiness. I don't know exactly why such kind of Toshi-densetsu is being spread by Tokyoites. But, it's probably because yellow colored trains are rare in this city.

Look at the top photo. It is electric car No. 8810 of Type 8800 on the Toei Arakawa Line. Since this is the only yellow colored tram on the line, Tokyoites may think that it's lucky if they ride this electric car. Similarly, people think that it's very lucky if they ride yellow colored train, No. 306F of EMU 300 series on the Tokyu Setagaya Line (see the bottom photo). It is also the only yellow colored train on the line.

By capturing Toshi-densetsu, Toei (Tokyo Metropolitan Government) and Tokyu Railway Company jointly launched a special campaign to boost passengers. In addition to promotions, they prepared common plates displaying "Good-luck Trains" on the font of their yellow colored electric cars. These two operators recommend riding yellow colored trains to obtain happiness.

Do you take the Toshi-densetsu of "Good-luck Yellow Trains" to be true?

Goodl-luck Yellow Train (306F, EMU 300 series) on the Tokyu Setagaya Line

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Classic Railcar on the Minato Line

Classic railcar Hitachinaka KiHa 2005 (right), 205, 202 and 222 at Nakaminato Station

When I visited Hitachinaka City (see my October 10th blog), a classic railcar was taking some time to rest in the station yard of Nakaminato, Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway.

Look at the top photo. You can see a railcar, which shows beige colored body with a vermillion stripe around the windows. It is Railcar No. 2005. This railcar was manufactured in 1966 for Rumoi Railway Company in Hokkaido Island. It had been operating on the Coal Mine Line. Then, in 1970, it was ceded to Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway, because the coal mine and the railway were closed.

In the meantime, this railcar is frequently called "JNR type". JNR, which stands for Japanese National Railways, was Japan's largest railway network. It was split into seven railway companies and privatized as the JR Group in 1987 due to financial difficulties. During the JNR era, plenty of railcars like the top photo were introduced to railways all over Japan. They were not only for JNR but also for local private railway companies. You can see the characteristics of JNR type railcars in the front design, body coloring and so on.

After privatizing, all JNR trains had been ceded to each JR company. Since then, JNR type railcars were gradually scrapped or modified and lost the original designs. But, they are still alive and operating in some local railway companies.

I felt like time had stopped and rendered thanks to the railway engineers of Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway, because they have maintained the JNR type railcars in good condition.

Side view of the railcar Hitachinaka KiHa 2005 at Nakaminato Station

Friday, 4 November 2011

"Sunset Yellow" on the JR East Ome Line

EMU JR East E233 series at Nishi-tachikawa Station, the Ome Line

Following my blog on October 29th, I would like to introduce another kind of cosmos in Showa Kinen Park. That is "Sunset Yellow".

This romantic name of a flower originated in Mexico. Then, it moved to the United States and developed a wide variety of breeds there. It is said that the yellow colored cosmos was introduced to Japan in the Taisho Era (1912-1926; the reign of the Emperor Yoshihito). I like the straw color very much. It's neat and clean and shows up against the light green leaves. It seems that the Sunset Yellow field in Showa Kinen Park is a sort of heaven.

To visit this vast field of Sunset Yellow, please take the JR East Ome Line and get off at Nishi-tachikawa station, which is located in front of the Western Gate of Showa Kinen Park. It's convenient for visitors who live in a western suburb, because some of the trains operate directly from the Chuo Line into the Ome Line. The train is an orange colored EMU E233 series, which is same as the Chuo Line.

For your information, please do not forget that you have to push the manual operation button when you get off at Nishi-tachikawa Station, as the Ome Line is a local line in the countryside. The door operation is not provided by the conductor.

You will find a vast and yellow carpet-like Sunset Yellow cosmos field soon after entering the Western Gate. Now is the season when autumn begins to deepen in Japan.

Cosmos "Sunset Yellow" in Showa Kinen Park, Tachikawa City

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

EMU JR East 251 Series, "Odoriko"

EMU JR East 251 series, Limited Express "Odoriko" near Tamachi Station

Since I was on the subject of the Tokaido Line in my October 24th's blog, let me introduce a limited express train, which operates on this line. The name of the train is "Odoriko", EMU JR East 251 series (see the top photo). It operates between downtown Tokyo and Izu Peninsula, a famous seaside resort in the southern part of the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Do you know the word "Odoriko"?

Odoriko means "a dancing girl" in Japanese. Why is the name of limited express train so strange? It's because the name comes from the famous novel, "Izu no Odoriko (The Dancing Girl of Izu)" by Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata. Mr. Kawabata (1899 – 1972) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, as the first Japanese author to receive the award. "The Dancing Girl of Izu" was published in 1926 as the first work of his literature to achieve great popularity.

The story of "Izu no Odoriko" is a youth's transitory love. A twenty-year-old young man, who was feeling lonely because he was an orphan, met a dancing girl in Izu Peninsula while he was travelling there. Through the meeting and heart-to-heart exchange with her, he was healed and was eventually drawn out of his loneliness.

In contrast to the story, the actual "Odoriko" train is very joyful. The EMU 251 series was launched in 1990 as a luxury resort express, and is still very popular among holidaymakers.

The dancing girl indeed got stardom, didn't she?

 EMU JR East 251 series, Limited Express "Odoriko" at Tokyo Station

More information about Limited Express "Odoriko":

Monday, 31 October 2011

Rival Railway Story, JR East vs. Keikyu

EMU Keikyu 1000 series , "Kaitoku (Rapid Limited Express)" near Shinagawa Station

One of the features in railways in the Tokyo metropolitan area is that many companies are being in competition to attract passengers. It might be hard to imagine for foreigners, but I expect you understand that the railway networks in this area are extensive. So, it allows the customers to choose the best line to get to their destination.

For example, let's suppose that you live in the southern part of Tokyo, such as Shinagawa and Kamata, and would like to visit Yokohama, the capital city of Kanagawa Prefecture. Then, you can choose from two lines… JR East and Keikyu.

JR East is the largest railway company in Japan. This company's strength lies in the extensive network in this area. They have lines passing through many downtown areas, such as Tokyo, Shinjuku and Shinagawa. From Shinagawa to Yokohama, it takes 16 minutes on the Tokaido Line (see the bottom photo). The train operates every 8 minutes on average during the daytime. You can choose the Green Car (1st class) as well, if you would like to be able to relax.

Meanwhile, Keikyu is a local railway company in the southern part of the Tokyo metropolitan area. To compete with the giant JR East, Keikyu is putting in a lot of effort. The maximum speed of the trains (120km/h) is faster than those of JR East (110km/h). Secondly, Keikyu operates the luxury train, "Kaitoku (Rapid Limited Express)", without additional fares on the above section (see the top photo).

This competition is going to go on.

EMU JR East 233-3000 series near Tamachi Station, the Tokaido Line

Saturday, 29 October 2011

"Dwarf Sensation" on the Tama Monorail Line

EMU Tama Monorail 1000 series at Tachikawa-kita Station

A "Dwarf Sensation" is a kind of cosmos which produces red, pink and white blossoms in October. Together with the chrysanthemum, it's an autumn flower that represents Japan.

The most prestigious field of the Dwarf Sensation in the Tokyo metropolitan area is Showa Kinen Park in Tachikawa City, which is situated in a western suburb. This park commands you a total four million flowers of Dwarf Sensation during the height of the season (see the bottom photo).

Last weekend, I visited Showa Kinen Park, because now is the best time to view the blossoms. I took the Tama Monorail Line and got off at Tachikawa-kita Station, which is close to the East Entrance of the park.

Tama Monorail adopts a straddle-beam system like the Haneda Line of Tokyo Monorail (see my blog on July 9th). Connecting Tama Center and Kamikitadai (16.0km) in about 36 minutes, it penetrates the Tama region, a western suburb of Tokyo from south to north. EMU 1000 series has been operating on this line since 1998 when the monorail was opened (see the top photo). It consists of 4 cars, and a total of 15 sets have been manufactured so far.

Like all monorail lines, we can enjoy a superb view from the train windows. For example, modern buildings are seen in the Tachikawa urban area, whereas you can view green hilly countryside near Tama Zoo Station.

By enjoying the beautiful Dwarf Sensation flowers and the scenic Tama Monorail, I spent a great weekend again.

Cosomos "Dwarf Sensation" in Showa Kinen Park, Tachikawa City

More information about EMU Tama Monorail 1000 series (in Japanese):