Monday, 29 August 2011

"Yurikamome", Scenic Transit in the Bay Area

EMU Yurikamome 7000 series runs backed by Rainbow Bridge near Fune-no-kagakukan Station

As promised before, here is another example of AGT (automated guide way transit) in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It’s called “Yurikamome” (black-headed gull). The formal name is the Rinkai Line of Tokyo Rinkai Shin-kotsu.

The Yurikamome line was opened in 1995 between Shinbashi, a subcenter of Tokyo, and Ariake in the Tokyo Bay area, and it was later extended to Toyosu, a newly developed waterfront residential quarter. The current total operating length is 14.7km.

Before opening Yurikamome, people were concerned that the railway company would struggle with debts, because the construction cost was quite large. However, so far, it has succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, because the number of passengers has been much higher than anticipated.

Sightseers have been contributing to the business. They visit various spots on the line, such as museums, theaters, shopping malls, hotels and convention centers. But, more importantly, people take this line, probably because of the superb views from the train windows. For example, Rainbow Bridge of the Shuto Highway, unique Fuji TV and Tokyo Big Sight buildings are definitely attractive for visitors.
I strongly recommend to ride a night train. I found a beautiful night view movie, which is provided by "cat2525jp", as follows.
Night veiw from the train window on the Yurikamome Line
Video: Courtesy "cat2525jp", large screen version is here

The EMU 7000 series operates on the Yurikamome Line, which was launched in 1995. A total of 26 sets were manufactured by 2009. One set is composed of 6 units, and all trains are operated automatically without drivers. So, the passengers can enjoy the view ahead.

Yurikamome…it’s a scenic transit in the Tokyo Bay area.
View from "rail fan seat", EMU Yurikamome 7000 series at Toyosu Station

More information about "Yurikamome":
More scenic videos by "cat2525jp":

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Shimokitazawa, Old yet New Spot in Tokyo

EMU Odakyu 4000 series leaves Shimokitazawa Station

Shimokitazawa is full of strange attractions. It’s located near my home in a western suburb of Tokyo, and it takes only ten minutes from Shinjuku or Shibuya, two major subcenters of Tokyo, by train.

After getting off at Shimokitazawa Station, you have to get through a maze of alleys, whichever way you go. It has numerous small shops and restaurants. Some of them are very couture, but, old-timely shops and restaurants are also mixed in among them. Another feature of this area is that it is a base to introduce new pop cultures to Tokyoites. For example, there are plenty of theaters and music studios, where all kinds of plays and music are performed. Needless to add, we see many young people there, specifically at the weekends.

To get to Shimokitawawa, please take the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku or the Keio-Inokashira Line from Shibuya. A bunch of passengers ride and get off the trains all day long at Shimokitazawa Station. But, the serious concern is that the platforms on the Odakyu Line are very narrow. The railway company is setting up new wider platforms underground together with double-double tracks. It looks like very challenging construction, because a bi-level tunnel needs to be drilled just under the present surface rails.

The ambience of the station and streets will change drastically after the completion of the construction. I look forward to seeing the new modern Shimokitazawa, but it’s a crying shame as well that the old labyrinthine Shimokitazawa will disappear.

Shimokitazawa, it’s a spot in Tokyo with a mix of the new and the old.

Shopping street in front of Shimokitazawa Station

Thursday, 25 August 2011

"Fruit Liner" in Yamagata Prefecture

Diesel railcars JR East Type 101 (100 series), "Fruit Liner" stand at Yamagata Station Yard

When I arrived in Yamagata on the Shinkansen, I found a small-sized local train in the corner of the station. The two coach, beige and sky-blue colored train had a “Fruit Liner” logo on the body. It’s JR East’s diesel raiclar, Type KiHa 101 (100 series).

This diesel railcar is for the Aterazawa Line, which is a local section connecting Yamagata City and Aterazawa in Ooe Town. The length of the car body is only 16m, and cockpits are equipped in both ends of the car. A total of 13 units were manufactured in 1993 and 1994. The train runs without conductors on board which means that the driver has to operate the train doors. I saw many high school students using the line to go to school in the morning, despite it being during the summer vacation.

In the meantime, why there is a “Fruit Liner” logo on the car body? It’s because Yamagata Prefecture is the “kingdom of fruit”. Strawberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, grapes, and apples from the area are very famous. Specifically, I think that the taste of cherries and pears from Yamagata the best in Japan or even in the world. They are sweet and flavorsome, but still delicate and harmonious. Whenever I taste fruit from Yamagata Prefecture, I always feel the farmers’ love for their products. Right now, peaches and grapes are in season, so, I had my fill of fruits during this trip.

Delicious fruit and lovely local trains… Yamagata is really an area of charm, isn’t it?
Interior of the diesel railcar JR East Type 101 (100 series) for the Aterazawa Line

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Structurally-engineered Local Train

EMU JR East E721 series local train at Tateoka Station on the Senzan Line, Yamagata Prefecture

After arriving at Yamagata by Shinkansen, I changed to the Senzan Line to visit Risshakuji Temple. The Senzan Line is a typical local railway. By crossing over the beautiful mountains; trains connect two local cities, Yamagata and Sendai.

On this line, JR East operates the EMU E721 series, an alternating-current train. The E721series, which launched in 2007, is composed of 4 or 6 coaches with a maximum speed of 110km/h.

The most distinctive feature of E721 series train is the height of the cabin floor above the rail. It’s lower than those of standard trains, because of “low platform” measures. Generally speaking, on local lines in Japan, a height of the platform is lower than those of trunk lines. So, the passengers had to climb up a step, when they ride on the trains. But after launching E721 series, there is no need to any more. Needless to say, this structurally-engineered train was enthusiastically welcomed, especially by old people.

Another feature of the E721 series is that they have passenger door switches. After the train arrives at a station, the conductor unlocks passenger doors by remote control. Then, the passenger can operate the switches, and open and close the automatic doors. This system is equipped for the purpose of maximum cooling of air-conditioner. As you may be aware of, passengers who enter and leave are few in the local trains. So, we can block unnecessary door opening and closing, using this door operating system.

EMU JR East E721 Series… it’s a structurally-engineered local train

View of Yamadera Village and EMU JR East E721 series from Risshakuji Temple

Monday, 15 August 2011

Midsummer Trip to Yamagata Prefecture

EMU JR East E3-2000 series "Mini-shinkansen" at Yamagata Station

It’s “obon” week in Japan. Obon is a Buddhist festival to recognize ancestral spirits. The souls of the dead are believed to return to their families during the festival. It’s an occasion for people to visit their relatives' graves to pray and make offerings of food and flowers. So, many people take holidays, and go back to their hometowns. My hometown is Tokyo, but I also took a short holiday, and went to the north. The destination was Yamagata Prefecture.

To visit Yamagata, the Yamagata Shinkansen train is convenient. The newest model EMU JR East E3-2000 series is very comfortable with a maximum speed of 275km/h. Yamagata Shinkansen is a kind of “Mini-shinkansen”, which is not built the same as the standard full-sized shinkansen. It’s originally constructed as a conventional line with narrow gauge (1067mm); however, the gauge was changed to the shinkansen size (1435mm) later. So, the shinkansen train can enter the mini-shinkansen directly from standard shinkansen lines. The only difference between full and mini shinkansens is the size of train bodies. For example, the length of a full-sized shinkansen body is 25m. In contrast, the length of the mini-shinkansen is only 20m.

After arriving at Yamagata, I visited Risshakuji Temple near Yamadera Station. Risshakuji is a famous Buddhist temple built on a steep mountain. The highest hall stands at the summit. It takes nearly one hour to climb the total about 1000 stone steps. This hard process is considered to be ascetic training to purify people’s spirit of evil thought.

I also cleaned up my spirit today … probably.

"Noukyoudou" (a storage of the Buddhist scriptures) in Risshakuji Temple near Yamadera Station

More information about Yamagata Shinkansen:

Friday, 12 August 2011

Tokyo Metro's Well Made Promo Videos

16000 series, the newest EMU of Tokyo Metro at Chitose-funabashi Station on the Odakyu Line

Everyday, I take the Tokyo Metro-Chiyoda Line to my office near Tokyo Station. I am fond of admiring the view from the window of the train, but the outside is just “black” because it’s underground. I mean that the Chiyoda Line is a subway route.

Instead of admiring the view, I enjoy in-car video monitors, which are equipped just above the train doors in the newest EMU; 16000 series (the top and the bottom photos). My current favorites are “Tokyo Wonderground” and “Automatic Platform Gate”. They are both Tokyo Metro’s promo videos.

“Tokyo Wonderground” introduces “The city of Tokyo as having Tokyo Metro”. Ms. Anne Watanabe, who is a popular fashion model in Japan, is employed as the “image character” of the video. You can watch the same one on the internet as well.

Please click “60 seconds version (60秒ver.)” to enjoy the full story. You will discover the many different aspects of the subways and people’s life in Tokyo.

“Automatic Platform Gate” introduces Tokyo Metro’s engagement with passenger safety on the platform. The company is currently encouraging the installation of automatic platform gates. You can also enjoy the same ones on the internet.

This video is quite creative and unique, because the automatic platform gate is compared to a bodyguard. But, the gimmick is a secret here. You'll see about that.

"Tokyo Wonderground" and "Automatic Platform Gate" are well made promo videos by Tokyo Metro, which indeed make sure everyone has a fun time.

EMU Tokyo Metro16000 series at Kyodo Station on the Odakyu Line.

More information about Tokyo Metro:

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The 100th Anniversary of "Toei" Transportation

The newest model electric car, Toei 8800 series near Gakushuin-shita Stop on the Arakawa Line

On 1st August, 2011, the Transportation Bureau of Tokyo Metropolitan Government (Toei) marked 100th anniversary of public transportation, i.e. trams, subways, monorail and automated guideway lines and bus services. The Transportation Bureau of Tokyo Metropolitan Government, whose former name was the Electric Bureau of Tokyo Municipal Government, commenced their tram operation in 1911 after acquiring Tokyo Railway Company. In commemoration of the 100th anniversary, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is currently holding a special exhibition, “100 years transportation, Toden (tram car), bus and subway” in the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku, an eastern part of downtown Tokyo. I enjoyed visiting there last weekend.

Among the many exhibitions, the most attractive one was the preservation of electric car No. 6086 of the 6000 series, which was displayed in the backyard of the museum (see the bottom photo). This car was manufactured in 1949 by Nihon Tetsudo & Jidosha Company, as part of a 290 unit stock of the 6000 series. It retired in 1978 after 29 years operation, but luckily, was spared from being scrapped. The classic 3 front windows and a large single round headlight are still very cool, aren’t they?

In the meantime, the top photo shows the newest model of electric car No. 8802 of the 8800 series. It was manufactured by Alna Sharyo Company, and launched in 2009, as the next-generation electric car. The wide single front window and small double headlights are in contrast to those of the classic 6000 series.

Congratulations on the 100th anniversary of Toei Transportation.

Preserved electric car, No. 6086 of Toei 6000 series in Edo-Tokyo Museum

More information aboout Toei Transportation:
More information about Edo-Tokyo Museum:

Saturday, 6 August 2011

EMU JR Central 313 Series, a Trip to Superb "Onsen"

EMU JR Central 313 series local train travels near Kai-Ueno Station on the Minobu Line

Japan is a country of volcanoes, and every region has a plenty of "onsens" (natural hot springs). So, Japanese people love onsens, and I’m also one of them. I often visit "Mitama-no-yu" onsen in Yamanashi Prefecture; a western suburb of Tokyo. I like this onsen, because it has a superb view. You can enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery surrounding the Kofu basin while bathing.

Mitama-no-yu, which means hot spring of the soul, is located on top of a hill near Kai-Ueno Station on the Minobu Line, JR Central (see the bottom photo). The facility is very clean, and composed of a spa, a massage room, a souvenir shop and a restaurant, so we can spend all day long there.

To get to Kai-Ueno Station, you should take the Chuo Line of JR East from Tokyo. Then, change to the Minobu Line of JR Central at Kofu Station. From Kofu, a lovely local train of the EMU JR Central 313 series (see the top photo) brings you to Kai-Ueno. It takes a total of 2 and a half hours from downtown Tokyo to Mitama-no-yu.

The EMU 313 series have been manufactured since 1999. The stainless body with a white "face" and an orange stripe is very cool. It’s composed of two or three coaches with four 185kW inverter driven induction motors per unit. The maximum speed is 130km per hour. In the meantime, the track gauge is 1067mm, and the electric system is 1500V overhead.

A trip to a superb onsen on the cool local train… I had a cheerful weekend again.

The 313 series runs backed by Mitama-no-yu Hot Spring

Monday, 1 August 2011

Mystic Ancient Lotus and Evergreen Classic Train

Evergreen EMU, Chichibu 1000 series runs backed by a lush paddy field near Gyoda City Station

In 1973, unusual lotus blossoms were found in a pool of a waste incineration plant in Gyoda City; a northern suburb of Tokyo. As a consequence of an expert investigation, it became clear that they were between 1,400 and 3,000 years old, and germinated by drilling the pool, which was conducted as a part of the plant construction.

Gyoda City government named the lotus “Kodai-hasu (Ancient Lotus)” and designated it as a natural treasure. During more than 30 years since then, the local people have been protecting and propagating the Kodai-hasu. Today, this lotus authigenic spot became renowned, and a lot of holidaymakers visit there to enjoy the blossoms during July and August; the time of bloom.

I visited Gyoda City last weekend and enjoyed viewing them in Kodai-hasu Garden. They were pinkish, mystic and pretty large blossoms. I could only be amazed at the lotus’s survival ability, because they germinated from 1,400 to 3,000 years old seeds.

In the meantime, I took a local train of Chichibu Railway to reach Gyoda City; the nearest station to Kodai-hasu Garden. Chichibu is one of the local railway companies, whose route extends to the northern part of Saitama Prefecture. This firm cherishes second-hand trains that were renovated after acquiring them from major railway companies, such as JR East and Tokyu. I rode an EMU 1000 series; ex-JR East 101 series, manufactured in the 1960s. The banana-colored body with a chocolate stripe was still very clean.

I really enjoyed the ancient lotus and the evergreen classic train all together.

A mystic blosssom of Kodai-hasu (Ancient Lotus) in Kodai-hasu Garden, Gyoda City

More information about Chichibu Railway (in Japanese):