Monday, 16 April 2012

Plum Grove and Local Train on the Shinetsu Line

EMU JR East 107 series local train on the Shinetsu Line

While it is Sakura (cherry blossoms) season in downtown Tokyo, plums are still blooming in the northern part of the Tokyo metropolitan area. I visited a plum grove at the foot of Mount Haruna in Gunma Prefecture to enjoy viewing them (see the following photo).

Haruna Plum Grove is one of the largest plantations in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Local people cultivate plum trees rather for fruit to eat than blossoms for viewing.

How do we eat the fruit? For example, umeboshi (pickled plum) is a traditional food consisting of preserved plum. The citric acid of umeboshi stimulates the appetite and helps people recover from fatigue, so, Japanese often place them in rice balls and boxed lunches. Another example, umeshu is a liqueur made by soaking unripe plums in crystal sugar and shochu (distilled spirit). Recently, umeshu is very popular among young women.

To visit Haruna plum grove, I took a local train on the JR East Shinetsu Line from Takasaki Station. A white EMU 107 series, with pink and green stripes, operates on the line (see the top photo).

This type of EMU was introduced in 1988 to replace the decrepit EMU 165 series trains. The design of the 107 series was taken over from that of JNR (Japanese National Railways) trains. Large rounded front lamps and characteristic air conditioner boxes on the roof provide us good examples of JNR style design.

View of Haruna Plum Grove near Annaka Station on the JR East Shinetsu Line