Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Multi-Cultural Railway in Jakarta, Indonesia

Japanese train bound for "KASHIWA" runs on the Jakarta - Bogor Route in Indonesia
Photo: Courtesy Faris Fadhli

One year has passed since I moved from Jakarta to Tokyo (see my blog on May 27th, 2011). Time really flies. Life in Jakarta is now ancient history for me, but I still receive emails from Indonesian rail-fans. Whenever I read them, I miss my days in Jakarta.

When I look back now, I think the attraction of railways in Jakarta is its multicultural feature. Look at the top photo. A brightly-colored train runs by a dense tropical forest. This is indeed Indonesia; however, you can see Kanji (Chinese characters) on the front of the train. It is a remnant from the days of Japan, as the train was introduced from Japan. It is ex-JR East 203 series, which was operated on the Joban and Tokyo Metro Chiyoda lines. A Japanese train runs backed by an Indonesian jungle. This mismatch has a strong appeal to rail-fans, who love rarity.

A more complicated situation is found in the following picture. You can see a beautiful tropical sunset in Indonesia, but the station is obviously a gorgeous European style. Even more surprisingly, the train is a Japanese one. This station is Tanjung Priok Terminal, which was constructed by the Dutch colonial government in the early 20th century. The train is ex-Tokyo Metro 05 series, which was operated on the Subway Tozai Line. This triple mismatch also has a strong appeal to rail-fans like me.

I want to visit Jakarta again so that someday I may meet the multi-cultural railway.

Japanese train arrives at European style Tanjung Priok Terminal in Indonesia
Photo: Courtesy Adam Faridl al Fath 

Saturday, 26 May 2012

On the Day of Annular Solar Eclipse in Tokyo

EMU Tokyo Metro 9000 series on the Subway Nanboku Line

I leave home early in the morning every day to go to my office to avoid rush hour. On May 21st, I left home at half past seven as usual and went to my nearest station on the Odakyu Line. But after arriving at the station, I was surprised as it was very crowded.

What happened? Was there an accident? No, it was because many commuters were going to their offices earlier than usual. Finally, I remembered that it was the day of an annular solar eclipse in Tokyo.

According to the National Astronomical Observatory, an annular solar eclipse would occur in Tokyo from 7.32am on May 21st. In Tokyo, the last one occurred 173 years ago in 1839. I understood that many people were rushing to their offices to enjoy this astronomical show of the century before working.

I also decided to view the eclipse at the best location. Then, I got off at Tameike-Sanno Station on the Subway, Tokyo Metro Nanboku Line (see the top photo). Penetrating from south to north in Tokyo, the Nanboku Line connects Meguro and Akabane-Iwabuchi (21.3km). The trains are directly operated into the Tokyu-Meguro and the Saitama Railway lines.

After I arrived at Tameike-Sanno Station, I walked to Hie Shrine, which is located on a small hill in the center of downtown Tokyo. At 7.32 am, the annular solar eclipse began. Although, it was cloudy in Tokyo, I could enjoy a five-minutes astronomical show, as the sun peeked out between the clouds (see the following photo).

The next annular solar eclipse will occur on April 8th, 2312 in Tokyo.

Annular solar eclipse observed through cloud near Tameike-Sanno Sta., the Subway Nanboku Line

More information about EMU Tokyo Metro 9000 series (in Japanese):

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Mysterious Legend on the Gakunan Railway

Classic EMU Gakunan 8000 series (ex-Keio 3000 series) at Gakunan-Enoo Station

Taketori Monogatari (the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter) is the oldest Japanese narrative, which was produced in the 10th century. It is a story of a mysterious girl called Princess Kaguya, who was discovered as a baby inside a stalk of glowing bamboo plant. She grew up to be a beautiful woman and went back to her home town, "the moon capital" with servants that would come to pick her up.

What is the origin of Taketori Monogatari? Is it all fictional? I don't think so, because there are several related names of places such as Kaguyahime (Princess Kaguya) and Hinanogou (Princess Village) in Fuji City, Shizuoka Prefecture, which is located 110km southwest of Tokyo. There is a beautiful bamboo forest, Taketori Park, where Princess Kaguya was said to be found, in this city (see the following photo).

To visit this mysterious area, a local line, Gakunan Railway is convenient. Connecting Yoshihara on the JR Central Tokaido Main Line and Gakunan-Enoo, the total length is 9.2km. Beautifully shining classic stainless cars, 7000 and 8000 series are operated every 30 minutes. These carriages are all ex-Keio 3000 series, which I introduced in my blog on October 22nd, 2011. A lovely sticker reflecting the image of Princess Kaguya is displayed on the front of the train (see the top photo).

If Taketori Monogatari is a real story, what was the vehicle that Princess Kaguya embarked on to go back to the moon? Was it a UFO?

Bamboo forest in Taketori Park near Hina Station on the Gakunan Railway

More information about Gakunan Railway (in Japanese): http://www.fujikyu.co.jp/gakunan/train.html

Sunday, 20 May 2012

EMU 16000 Series, Winner of the 2011 Laurel Prize

EMU Tokyo Metro 16000 series at Yoyogi-Uehara Station on the Chiyoda Line

Currently, you can see special stickers on the body of EMU 16000 series on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line (see the bottom photo). They are memorial stickers of the 2011 Laurel Prize.

What is the Laurel Prize? It is an annual award presented by Japan Railfan Club since 1961, awarded to trains which were launched in the previous year as the most outstanding technical and designed ones. Actually, almost all awarded trains to date are commuter carriages.

For example, Keio 3000 series in 1963, Tokyu 8500 series in 1976, Tokyo Metro 01 series in 1985, Senday Subway 1000 series in 1988 and JR East-Sendai Airport Transit 721 series in 2008 are well known as previous Laurel Prize winners.

Last year, Japan Railfan Club elected EMU Tokyo Metro 16000 series as the 2011 Laurel Prize train. The 16000 series won for its high-tech system such as its Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor (PMSM) to reduce electric power consumption and also its comfortable design such as copious use of glasses to brighten the interior of the train.

I also like this train because its design is urbanized, and the interior monitors installed above the doors are quite informative. But to mention one drawback, the seats are too firm for me.

Now, what's the Laurel Prize going to this year?

Memorial sticker of the 2011 Laurel Prize on the body of EMU Tokyo Metro 16000 series

More information about EMU Tokyo Metro 16000 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Electric Car Type DeHa 200 in the Tokyu Museum

Electric car Tokyu Type DeHa 200 is preserved in the Tokyu Museum of Trains and Busses

As I introduced in my blog on April 20th, 2011, Tamaden (Tokyu Tamagawa Line) was an old tramway in Tokyo. It was constructed on the highway Route 246 in 1907. Unfortunately, the Tamaden was abolished in 1969 due to heavy traffic jams, but the subway Shin-Tamagawa Line (present Denentoshi Line) was newly opened in 1977 under Route 246 as a subway line.

Although Tamaden has quickly faded into history, a well-known electric car, Type DeHa 200, is still preserved in the Tokyu Museum of Trains and Busses next to Miyazakidai Station on the Tokyu-Denentoshi Line (see the top photo).

Type DeHa 200 was launched in 1955. It is an articulated two-car tram. A total of 6 sets were manufactured by Tokyu Sharyo Company. One of the prominent features of this electric car is its low floor. The height of the floor is only 59 cm above the railway track. It was nothing less than epoch-making at the time. The single axle articulated truck was also quite unique (see the following photo).

As a rail-fan, the egg-shaped rounded body is my favorite. It is very "kawaii (lovely)". I still remember that I waited for a long time to ride Type DeHa 200 at Shibuya Station in my childhood. Just by chance on that very day, Type DeHa 200 took a long time to get there.

The track of Tamaden disappeared a long time ago; however, I can still see Type DeHa 200 in the Tokyu Museum, whenever I want. It makes me happy and satisfied.

Single axle articulated truck of the electric car Tokyu Type DeHa 200

More information about Tokyu Museum of Trains and Busses (in Japanese): http://www.tokyu.co.jp/railway/railway/west/link/museum.html

Monday, 14 May 2012

Yokohama Chinatown on the Minatomirai Line

EMU Y500 series, Yokohama Minatomirai Railway

Yokohama is located 25 km south of Tokyo and is the main city of Kanagawa Prefecture. It is the second largest city in Japan in population after Tokyo. As of the year 2010, this city had an estimated population of 3,690,000. Yokohama developed rapidly as Japan's prominent port city after opening up the country in the 19th century, because while it was being opened, the government aggressively accepted Western culture and technology.

In Yokohama, there is a Chinatown (see the following picture). It is one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. There are roughly 250 Chinese shops and restaurants scattered throughout the 300 square meter area. This Chinatown also dates back to the final days of the Edo era in 19th century when Yokohama opened its port to foreigners. One major difference between Yokohama Chinatown and the rest in the world is that most people who come to Yokohama Chinatown are Japanese.

To visit this busy town, the subway Minatomirai Line of the Yokohama Minatomirai Railway is convenient. Connecting Yokohama and Motomachi-Chukagai (Motomachi-Chinatown), the total length is 4.1km. It was opened in 2004 as an access route to the urban development area, Minatomirai 21, in downtown Yokohama.

A stylish EMU Y500 series operates every 3 to 4 minutes throughout the day (see the top photo). For your information, all trains are directly operated into the Tokyu-Toyoko Line. So, it is very convenient from Shibuya in the downtown Tokyo area.

Kanteibyo Shrine in Yokohama Chinatown near Motomachi-Chukagai Station

More information about Yokohama Minatomirai Railway: http://www.mm21railway.co.jp/global/english/index.html

Friday, 11 May 2012

Classic Street Car in the Castle City

Electric car, Tosa Type 600 leaves Kochi-jo-mae Stop on the Ino Line, Tosa Electric Railway

Shikoku (four provinces) is the smallest and least populous of the four main islands of Japan. It is located 600 to 800 km west of Tokyo. You can reach Shikoku by train directly from Tokyo, passing through the Seto-ohashi railway and road bridge (13.1km long suspension bridge on the Seto Inland Sea).

As its name suggests, there are four prefectures in Shikoku Island, namely Kagawa, Ehime, Tokushima and Kochi. Kochi is situated in the southern part of Shikoku Island. Its main city name is also Kochi. As of the year 2010, Kochi City had an estimated population of 343,000.

This city has grown as the castle city of the lords of Tosa Province, since the early 17th century. We can still see the beautiful castle tower in the center of the city as it was (see the following photo).

To visit this elegant castle, a street car is convenient from Kochi Station. It is operated by Tosa Electric Railway, a local private company since 1904. They have three routes in the city, and the total operating length is 25.3km, which is the second longest street car line in Japan.

My favorite tram is the Type 600 (see the top photo). It was manufactured from 1957 to 1964, but is still working as leading cars. Two large front windows, a large rounded front light and a highly raised up pantograph are very attractive for rail-fans. All cars are air-conditioned.

It would be more memorable for tourists to move by tram there, rather than by using cars or busses.

Kochi Castle near Kochi-jo-mae Stop on the Ino line, Tosa Electric Railway

More information about Tosa Electric Railway (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Primrose Community, Nature in the Giant City

EMU JR East 205-5000 series arrives at Musashi-Urawa Station in the rain

Saitama is the largest city in Saitama Prefecture, 20 to 30km north of Tokyo. It commands a population of 1.2 million people, and many residents commute into Tokyo during the daytime.

It is a giant city; however, the rich nature is still preserved here and there. The natural primrose community in Tajimagahara is one of the famous spots in the city. A total of 1.5 million blossoms are bunched together in the riverside of Arakawa in spring (see the following picture). It was designated as a national natural monument in 1920, and then upgraded to a special national natural monument in 1968. I am in love with the dark pink colored primrose blossoms there. They are tiny but lovely.

To visit this precious spot, I took the JR East Musashino Line and got off at Nishi-Urawa Station via Musashi-Urawa on the Saikyo Line. It takes around 30 to 40 minutes from Shinjuku, a subcenter of downtown Tokyo.

The Musashino Line should be called the outer loop railway of the Tokyo metropolitan area, if we apply the word of inner loop to the Yamanote Line. Connecting Tsurumi and Nishi-Funabashi, the total length reaches 100.6km. Passenger trains operate only between Fuchu-honmachi and Nishi-Funabashi, but freight trains operate on the entire line.

An orange color-striped EMU, 205-5000 series operates every 10 minutes during the daytime, and every 6 minutes in rush hours (see the top photo). Most of the sections are elevated tracks; therefore, you can enjoy a superb suburban view from the train window.

In the meantime, I have linked to "Dick Harris Photography" website. Please enjoy beautiful train pictures in the US, Switzerland and Japan.

Primrose blossoms near Nishi-Urawa Station on the JR East Musashino Line

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Tokyo Monorail, Water Front Line to the Airport

EMU Tokyo Monorail 1000 series (special color) arrives at Oi-keibajo-mae Station

As I introduced in my blog on July 9th, 2011, the Tokyo Monorail- Haneda Line is the oldest monorail, which adopts a straddle-beam system, in Tokyo. It was completed in 1964 as an airport access route from downtown Tokyo to Tokyo International Airport (Haneda).

One of the features of the Haneda Line is its railway track. Most of the sections were constructed on the canal-sides, the river-sides and the seashore. Obviously, it is because of saving construction cost. In this case, using the above places will be easy to secure construction sites for the monorail track. Look at the bottom photo. It is the track near Oi-keibajo-mae Station. You can see that the concrete track piers stand on the canal side.

This enables the passengers to secure superb views from the train windows. For instance, we can see the Tokyo Tower (a 333m high broadcasting tower), Rainbow Bridge (a road and Yurikamome-AGT railway line crossing the Tokyo Bay), Airstrips of the Tokyo International Airport and Mt. Fuji (3776m high, the highest mountain in Japan). For your information, you can enjoy the scenic views on the following website provided by cat2525jp.

Scenic veiw from the train window on the Haneda Line
Video: Courtesy "cat2525jp", large screen version is here

In Tokyo, pleasant air travel is initiated by enjoying superb views from the airport access monorail train.

EMU Tokyo Monorail 1000 series (standard color) runs by Keihin Canal

More scenic videos by "cat2525jp": http://www.youtube.com/user/cat2525jp

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Joshin Electric Railway, Access to the Sakura Village

EMU Joshin KuHa 303 + DeHa 251 at Shimonita Station, Joshin Electric Railway

The weather report says the Sakura front (see my blog on April 22nd) has finally reached Aomori Prefecture, the northern end of Honshu Island (the main island of Japan). As I mentioned before, the Japanese spring is extremely beautiful and full of Sakura (cherry) blossoms.

The Sakura front travels not only to the north, but also climbs up the mountains. Look at the following picture. The sakuta is in full bloom in Myogi Sakura Village in Gunma Prefecture, 110km north of Tokyo. This area is well known for its precipitous mountains, and attracts many rock climbers. What's more, it is a famous spot for Sakura viewing. Currently, the sight of 47 different species and 5,000 Sakura trees fills the mountain.

To get to the Sakura Village, taking a local line, the Joshin Electric Railway, is convenient. Joshin connects Takasaki, a major city in Gunma Prefecture and Shimonita, a mountain foot town of Mt. Myogi. It was opened in 1897. The line is 33.7km long with 20 stations. It takes exactly one hour from Takasaki to Shimonita.

The EMU 200 and 300 series are leading trains on the Joshin Electric Railway (see the top photo). They were manufactured from 1964 to 1967 at Toyo Kouki Company and Seibu Tokorozawa Works. The classic designs steeped in history, such as the rounded double front lights and large cylindrical ventilators,  give passengers a nostalgic time.

Visiting Myogi Sakura Village and taking the Joshin Electric Railway is a perfect way to spend a spring weekend in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Sakura (cherry) blossoms and Myogi Mountain near Shimonita Station, Joshin Electric Railway

More information about Joshin Electric Raylway (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Shimbashi SL Square, Meeting Spot for Oyaji

Steam locomotive C11292 preserved in front of Shimbashi Station

Do you have famous meeting spots in your country? Probably Times Square is the most well-known place in New York City in the US. Meanwhile, Piccadilly Circus must be famous among Londoners in the UK.

Meeting spots can also be found in Tokyo. For instance, the site of Hachiko's Statue in front of Shibuya Station is very popular among Tokyoites. Hachiko was a dog who went back and forth to Shibuya Station for 11 years to look for his master, who died in 1925. Many young people meet there, before enjoying shopping, going out for dinner, watching a movie and so on.

Meanwhile, SL Square next to Shimbashi Station is famous for "oyaji (middle-aged men)". On weekday evenings, a bunch of oyaji people meet there after office hours. The symbol of SL Square is a steam locomotive, ex-JNR (Japanese National Railways) C11292 (see the top photo).

Type C11 was launched in 1932 and operated a total of 381 units on the JNR lines. Number C11292 was manufactured in 1945, and had been used for freight transportation on the Sanyo Main Line. After retirement from the JNR, it was moved to Shimbashi and has been preserved there since 1972.

In the meantime, Shimbashi is famous as a restaurant and entertainment area, especially for oyaji people. Every night, many middle-aged company employees enjoy drinking, chatting and singing Karaoke for relieving stress from work.

SL Square is a gateway to the oasis for the stressful oyaji generation in Tokyo.

EMU JR East 233-1000 series rapid train passes through Shimbashi Station