Thursday, September 1, 2011

Access to the Science City and the Tsukuba Mountain


EMU Tsukuba Express TX-1000 series at Kitasenju Station

It’s the end of midsummer in Tokyo. The daytime temperatures have still been above 30 degrees Celsius, but the wind is little bit cooler than before. To send-off the midsummer, I embarked on my one-day trip to a northern suburb...Tsukuba.

Tsukuba is the science city of the Tokyo metropolitan area. A number of national and private research institutes, such as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and Tsukuba University, are located there. In addition, the famous twin-peaked (871m and 877m) Tsukuba Mountain is located in the north of the city.

Back in the mid-2000s, Tsukuba was a “lonely island” in the Kanto Plain. It takes two hours from downtown Tokyo by JR East Line and a shuttle bus, so I hated going to Tsukuba on business or even on pleasure. But, in 2005, there was a dramatic improvement in the public transportation. A new railway, the Tsukuba Express (TX) was opened between Akihabara and Tsukuba (58.3km).

This new commuter line is quite convenient. For example, if you take the “Rapid Service” train with a maximum speed of 130km/h at Kitasenju, a northern downtown of Tokyo, Tsukuba is very close, just 33 minutes away. On the train, I saw many foreigners, who were perhaps visiting research institutes and/or universities in Tsukuba.

After arriving at the Tsukuba terminal, I climbed up Tsukuba Mountain. It was a bright and clear day. I enjoyed superb scenery of the Kanto Plain from the summits of the mountain.

View from "Nantaisan" (Male Summit) in the Tsukuba Mountain (871m)

More information about Tsukuba Express (TX): http://www.mir.co.jp/en/about_tx/