Monday, 27 February 2012

Tokyo Station Building under Renovation

Southernmost part of Tokyo Station Building under renovation

Tokyo Station is the largest railway terminal in Japan, and was opened in 1914 as a central station of the capital city. The 20 surface and elevated tracks are used by the conventional JR and shinkansen (bullet train) lines. Meanwhile, 10 underground tracks are allocated for the conventional JR and the Tokyo Metro subway lines.

The Main Building (Marunouchi Entrance Building) is located in the western part of the station. It is red brick masonry, and appointed as an important national and cultural property.

This building, which was completed in 1914, is now under renovation which started in 2007, and will be completed mid to late this year. In addition to the railway operation facilities, a gallery, hotel and underground car parking are being constructed inside. It is said that the total construction cost is 50 billion yen (625 million US dollars).

Recently, a part of the protection cover of the building was unveiled; and a beautiful facade emerged (see the top photo). It is still a small part of the building; but it has a strong presence in the station and its surrounding area.

Furthermore, the construction and development of Tokyo Station area will continue until 2014. Currently, construction of the Yaesu Entrance side (eastern side) is also proceeding at a good rate.

My office is located on the 20th floor of a building on the Yaesu Entrance side so I can see the progress of the construction clearly from the window (see the bottom photo).

Tokyo Station is evolving toward the centenary.

Veiw of Tokyo Station including Main Building (center, red brickwork) under renovation

Friday, 24 February 2012

Classic EL and Fukujuso along the Railway Track

Electric locomotive (EL) Chichibu DeKi 501 with limestone freight train leaves Nagatoro Station

After visiting Mt. Hodo in Chichibu District (see my blog on February 18th), I went back to Nagatoro Station to catch the train home. On my way to the station on foot, I found a classic electric locomotive (EL) on the track of Chichibu Railway.

It was number 501 of Type DeKi 500. It was manufactured in 1973 by Hitachi Ltd. The main task of this EL is pulling freight trains. Its features are rather classic; however, the bluish body with a white stripe still has a youthful beauty. Specifically, I love its nostalgic design. Look at the top photo. You can see a deck and steps on the front of the locomotive. In the past, almost all Japanese ELs had decks like this. But, this design was faded out from an engineering viewpoint. Currently, we cannot see this type of EL on major railways, such as on the JR lines. So, Type DeKi 500s are highly valued for their historical significance.

In the meantime, I found lovely yellow flowers beside the railway track (see the bottom photo). They were "Fukujuso (Far East Amur adonis)", which are well known among Japanese people as a typical spring ephemeral. We can see these flowers in winter and/or early spring. It is said that Fukujuso brings us happiness and luck in Japan. It's probably because Fukujuso comes into bloom in the New Year holiday season.

I enjoyed the classic EL and beautiful flowers together. This is what is attractive in the Chichibu District.

FYI, I have linked to Panagos89's website, which introduces Greek railways. Please enjoy unique movies, shot by an enthusiastic railfan in Greece.

Fukujuso flowers along the railway track near Nagatoro Station, Chichibu Railway

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

N700 Series, the Biggest Force of Shinkansen Fleet

EMU JR Central N700 series arrives at Atami Station, the Tokaido Shinkansen

Replacing the 300 series (see my blog on February 19th), the EMU Shinkansen N700 series has recently become the biggest force on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen.

The N700 series launched in 2005, is the latest model on the Tokaido and the Sanyo Shinkansen. It is composed of 16 cars; and its maximum speed is 300km per hour on the Sanyo section, and 270km per hour on the Tokaido section. In addition to its speed, the other outstanding feature is its curve passage performance. By tilting the train's body using advanced technology, the N700 series achieved an operation speed of 270km per hour on a 2500m curve.

In the early stages of introducing the N700 series, they were used for Nozomi (Desire), the fastest trains stopping only at major stations, such as Nagoya and Kyoto. But, currently, the N700 series is used for all types of Shinkansen.

Look at the top photo. It is at Atami Station, located 100km west of Tokyo on the Tokaido Shinkansen. Previously, all of the N700 series trains, Nozomi and Hikari (Light), passed through this local station; however, recently, some of the N700 series, such as Kodama (Echo), have started to stop there.

The 300 series will retire soon, meanwhile the N700 series will emerge onto center stage. We cannot resist the tide of railway history.

N700 series, Super Express Kodama at Atami Station, the Tokaido Shinkansen

Monday, 20 February 2012

New Landmark on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line

EMU Tokyo Metro 10000 series at Shin-Kiba Station on the Yurakucho Line

Following the completion of Tokyo Sky Tree (see my blog on July 29th, 2011); a new landmark was opened in Tokyo, the Tokyo Gate Bridge (see the bottom photo).

Tokyo Gate Bridge is a 2.9km long road bridge across Tokyo Bay. Unlike Trans-Tokyo Bay Highway (a 14km long tunnel-bridge combination) and Rainbow Bridge (a 798m suspension bridge), it is not an express road, but a toll free local street. Due to two kinds of restrictions, the designing of the bridge was very difficult. One of them is the Aviation Law. The bridge location is close to Tokyo International Airport; therefore, it is prohibited to construct a tall suspension bridge. Another restriction is to secure vertical clearance for large vessels to enter Port of Tokyo. 
Consequently, a truss-type design was adopted. The shape of the bridge became to be similar in appearance with a dinosaur. So, Tokyoites call this bridge "Dinosaur Bridge".

To visit this new landmark, it is convenient to get off at Shin-Kiba Station on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line (see the top photo). Pedestrians can climb up the bridge easily, as there is a free elevator next to the bridge girder. I visited there last Saturday. It was very cold and windy at the 61m high bridge; however, a superb view there was, enough to quickly wash away all of my everyday stresses. I could see Tokyo's other new landmark, Tokyo Sky Tree, clearly from there.

I would like to visit Tokyo Gate Bridge again in summer to enjoy night view of the downtown and cool night breeze.

Tokyo Gate Bridge near Shin-Kiba Station on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Countdown to the Last Run, Shinkansen 300 Series

EMU Shinkansen 300 series and railfans at Tokyo Station, the Tokaido Shinkansen

It was Friday evening, 8.40pm at Tokyo Station. Despite the cold and occasional flurries, a number of rail fans were waiting for a train, which would arrive at platform number 16. That was the EMU Shinkansen JR West 300 series originally from Okayama Station. Why is it so popular among rail fans? It's because the EMU 300 series will retire soon. Recently, JR Central and West made a press release that the last run is planned on March 16th on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen.

The EMU 300 series launched in 1990 to decrease the travel time between Tokyo and Osaka, Japan's two major cities, competing with airliners. For that purpose, the maximum speed was raised up from 220 to 270km per hour. The new super express train, "Nozomi (Desire)" commenced and was operated using the 300 series. Since then, the EMU 300 series have been running east and west on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen. But, in recent years, they didn't have many lines, as the new EMU 700 and N700 series have replaced them. Consequently, March 16th will be their last run.

The retirement date is still one month away; however, many rail fans are visiting stations to take pictures and/or ride the 300 series to remember it. They are adults, children, boys, girls, mothers and families. Sayonara (good bye) and arigato (thank you) to the 300 series. We will never forget you through the years.

A young female railfan shoots 300 series at Tokyo Station, the Tokaido Shinkansen

More information about the last run, EMU Shinkansen 300 series (in Japanese):

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Nostalgic Aerial Tramway and Wintersweet Field

Aerial tramway on Mt. Hodo, Chichibu District in Saitama Prefecture

After enjoying the beautiful riverside scenery at Iwadatami (see my blog on February 14), I visited Mt. Hodo, which is also located near Nagatoro Station.

To climb up this mountain, it is convenient to take an aerial tramway, "Hodo-san Ropeway" (see the top photo). "Ropeway" is probably a "Japanglish (Japanese re-creation of English)" word. Do you use the word "ropeway" in your country? You don't use it, do you?

Putting that aside, Hodo-san Ropeway is a classic aerial tramway, which was completed in 1961. It is run by a subsidiary of Chichibu Railway. The riveting steel gondola, which can hold 50 people, looks aged and out of date. But, its classic design is very nostalgic for me. It delivers passengers between the foot and the summit of Mt. Hodo in only 5 minutes, no time at all, because it is only 832 meters long.

Last weekend, it was very crowded with many couples and families. In spite of full-operation, every 7 minutes, the layover was more than 40 minutes.

The 497m peak is a different world. We can see the superb scenery of Chichibu Basin surrounded by Kanto Mountains, such as Mt. Ryogami and Mt. Bukoh. Another attraction is a wintersweet field. Currently, about half of the wintersweet blossoms are in bloom (see the bottom photo). I could smell the sweet flavors of yellow flowers on a brilliantly sunny day.

Even though it was a little journey on the weekend; the harvest was rich and various.

Wintersweet flowers on Mt. Hodo

More information about "Hodo-san Ropeway (Aerial Tramway)" (in Japanese):

Thursday, 16 February 2012

"Iwadatami" on the Chichibu Railway

EMU Chichibu 7500 series (Ex-Tokyu 8090 series) arrives at Nagatoro Station, Chichibu Railway

Nagatoro is a well known sightseeing spot in Saitama Prefecture. It is located 80km north of Tokyo, and situated in the northeast corner of Chichibu Basin. Nagatoro is a beautiful valley, which was incised by Ara River over a long period of time. Especially, "Iwadatami" is a famous view point (see the bottom photo). You can see piles of rocks on the both sides of the river. These rocks are metamorphic, which were generated by extremely high pressure in the deeper part of the subsurface around 100 million years ago. They look like straw mats in Japanese houses.

To enjoy 100 million years of the earth history, you should take Chichibu Railway, and get off at Nagatoro Station. It takes only 5 minutes from the station to Iwadatami on foot. Then, you can paddle your way down the river on a traditional boat. It is a perfect way for those who would like to enjoy beautiful riverside sceneries. Chichibu Railway is a local company, which connects several cities in the northern part of Saitama Prefecture. You can transfer to this railway from many routes such as the Joetsu Shinkansen at Kumagaya, the Seibu Line at Chichibu and the Tobu Tojo Line at Yorii station. As I introduced in my blog on August 1st, 2011, Chichibu Railway has been taking over trains, which were retired from other companies, such as Seibu, Toei and Tokyu (see the top photo). Riding these evergreen trains is also an exciting experience for rail fans.

Chichibu is a lot of fun.

"Iwadatami (piles of rocks)" along Ara River near Nagatoro Station, Chichibu  Railway

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Rival Railway Story, JR East vs. Tokyu

EMU Tokyu 5050 series leaves Jiyugaoka Station on the Toyoko Line

Tokyu is a major private railway company in the Tokyo metropolitan area. They have a labyrinthine railway network in the southwestern part of Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture. It had been looking to be in an impregnable position as the leading railway company in Tokyo; however, Tokyu couldn't rest on their laurels forever. The situation quickly changed in 2001.

On December 1st, 2001, another giant, JR East commenced operation of the Shonan-Shinjuku Line train between the western part of Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture. The Shonan-Shinjuku Line is not a newly constructed line. It is just a composite route of several existing commuting and freight lines. But, the idea was very creative. Consequently, passengers became able to go to Yokohama, a major city of Kanagawa Prefecture, from Shibuya, a subcenter of Tokyo, in 24 minutes.

Tokyu was greatly shocked by this newly operating train of JR East. They took countermeasures immediately by speeding up trains on the Toyoko Line. The fastest train, "Limited Express" now connects Shibuya and Yokohama in 25 minutes. It costs 260 yen, which is 120 yen cheaper than that of JR East.

Furthermore, Tokyu plans a direct operation with the Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line through Shibuya Station. Once it is completed, people, who live in the northwestern part of Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture, will be able to go to Yokohama directly from their nearest station.

The competition is going to continue from this point. As a customer, I welcome this kind of competition, as long as safety is assured.

EMU JR East E231 series arrives at Ikebukuro Station on the Shonan-Shinjuku Line

Friday, 10 February 2012

"SL Usui" and "Glasses Bridge" in Gunma Prefecture

JR East "SL Usui" (steam locomotive D51 plus passenger cars 12 series) at Yokokawa Station

Are steam locomotives (SLs) still operated in your country?

In Japan, yes, they are, but not regularly. Several railway companies have SLs for operating special trains, such as the promotion of sightseeing spots or festivals on the lines.

In Gunma Prefecture, which is located north of Tokyo, JR East operates special SL trains. One of the famous routes is the Shinetsu Main Line in the western part of the prefecture. This area has some famous sightseeing spots and superb hot springs. Last weekend, I took a special SL train, "SL Usui" from Takasaki Station, and visited Usui Pass area (see the top photo).

"SL Usui" is composed of steam locomotive, D51 498, and five passenger cars. D51 498 was manufactured in 1940 at Takatori Works of the Department of Railways. It was retired in 1972; however, it came back into operation in 1988 for pulling special trains on the JR East lines. The body is beautiful shiny black, and the piercing whistle doesn't seem old at all.

After one hour of traveling, "SL Usui" arrived at Yokokawa Terminal. Then, I visited a heritage railway bridge, "Megane-bashi (Glasses Bridge)" by foot (see the bottom photo). Megane-bashi was constructed in 1893 as a railway bridge. It is made of brick, and appointed as a national important cultural property in 1993. A British engineer, Charles Assheton Whately Pownall designed it with Seiichi Furukawa. I got lost in the graceful view of the bridge.

I enjoyed the weekend being surrounded by the out of the ordinary.

"Glasses Bridge" on the dead track near Yokokawa Station

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Countdown to the Last Run, Odakyu HiSE and RSE

EMU Odakyu "Romance Car" RSE, 20000 series passes through  Kyodo Station

Do you know the Japanese word "Mottainai"?

Mottainai has a similar meaning to the English word "wasteful". But, it is a bit different. In Japan, "Mottainai" is often used in relation to the throwing away of things or foodstuffs, which are still usable. Specifically, old people, who know the lean days of Japan, often use this word.

Odakyu Railway recently decided the displacement plan of their trains. Consequently, two types of "Romance Car" will be retired soon. They are the EMU 10000 series, HiSE, and 20000 series, RSE.

The EMU 10000 series, HiSE (see the bottom photo) was launched in 1987 in commemoration of the 60 year anniversary of the Odakyu Line. To ensure a good view of the scenery, the passenger rooms of this train are high up. It is unique, but barrier-free readiness for the aged and the disabled judged by current standards is difficult.

The EMU 20000 series, RSE (see the top photo) was launched in 1991 to commence direct operation to Numazu on the JR Central Gotenba Line. The most peculiar point is that it has a double decker Green Car (first class) at the center of the 7-car train. It is a quite gorgeous; but, it has been suffering from a decrease in passengers.

I understand the company situation, such as the barrier-free policy and the decreasing of passengers; however, these Romance Cars are still usable.

I must say "Mottainai". I hope that other railway companies take over these premier trains and operate them in the future.

EMU Odakyu "Romance Car" HiSE, 10000 series passes through  Kyodo Station

More information about Odakyu Romance Car:
More information about the last run of Romance Car HiSE & RSE (in Japanese):

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Urban "Hatsumode" on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line

EMU Tokyo Metro 01 series leaves Tameike-Sanno Station on the Ginza Line

I just celebrated New Year, but I can't believe it is February already. Before introducing the topics of this month, I would like to keep to the subject of January a bit more.

During the New Year's season in Japan, many people visit shrines and temples. This is called "Hatsumode", the first visit to a shrine and a temple. The purpose of Hatsumode is to ask a god for a favor, or simply to turn over a new leaf and refresh yourself.

I visited Hie Shrine near Tameike-Sanno Station on the subway Ginza Line. The shrine is located on the top of a hill, which is surrounded by office buildings (see the bottom photo). After taking three flights of open air escalators, you can get to the altar. It is a typical urban shrine in downtown Tokyo, isn't it?

In the meantime, the Ginza Line is the oldest subway in Japan. It was partially opened between Ueno and Asakusa (2.2km) in 1927 (see my blog on September 10, 2011). Then, the entire route, between Shibuya and Asakusa (14.3km), was fully opened in 1934 by Tokyo Subway Company (present Tokyo Metro). Today, the Ginza Line has grown up to become one of Japan's representative commuter lines (see the top photo).

Recently, Tokyo Metro announced the launching of new EMU 1000 series this spring. The first train has already been completed and is being tested at a depot now.

The Ginza Line is providing us with something worth telling, even after 85 years of history.

Hie Shrine and office buildings near Tameike-Sanno Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line

More information about new EMU Tokyo Metro 1000 series (in Japanese):
Detailed description about new EMU Tokyo Metro 1000 series (in Japanese):

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

City of "Hot Sea" and Izukyu Railway

EMU Izukyu (ex-Tokyu) 8000 series at Atami Station, JR East Ito Line

Atami is well known as a resort city in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It is located in the eastern part of Shizuoka Prefecture; and 100km west of downtown Tokyo. From Shinagawa, one of the city centers in Tokyo, Atami is close, just 33 minutes away by the quickest Shinkansen train.

The name of the city, Atami, means "hot sea". Obviously, it represents that hot springs are seen on the coast in this city. In fact, we can see many bursts of steam from hot water wells here and there in the city. Another appeal of Atami is its beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. You can see Hatsushima and Ooshima islands floating in an endless sea from every side of the city (see the bottom photo).

Atami also acts as a gate city to Izu Peninsula. To visit this resort peninsula, take the JR East Ito Line from Atami Station. The trains on the Ito Line are directly operated into Izukyu, a local private railway along to the east coast of the peninsula.

You can see nostalgic commuter trains of Izukyu Railway at Atami Station (see the top photo). They are EMU Izukyu 8000 series, ex-Tokyu 8000 series from Tokyo. They moved to Izukyu to spend second life after retirement from Tokyu Railway. Their brothers were also moved to other companies such as KRL Jabodetabek in Jakarta, Indonesia (see my blog on September 17, 2011).

A trip to Atami is interesting all the way through.

Hatsushima Is. (left) and Ooshima Is. (right), winter morning view of the Pacific Ocean from Atami

More information about Izukyu Railway: