Saturday, December 24, 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