Friday, 31 May 2013

The 183 Series, Old JNR Express

Displaying "School Excursion" on the front, the EMU 183 series stands at Shinjuku Station
The spring tourist season still continues in Japan. JR trains busily transport groups such as students on school excursions every day. On platform number eleven in Shinjuku Station, I see a special train for school excursions every morning around 7 o'clock.

This week, the EMU JR East 183 series is coming to Shinjuku, instead of the 485 series "New Nanohana", which was operated last week (see my blog on May 24th, 2013). The 183 series is an old express train commissioned in 1974 by Japanese National Railways (JNR). It is a DC (direct current) system train manufactured by Nippon Sharyo, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Tokyu Sharyo and Kinki Sharyo. The specification is rather old; but several sets are still operated in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

The train in the top photo was specially-manufactured for tracks in snowy regions such as the Joetsu Line. For that purpose, special snow-proofing and cold-proofing for the body and special bogies are used. The high cockpit with a bonnet is a distinctive feature of this train. It is a typical design of the so-called "JNR style" express train from the 1960's to the 1970's... a very nostalgic design for me.

Displaying "School Excursion" on the front of the train, the EMU 183 series leaves Shinjuku Station at 7.02 every morning with plenty of junior high school students. The old train serves boys and girls who will bear the future world.

It will be the final mission for the old JNR express.
Side view of the EMU JR East 183 series

Thursday, 30 May 2013

"Sigh of the Dragon" on the Koumi Line

DMU JR East KiHa 110 series passes through Kawamata River near Kai-Ooizumi Station

As I mentioned in my blog on June 22nd, 2012, the JR East Koumi Line is a local railway route in Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures. The 78.9km long route penetrates a highland area at the foot of the Yatsugatake Mountains.

The Koumi Line provides us with various pleasures. The coolness of summer is special. The foliage season is also attractive. Specifically, I like to visit Shirokoma-ike where we can view a mysterious pond and beautiful autumn leaves (see my blog on February 11th, 2013).

What is it like on the Koumi Line in late spring? It is the season of fresh greenery. I like to visit Doryu Fall, which is located near Kai-Ooizumi Station (see the following picture). "Doryu" means "a sigh of the dragon". Ancient people probably imagined steam breathing from a dragon's mouth while looking at this fine and thin waterfall. It is quite unique that the water squirts out from the surface of the rock.

In the meantime, Doryu Fall is located near a railway bridge of the Koumi Line so we can enjoy both the gorgeous waterfall and trains passing through the river in one spot. I could see a 2-car train, the DMU JR East 110 series, heading north (see the top photo). It is the JR East's standard DMU for local lines (see my blog on June 22nd, 2012).

The beautiful "sigh of the dragon" and the gorgeous railway scenery...this is killing two birds with one stone, isn't it?

Doryu Waterfall near Kai-Ooizumi Station on the JR East Koumi Line

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

"Acty", Fast Runner on the Shonan Coast

EMU JR East E233-3000 series, the rapid train, "Acty", stands at Atami Station
The Shonan Coast is a 30km long beach facing the Pacific Ocean. It is located southwest of Tokyo, and can be reached in about one hour by train from downtown Tokyo. The Shonan Coast has been one of the top-rated residential areas in the Tokyo metropolitan area since the 1950's. It is because the area has a beautiful beach and a historical city such as Kamakura.

The railway on the Shonan Coast, namely the Tokaido Main Line, is also something special. The commuter trains on this route have been equipped with green cars (the first class cars) for a long time, as many rich people have been taking this line. Currently, the main fleet of the Tokaido Main Line is an EMU E233-3000 series. It is a 10 or 15 car train including two double-deck green cars. Specifically, the rapid train "Acty" is a representative one using the E233-3000 series. Stopping at only major stations, "Acty" runs between Tokyo and Odawara, the westernmost city of the Shonan Coast, in about 80 minutes.

Taking "Acty", you can reach the beautiful beach on the Shonan Coast in about one hour from downtown Tokyo. I sometimes enjoy walking on the beach near Oiso Station. When I was a child, this place could hardly be described as beautiful because of pollution; but, now, it has become clean as local people and governments' efforts have finally paid off.

The blue ocean on the Shonan Coast is always waiting for visitors.

Beach of the Shonan Coast near Oiso Station on the JR East Tokaido Main Line

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Sayonara, the Tokyu 8090 Series

EMU Tokyu 8090 series arrives at Mizonokuchi Station in the rain (May, 2012)

Tokyu has been working hard to reorganize their railway network for the last few decades. For instance, the Mekama Line was broken up into two routes, namely the Meguro Line and the Tamagawa Line in 2000. The Meguro Line was, then, connected with the Subway Namboku and Mita lines at Meguro Station.

Tokyu also reorganized the Toyoko Line on March 16th of this year (see my blog on March 20th, 2013). Its Shibuya Station was moved from the surface to underground. As a result, the Toyoko Line trains have started to be operated directly into the Subway Fukutoshin Line through the new Shibuya station. These actions are based on Tokyu's strategy to create a strong urban railway network to secure passengers even in the current competitive business environment.

Operation of the rolling stock on the Tokyu lines has also been affected by the reorganizing of the network. Recently, the EMU 8090 series has been retired from the Ooimachi Line. In consequence, all the 8090 series trains have disappeared from the Tokyu lines. I liked the 8090 series as its body was round-faced, more properly, swelling toward the bottom (see the top photo).

Sayonara (good-bye), the Tokyu 8090 series; but, don't worry. The 8090 series are tough and will survive. Changing its name to the 7500 series, the 8090 series have been moved to the Chichibu Railway in Saitama Prefecture (see the following picture). Green colored stripes of the new Chichibu 7500 series are also attractive for me.

Rail fans are people who are always getting into a fuss about the moves of trains.

EMU Chichibu 7500 series (ex-Tokyu 8090 series) arrives at Oyahana Station (June, 2012)

Monday, 27 May 2013

Romance Car "LSE" and Natural Beauty in Hakone

EMU Odakyu 7000 series, Romance Car "LSE" (original color) passes through Kyodo Station

Hakone is a famous mountain resort in the western suburbs of Tokyo. It is always busy with tourists, but, it is especially crowded now because it is the season of fresh greenery. I also went there with my family last weekend.

We got on the Odakyu Romance Car from Machida Station. Our vehicle was the EMU 7000 series, "LSE" (see the top photo). It was launched in 1980 to replace the old models. A total of 4 sets, 44 units, have been manufactured by Nippon Sharyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries so far. Currently, two sets are still being operated on the Odawara Line.

Recent topics of the LSE are its body color change. Last year, Odakyu returned the body color of LSE to its original one, namely orange vermilion, gray and white. As a result, the white and wine-red colored LSE cars (see my blog on June 25th, 2011) have disappeared from the tracks.

After arriving at Hakone, we enjoyed a half-day mountain hike. While we walked along a small stream near Kowakidani Station on the Hakone-Tozan Railway, we found an excellent geologic outcrop. It was columnar joint of the Sengen-yama andesite lava (see the following picture). This lava flowed inside the Hakone Caldera around 50,000 years ago. The beautiful hexagonal pattern (columnar joints) was created in the process of the cooling of the hot lava. It has a stonewalling-like appearance; but it is a natural geological phenomenon.

We enjoyed the gorgeous Romance Car and the natural beauty in Hakone.

Columnar joints are found in the Sengen-yama andesite near Kowakidani Staion
More information about Romance Car, LSE, the EMU Odakyu 7000 series (in Japanese):
More information about Odakyu Romance Car:

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Historical Garden and Classic Tram in Hiroshima City

Electric car Hiroden (ex-Kyoto City Tram) 1900 series stands at Shukkei-en-mae Stop

Shukkei-en is a historic garden in Hiroshima City. It was originally constructed in 1620 on the orders of Asano Nagaakira, who was a Daimyo (feudal lord) of Hiroshima Domain. Since then, the garden had been used as Asano family's private property for a long time; but, opened to the public in 1940 as the family donated it to the local government. During WWII, Shukkei-en was destroyed by the atomic bomb, but it was reopened in 1951 after renovation.

Encircling a pond, Shukkei-en features mountains and gorges from which you can enjoy beautiful views of the water and surrounding foliage (see the following photo). When I visited there, it was covered with beautiful fresh green foliage. Azaleas were in full bloom, and the wind felt great.

To get to this Japanese landscape garden, take the Shiroshima Line of the Hiroshima Electric Railway (Hiroden). The Shiroshima Line is a feeder route of the Main Line. Connecting Hacchobori and Shiroshima, there are five stations over a total operating length of 1.2km.

The main fleet of the route is electric cars, ex-Kyoto City Tram 1900 series (see the top photo). It was originally manufactured by Naniwa Koki, Toyo Koki and Nihon Sharyo in 1957 and was moved to Hiroden in the late 1970s to spend its second life after retirement. Now the 1900 series is used to life in the City of Hiroshima. It has become an indispensable tram in this city.

The classic streetcars look good in the historical garden.

Shukkei-en garden near Shukkei-en-mae Stop on the Shiroshima Line, Hiroshima Electric Railway
More information about the electric cars of Hiroden (in Japanese):

Friday, 24 May 2013

School Excursion with "New Nanohana"

EMU JR East 485 series, "New Nanohana", stands at Shinjuku Station

It is the season for traveling in Japan. The countryside is especially beautiful as everywhere is freshly green. I often see a special train heading to the countryside at Shinjuku Station on the way to my office. It is the EMU 485 series, "New Nanohana (canola flower)".

Along with, Yamadori (mountain bird), Irodori (color) and Minori (harvest), New Nanohana is a leisure train owned by JR East. It is an AC-DC (Alternate Current - Direct Current) dual system train, which is composed of 6 cars (see the top photo). Thanks to the dual system, New Nanohana can be operated on the most of the tracks except non-electrified ones. Its dark and light blue colored body with a white colored stripe is vivid and my favorite; but it is not the color of a Nanohana (canola flower). Nanohana color (i.e. yellow color), is used only on the frontal face of the train. It is an enigma for me.

In the meantime, who are the happy passengers who get on this leisure train? They are mostly junior high school students in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Wearing their school uniforms, they head to the highlands in the Nagano or Yamanashi prefectures. It must be a school excursion.

As the curtain comes down on your life as junior high school students, why not use the precious time you have left to make lifelong memories with your friends and teachers? New Nanohana will also be a snatch of the memories for you. Have Fun!

Side view of KuRo 485-3 of the EMU JR East 485 series, "New Nanohana"
More information about the EMU JR East 485 series, "New Nanohana" (in Japanese):

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

One-eyed Goblin on the Keikyu Line

EMU Keikyu 800 series, "One-eyed goblin" arrives at Shinagawa Station
It is early summer in Tokyo. Summer is a time when all sorts of ghosts and Yokai are prevalent in Japanese films and plays. It has long been said in Japan that when one encounters a strange or peculiar phenomenon he/she suspects that Yokai must be manipulating this.

Many Japanese have long been familiar with Yokai. For instance, Hitotsume-kozo (One-eyed Goblin) is one of the famous Yokai. He takes on the appearance of a bald child with one eye in the center of its forehead. It is said that he suddenly appears and surprises people, but is harmless.

If you would like to imagine the appearance of Hitotsume-kozo, look at an EMU 800 series on the Keikyu Line (see the photos). The 800 series is the oldest model on the line. It was commissioned in 1978 to speed up local (all-stations) trains. A total of 27 sets (3-car and 6-car trains), 132 units have been manufactured by Tokyu Sharyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. You can see one large front light on the frontal face of the train. It is indeed a Hitotsume-kozo.

The specification of the 800 series is rather old. For example, the VVVF inverter control (variable-frequency drive) system is not adopted. The field chopper control system of one generation earlier is still used. But, this classic direct-current motor sound is nostalgic and attractive for me.

The EMU Keikyu 800 series, Hitsitsume-kozo, has a strong appeal for rail fans.

EMU Keikyu 800 series, "One-eyed goblin" arrives at Keikyu-Kamata Station

Monday, 20 May 2013

Ex-Silk Mill and ex-Seibu Train

EMU Joshin 500 (ex-Seibu 101) series stands at Shimonita Station (April, 2012)

Japan has experienced great changes since the Meiji Restoration in 1868. It was a revolution from the Samurai era to the modern era. When Japan's period of isolation ended and the Meiji Restoration began, Japan tried to catch up with the West.

The new government established a national enterprise and ran it to set up industries. One such action for modernization was to build a state-owned silk mill in Tomioka City. This city is located 150km northwest of Tokyo and had been known for its sericultural industry. The state-owned Tomioka Silk Mill started in 1872 importing technology and machines from France.

Today, the Tomioka Silk Mill is designated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan (see the following photo). You can see the brick buildings and old machines along with volunteer guides. To get to this ex-silk mill, Joshin Electric Railway is convenient. Joshin connects Takasaki, a major city in Gunma Prefecture and Shimonita, a mountain foot town of Mt. Myogi. The line is 33.7km long with 20 stations. Joshu-Tomioka, which is the nearest station from the ex-silk mill, is the twelfth station from Takasaki Terminal.

One of the fleets of this small local private railway is an EMU 500 series (see the top photo). It was operated on the Seibu Railway from the 1980's to the early 2000's, and was moved to Joshin in 2005 to spend its second life after retirement.

The ex-Silk Mill and the ex-Seibu Train... Tomioka is a historical city in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Ex-silk mill near Joshu-Tomioka Station on the Joshin Electric Railway

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Classic Stainless Cars on the Ikegami Line

7906F of the EMU Tokyu 7700 series arrives at Senzokuike Station on the Ikegami Line

It is early summer in Tokyo and the sun can be very strong. It's still comfortable in the morning, but the temperature reaches about 25 degrees Celsius during the day. Air conditioners have been turned on in most of the commuter trains.

When I took the Tokyu-Ikegami Line recently, I came across classic stainless cars shining a bright and silvery white (see the photos). It was an EMU, Tokyu 7700 series. The 7700 series was originally launched in 1962 under the name of the 7000 series. A total of 134 units were manufactured by Tokyu Sharyo.

After being operated on the Toyoko and the Denentoshi lines, it was then modified in 1987 to become the 7700 series. New electric systems such as variable frequency drive with induction motors and new bogies were equipped on the 7700 series. The interior was renovated and air conditioners were also equipped. Currently, a total of 12 sets, 36 units are still operated on the Ikegami and the Tamagawa Line.

I often used this train when I was a high school student before the modifications were made. The 7000 series was a good train for me as long as I could bear the in-car heat in peak summer. The air expelled from the ceiling fans was like a heatwave. I often felt that my head was swimming.

Many years have passed since I graduated from high school. It is a fond memory now.

7906F of the EMU Tokyu 7700 series leaves Senzokuike Station on the Ikegami Line
More information about trains on the Tokyu Lines:

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Sunset and Commuter Train in the Northern Cities

EMU JR Hokkaido 731 series, a commuter train stands at Sapporo Station (August, 2012)
Following my last blog on May 17th, 2013, I am going to show you the other rolling stock on the island of Hokkaido.

I visited Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan, last summer. It was a journey full of memories for me and my family. The trains in the northern island made our trip especially memorable... i.e., limited express "Super Hakucho", Hakodate City Tram and overnight sleeper "Hokutosei".

But, I must remember to show you the commuter trains in the major cities of Hokkaido. Look at the top photo. It is the EMU JR Hokkaido 731 series standing at Sapporo Station. Sapporo with a population of 1.9 million is the largest city in Hokkaido. Taking Sapporo as its starting point, the urban commuter railway network connects several large cities, such as Otaru, Asahikawa and Chitose.

The 731 series is an EMU with an alternate current system. It is different from the trains in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The other feature of this train is that the 731 series has equipment which is resistant to the cold and snow, such as "air curtains" to prevent the cold outside air from flowing into the cabin.

Getting on the 731 series, we visited Otaru City, which is located about 40km west of Sapporo. Our target was a waterfront restaurant, where we could see a beautiful sunset over the Sea of Japan. The sunset through the drinking glasses became a cherished memory for us (see the following picture).

I am impatient for a summer vacation to Hokkaido again.
Sunset through the glasses at a waterfont restaurant near Otaru Station (August, 2012)

Friday, 17 May 2013

Type KiHa 40 in the Northern Island

Diesel railcars, JR Hokkaido Type KiHa 40, stand at Hakodate Station (August, 2012)

When I introduced the diesel railcar, type KiHa 40 "Hiroshima Color" in my blog (see the post on May 2nd, 2013), it reminded me of the time when I was visiting Hokkaido last summer.

Look at the photos. They are JR Hokkaido's type KiHa 40 "Hokkaido Color" standing at Hakodate Station. It is a brother of the KiHa 40 "Hiroshima color". The KiHa 40 is a standard diesel railcar for local lines. It was launched in 1977 by Japanese National Railways (JNR). The body is a white color with light green and blue colored stripes, which is so-called "Hokkaido color". It stands out against the beautiful scenery in the northern island (Hokkaido) of Japan.

I like this "JNR" style nostalgic design very much. Especially, two large rounded front lights and two panoramic front windows are my favorites. For your information, "panoramic window" is curved glass in front of the cab to secure the driver's visibility.

When JNR was privatized and split up in 1987, a total of 150 units of the KiHa 40 were taken over by JR Hokkaido. Fortunately, most of them are still being operated on the tracks in the northern island of Japan.

It is true that Hokkaido is the Kingdom of the KiHa 40. Summer in Hokkaido is a peak season for traveling. It is the time to start planning a vacation to this beautiful northern island to see the KiHa 40 again.

Frontal face of the diesel railcar, JR Hokkaido Type KiHa 40 (August, 2012)

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Diorama, Indispensable Attraction in Railway Museums

Japan's largest railway model diorama in the Railway Museum

As I mentioned previously, there are several railway museums in the Tokyo metropolitan area. They are owned by major railway companies, such as JR East, Tobu, Tokyu and Tokyo Metro.

The main exhibitions in these museums are precious retired rolling stock. For instance, Japan's first steam locomotive in the Railway Museum (see my blog on April 11th, 2011), "Cat Whiskers" train in the Tobu Museum (April 28th, 2012), "Tamaden" streetcar in the Tokyu Museum (May 17th, 2012) and Japan's first subway electric car in the Subway Museum (September 10th, 2011) are the greatest treasures in each museum. Furthermore, train simulators are currently popular attractions in these museums. Many children and rail fans always form a line and wait for their precious "train driving" opportunities.

Don't forget one more absolutely necessary attraction...the diorama. There are many large scale railway model dioramas in these museums. Look at the top photo. It is Japan's largest railway model diorama in the Railway Museum. This diorama presents a typical day of railway operation and reproduces all 24 hours in 20 minutes. You can see the other railway model diorama in the Ome Railway Park (see the following picture). This attraction is always popular among kids. They keep their sparkling eyes on running model trains.

When I was a child, railway model diorama was a hobby only for rich families. It was unreachable dream for me. Even now, the fact remains that it is an expensive hobby; therefore, it is an indispensable attraction in railway museums.

"Overnight sleeper train" passes in front of junior rail fans in Ome Railway Park

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The West 700, Rail Star on the Sanyo Shinkansen

EMU JR West 700 series "Rail Star" stands at Aioi Station on the Sanyo Shinkansen

Following the introduction of the Shinkansen 700 series (see my blog on May 14th, 2013); I am going to show you a variation of it... the EMU 700 series, "Rail Star" (see the top photo).

"Rail Star" is a Shinkansen train, which is operated by JR West. It is an 8-car train, a short version of the standard 700 series Shinkansen train, which consists of 16 cars. Rail Star is operated only on the Sanyo Shinkansen, and not directly operated into the Tokaido and Kyushu Shinkansens. The exterior is different from that of the standard 700 series Shinkansen. That is, the light gray colored body with dark gray and yellow colored stripes denotes the Rail Star as a special Shinkansen train. It also has a special logo on the body of the train (see the following photo).

The interior of the Rail Star is also different from that of the standard 700 series. The seating configuration, which is arranged in 2+2 rows, is more spacious than that of the standard 700 series, which has 3+2 row seats. Furthermore, Rail Star has 4-seat compartments in car number 8. Rail star creates a relaxing environment for passengers.

I have used Rail Star once from Shin-Osaka Station. It was equipped with spacious and luxury reclining seats. The seat also has a good level of hardness, which is very comfortable for me.

The EMU JR West 700 series, Rail Star... it is a real star on the Sanyo Shinkansen.

Side view of the EMU 700 series "Rail Star"
More information about EMU JR West 700 series, "Rail Star" (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

EMU Shinkansen 700 Series, Elder Brother of the N700

EMU JR West 700 series stands at Tokyo Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen

I assumed that I had already introduced all of the Shinakansen trains to and from Tokyo Station in my blog; but, there are some left. Today, I am going to show you the EMU 700 series on the Tokaido Shinkansen.

The Shinkansen EMU 700 series belongs to JR Central and West on the Tokaido and the Sanyo Shinkensen. It was launched in 1999 to replace the old rolling stock, such as the 0 series (see my blog on May 8th, 2013) and the 300 series (see my blog on February 19th, 2012). A total of 91 sets, 1328 units have been manufactured by Nihon Sharyo, Hitachi, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Kinki Sharyo. Currently, a total of 1284 units are still being operated by JR Central and West.

The biggest difference between the 300 and the 700 series is the exterior design. The 300 series has a simple streamline shape; meanwhile the 700 series has a more complicated "platypus" shape. The 300 series' maximum speed is 270km/hour; meanwhile the maximum speed for the 700 series is 285km/hour.

Several little brothers of the 700 series are also operated in Japan and Taiwan. For instance, the JR Central/West's latest Shinkansen trains, the EMU N700 series (see my blog on February 22nd, 2012), is an improved rolling stock from the 700 series. Similarly, JR Kyushu's Shinaknsen train, the EMU 800 series and Taiwan High Speed Rail's 700T series is also a little brother of the 700 series.

The 700 series has a big family doesn't it?

EMU JR Central 700 series passes through the Yurakucho area near Tokyo Station 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Express Train on the Haneda Airport Line

"Haneda Express" (left) overtakes a local train (right) at Showajima Station 

As I mentioned previously, the railway business in Tokyo is very competitive right now. Many companies are fighting for survival. Even Tokyo Monorail Company, which has a money-making airport access line, is no exception.

The Haneda Line of Tokyo Monorail Company is the oldest monorail, which adopts a straddle-beam system, in Tokyo. This line, connecting Hamamatsucho and Haneda Airport, was opened in 1964 as an airport access route from downtown Tokyo to Tokyo International Airport (Haneda). There are 11 stations over a total operating length of 17.8 km. Since the opening, this company had been continuing stable management; however, the Haneda Line reached a turning point in 1988. Keikyu, which is one of the major private railway companies, opened another airport access route from Shinagawa, a subcenter of Tokyo. As a result, Tokyo Monorail Company faced fierce competition from Keikyu.

The counterplot against Keikyu was the speeding up of the trains. They launched express trains. Nowadays, the "Haneda Express" train connects Hamamatsucho and Haneda Airport International Terminal without stopping in only 13 minutes. As a passenger, I welcome this kind of competition, as far as safety is assured.

Look at the top photo. You can see that the express train (left) overtakes the local train (right) at Showajima Station. Then, the local train leaves and goes back to the main track (see the following picture). It is a very rare scene of the monorail line in Japan. It seems that railway competition in Tokyo is set to continue.

A local train (EMU 1000 series) leaves Showajima Station and goes back to the main track.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

NEX's Little Side Trip to Izu Peninsula

EMU JR East E259 series, "Maine Express Odoriko" stands at Atami Station

As I mentioned in my blog on April 15th, 2011, the NEX (Narita Express) is an airport access train on the JR East Line. The rolling stock is the EMU E259 series, which was launched in 2009. A total of 22 sets, 132 units, have been manufactured so far. The E259 has been specially designed as the airport access train between downtown Tokyo and the New Tokyo International (Narita) Airport; however, it has also started to be commissioned as a sightseeing express to Izu Peninsula since March of this year. The NEX has started to make a little side trip.

Look at the top photo. It is the E259, "Marine Express Odoriko", standing at Atami Station. This train is operated between Tokyo and Shimoda on the Izukyu Railway. You can see a special emblem for Marine Express Odoriko on the front of the train. Currently, it is operated only in peak vacation seasons. Two sets of the E259 series have been commissioned for that purpose.

I think that the background of this "special operation" was caused by a slump in popularity of the NEX. As I mentioned before (see my blog on September 13th, 2011), JR East's competitor, Keisei, is also operating an airport access train known as the "Skyliner". Lower fares and a faster operation are encouraging more passengers to take the Skyliner rather than the NEX. As a result, JR East has been forced to decrease its operation of the NEX on some sections since March of this year. In other words, there is a surplus of NEX rolling stocks.

"Narita Express (N'EX)" logo (left) and the emblem of "Marine Express Odoriko, E259" (right)

Friday, 10 May 2013

Access to the Mountain of God, Part 2

Shishidani Line (aerial tramway) of Miyajima Ropeway
After getting off the gondola lift at Kayadani Station on the Momijidani Line, we transferred to the Shishiiwa Line.

The Shishiiwa Line is the upper section of Miyajima Ropeway. Connecting Kayadani and Shishiiwa stations, the total line length is 0.5km. This route is operated as an aerial tramway. A gondola holds up to 30 passengers and is operated every 15 minutes. It takes about 4 minutes from Kayadani to Shishiiwa Station. The height difference between the highest and lowest points of the route is only 62m; however, the gondola passes through a deep valley and reaches the other side of the mountain.

While we were on the aerial tramway, we passed an oncoming gondola at the midpoint of the line. When I held up my camera, two girls at the front of the other gondola waved and responded with a peace sign to me (see the top photo). Holidaymakers were relaxed like those you would encounter anywhere in the world.

We got off the gondola at Shishiiwa Station. The view from here was magnificent enough; but, we decided to climb up the mountain to the 535m peak to further enjoy more of Mount Misen's picturesque scenery. It took half an hour. Here we were afforded a 360-degree panoramic view of the island and the Seto Inland Sea, which defied description (see the following picture).

Mount Misen was absolutely the mountain of God.

Superb view of the Seto Inland Sea from Mount Misen

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Miyajima Ropeway, Access to the Mountain of God

Momijidani Line (gondola lift) of Miyajima Ropeway
Following my blog on May 5th, 2013, I am going to show you the rest of our trip to Hiroshima.

After a visit to Itsukushima Shrine (see the following photo), we headed to the heartland of Itsukushima Island. Floating on the Seto Inland Sea and measuring 30 kilometers in circumference, Itsukushima Island features many tourist attractions including Mount Misen, which is covered with a primeval forest in the central part of the island. To get to this beautiful mountain, Miyajima Ropeway is convenient.

Miyajima Ropeway is an aerial lift, which opened in 1959. Connecting Momijidani and Shishiiwa via Kayadani Station, the total operating length is 1.6km. The route is composed of two sections, namely the Momijidani Line and the Shishiiwa Line.

The Momijidani Line is the lower section of Miyajima Ropeway connecting Momijidani and Kayadani stations. The total line length is 1.1km and is operated as a gondola lift. Eight-seater gondolas are operated every minute. It takes about ten minutes from Momijidani to Kayadani Station.

Even though they are operated quite frequently, we had to wait about 45 minutes because it was the peak spring holiday season. We saw many foreign tourists also waiting patiently for their gondolas to arrive. It was a good idea that the station attendants were handing out queue tickets to passengers which meant that they were able to spend their time as they pleased.

I am going to show you the upper section, the Shishiiwa Line, tomorrow. To be continued...
Itsukushima Shrine
More infomation about Miyajima Ropeway:

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Azalea Garden and Preserved Shinkansen in Ome City

Unit 22-75 of the EMU Shinkansen 0 series is preseved at Ome Railway Park

Ome is a small city located in the western part of Tokyo Metropolis. You can enjoy looking at splendid greenery, clear streams and a beautiful mountain range there. Ome is famous for its plum blossoms, after which the city is named. In the early spring, the plum trees show off their beautiful flowers here and there around the city. But, recently, one more beautiful blossom has been added as the "second city flower". It is the azalea.

At the end of April, Ome is covered with beautiful azalea blossoms. A garden at Shiofune-kannon temple is especially gorgeous (see the following photo). You can see thousands of azalea blossoms on the slope behind the temple. They are dark pink, pale purple and white colored. You should not miss this special week.

In the meantime, Ome is also famous among rail fans for its railway park. Ome Railway Park was opened in 1962 by ex-Japanese National Railways in commemoration of the 90th anniversary of railway operations in Japan. Currently, 11 retired rolling stocks, such as old locomotives and EMUs are exhibited.

One of the most popular exhibitions is EMU, unit number 22-75, of the Shinkansen 0 series (see the top photo). It was manufactured in 1969 by Kisha Seizo to enhance the transportation capacity of the Tokaido Shinkansen. It was just before Osaka EXPO and the era of Japan's high-speed economic growth.

A gorgeous azalea garden and a preserved Shinkansen train... there are many interesting sights in the city of Ome.

Azalea Garden behind Shiofune-kannon Temple in Ome City
More information about Ome Railway Park:

Monday, 6 May 2013

300 Posts and 300 Series

301F (Tamaden Color) of the electric car Tokyu 300 series stands at Yamashita Stop

Thank you for visiting Tokyo Railway Labyrinth. Following the second anniversary, the number of my blog posts exceeded 300 last week. I hope that people all over the world will continue to enjoy my blog. In commemoration of the "300th" post in the blog, I am going to show you an electric car with the number "300" in the name.

The electric car Tokyu 300 series on the Setagaya Line was launched in 1999. It is articulated and composed of two cars with three bogies. A total of 10 sets, 20 units, have been manufactured by Tokyu Sharyo. Each set is a different color such as red (photo at the bottom), blue, light green, pink, yellow and so on.

Set number 301 is the so-called "Tamaden Color", whose body color is the same as that of Tamaden (see the top photo). 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, and only the branch route exclusive track was left as the Setagaya Line.

I like the 300 series because it is a cute and precious tram in Tokyo. There are only two tram routes remaining in the Tokyo metropolitan area. One of them is the Toei (Tokyo Metropolitan Government) Arakawa Line and the other is the Tokyu-Setagaya Line. I wish the 300 series could always be operated in the railway scenes in Tokyo.
308F of the electric car Tokyu 300 series arrives at Yamashita Stop

Sunday, 5 May 2013

The Miyajima Line, Approarch to the Island of God

Electric rail car, Hiroden Type 3800 stands at Miyajima-guchi Terminal on the Miyajima Line

On the second day of our journey to Hiroshima, we visited Itsukushima, which is well known as the Island of God.

The main place of worship is Itsukushima Shrine that was originally built in 593. This is the only shrine in the world built over the surface of the sea. They could only build it there, because the island itself had been considered sacred as an island of God since ancient times. Even priests had not been allowed to live on the island since the 6th century, when it was built, until the 19th century. Following the ancient worshippers, we also visited the shrine by boat through the "torii" gate built in the sea (photo at the bottom). Itsukushima Shrine was registered as a World Heritage Site in 1996.

To get to this Island of God, we took the Miyajima Line of Hiroshima Electric Railway. The rolling stock was an electric car, Type 3800, which was launched in 1987. It is an articulated three-car tram with four bogies. The total length of the rail car is 29.6m. VVVF (variable-frequency drive) inverters with induction motors are equipped as a drive system. A total of nine sets, 27 units have been manufactured so far by Alna Sharyo.

For your information, although "streetcars" are operated on the track, the Miyajima Line is classified as a "railway" based on the Railway Business Act of Japan. It is NOT a "tramway", because it is an exclusive track.

"Torii" gate of Itsukushima Shrine
Route map of Hiroshima Electric Railway:

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Hiroden, Japan's Largest Tram Network

Electric car Hiroden Type 1000 stands at Dobashi Stop
Hiroshima is the largest city in Chugoku District. The population now stands at 1.14 million, which is the eleventh largest in Japan. It is also famous for the first city in the world to have been atomic-bombed. Although the downtown area was completely destroyed by the bomb in 1945, it has been reconstructed after WWII.

Hiroshima is also well known among rail fans as Japan's largest tram network city. A total of 7 labyrinthine routes are operated by a private railway company, Hiroshima Electric Railway (Hiroden). Its total operating length is 35.1km.

Hiroden has a rich variety of streetcars. A total of 299 units are operated. The oldest rolling stock was manufactured in 1925; meanwhile the latest one was launched this year. Look at the photos. It is the latest model, the electric railcar Type 1000. It is an articulated three-car tram with two bogies. The bogies are equipped in cars number 1 and 3. In other words, car number 2 doesn't have a bogie... just being floated and being supported by cars number 1 and 3. The other feature of the Type 1000 is its low floor. The height of the cabin floor is only 36cm from the track. Needless to say, this structurally-engineered car is enthusiastically welcomed, especially by old people. A total of two sets have been manufactured so far by Kinki Sharyo, Mitsubishi Heavy Industies and Toyo Denki Seizo.

Electric car Hiroden Type 1000 arrives at Dobashi Stop
More information about Hiroshima Electric Railway:

Friday, 3 May 2013

Classic Streetcar and Peace Memorial in Hiroshima City

Electric car Type Hiroden (Ex-Kyoto City Tram) 1900 stands at Yokogawa Terminal  
After a visit to Kintai Bridge, we took a night train from Iwakuni Station on the Sanyo Main Line. Getting off at Yokogawa Station in Hiroshima City, we transferred to a tram line on the Hiroshima Electric Railway (Hiroden).

It was already 8.30pm, and really dark around the station. We got on a streetcar and headed to a hotel in the downtown area. The rolling stock was the electric car, Hiroden unit number 1911 of the Type 1900. The 1911 had been operated on the Kyoto City Tram line until 1977. It was manufactured by Alna Sharyo in 1957, and was moved to Hiroden in 1978 to spend its second life after retirement. Although, some modifications such as installation of the air conditioning system have been made, the 1911 still keeps much of its original shape. We were lucky to get on this precious streetcar on day one of our stay in Hiroshima City.

We got off the tram near the Peace Memorial Park, which was located about 15 minutes by streetcar from Yokogawa Station. The Peace Memorial Park is close to the epicenter of the atomic bomb blast in 1945 at the end of WWII. At one corner of the park stands the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Atomic Bomb Dome), but it remains preserved in its bombed-out state, showing its collapsed walls and bare iron skeleton. It is a precious monument intended to call for peace. Hiroshima Peace Memorial was designated a World Heritage site in 1996.

For the sake of the world peace...

Hiroshima Peace Memorial near Genbaku Dome-mae stop on the Hiroshima Electric Railway

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Iwakuni Station in the Twilight

EMU JR West 115 series (New Hiroshima Color) stands at Iwakuni Station

After visit to Kintai Bridge (see my blog on May 1st, 2013), we returned to Iwakuni Station on the JR West Sanyo Line to go to Hiroshima City. We spent a lot of time enjoying the scenery of the bridge and a historical park nearby; so, by the time I arrived at the station, the day had completely set in. Since I found there was a wait for the next train, I had a time to see several rolling stocks standing at the station. Rail fans are always busy while traveling.

Look at the top photo. It is an EMU, JR West 115 series, a standard commuter train with a dark yellow body color. It is the so-called "New Hiroshima color", which is a new standard train color in the Hiroshima area. Frankly speaking, it is not my favorite color; however, it looks beautiful in the twilight, probably because it is brightly-colored.

On the other hand, the following picture shows a diesel rail car, Type KiHa 40 on the Gantoku Line. The Type KiHa 40 is a standard diesel rail car for local lines. It was launched in 1977 by Japanese National Railways (JNR). The body is two-toned yellow and white with a gray stripe, which is called "Hiroshima color" among rail fans. It also looks beautiful in the twilight.

Escaping from the urban jungle, we were standing on the very quiet platform of Iwakuni Station in the twilight. It got quite late.

Diesel rail car JR West Type KiHa40 (Hiroshima Color) stands at Iwakuni Station