Sunday, 30 June 2013

KiHa 101, "Salted Cod Roe" on the Kanto Railway

Diesel rail car Kantetsu KiHa 101 (ex-JNR KiHa 30) arrives at Kurogo Station
As I mentioned in my blog on September 20th, 2011, Kanto Railway (Kantetsu) has two faces... one as a city line for urban commuters, and one as a local railway in the countryside. The route north of Mitsukaido Station is a typical local line, which is an un-electrified single track. We can see beautiful idyllic views, such as rice paddies and vegetable fields on the line. A diesel rail car is operated every half an hour on average.

One of the popular rolling stock, which is operated on the northern part of the track, is classic diesel rail car KiHa 101 (see the top photo). The 101 was manufactured by Nihon Sharyo in 1966 under the name of Japanese National Railways (present JR group companies) KiHa 30-55. After it was retired from JR Kyushu in 1990, the 30-55 was moved to Kantetsu to spend its second life. Currently, we can see this type of diesel rail car only on the Kantetsu.

In the meantime, the 101 is called "Tarako" among rail fans. It is because the body color is similar to that of traditional Japanese food, Tarako (salted cod roe). To be more precise, the body color is similar to a red food coloring, which is used for making Tarako. I think that the rail fans are absolutely right.

The well-colored classic diesel rail car, KiHa 101, comes on to the track of the Kantetsu every Wednesday and Saturday.
Diesel rail car Kantetsu KiHa 101 (ex-JNR KiHa 30) aproarches Kurogo Station

Saturday, 29 June 2013

The 485 Series "Yuu", Distinguished Guest to Kamakura

EMU JR East 485 series "Yuu" arrives at Kita-Kamakura Station on the Yokosuka Line

After the E653 left Kita-Kamakura (see my blog on June 25th, 2013), another rare special train came to track number 2. It looks like a kind of fish (see the top photo).

That is EMU JR East 485 series "Yuu", coming all the way from Iwaki Station on the Joban Line. Yuu means play or pleasure in Japanese. As its name suggests, this train has many attractions such as a karaoke system, a view room and a bar. Yuu is a classified as an "ozashiki train", whose interior is arranged as a Japanese-type straw-matted room. It is the same as "Utage", which I introduced on my blog on June 19th, 2013. I saw a group of passengers, who were boarding on this luxury train from Saitama Prefecture. They were relaxed and chatting pleasantly. I absolutely envied them.

Yuu was manufactured in 1991 by JR East Oofuna and Ooi factories cooperating with Tokyu Sharyo. The body is new; but, the equipments were diverted from retired EMUs, namely the Type SaRo 183, the 189 and the 489. Yuu is an AC-DC dual system EMU. So, it can be operated on most of the electrified tracks. Furthermore, being accompanied with a diesel locomotive and a power-supply car, it is also possible to be operated on un-electrified tracks.

I like the shape of the front car, which is similar to a scorpion fish. It looks quite startling on the railway track. Yuu... it was a distinguished guest to the historical Kamakura City.

Side view of KuRo 484-2, the EMU 485 series "Yuu"
More information about the EMU JR East 485 series "Yuu" (in Japanese):

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Hydrangea Garden and Retro Design Train in Kamakura

Set 21-61 of the EMU Enoden 20 series approarches Koshigoe Station

Although it is the hot and humid season, tourists are flocking to Kamakura, which is a historical city in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

One of the reputable spots in this season is Hase-temple, which is located in the western part of the city. In June, the back garden of the temple is filled with a bunch of hydrangea blossoms (see the following photo). If heaven exists, it is probably something like that. I reached Hase-temple 30 minutes prior to the opening time; however, hundreds of visitors including foreigners were already waiting in front of the gate. I think it is probably because it had been repeatedly featured on TV.

To get to this super famous spot, take the Enoshima Electric Railway (Enoden) and get off at Hase Station. One of the impressive Enoden trains is the EMU 20 series (see the top photo). The 20 series is a retro design train, which was commissioned in 2002. A total of two sets, four units have been manufactured so far by Tokyu Sharyo.

Set 21-61 (see the top photo) of the 20 series was originally green and cream colored. It was, then, changed to dark brown colored in 2010 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Enoden. Dark brown was the body color of car number 1, which was the first Enoden electric car 100 years ago.

The beautiful hydrangea garden and the retro design train, there is no end to attractions in Kamakura.

Hydrangea garden in Hase-temple near Hase Station on the Enoshima Electric Railway
More information about Unit 21-61 of the EMU Enoden 20 series (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The E653's Little Side Trip to Kamakura

EMU JR East E653 series arrives at Kita-Kamakura Station on the Yokosuka Line

The ecology of rail fans is curious. They dislike mass-produced models such as standard commuter trains and express trains in general; however, they flock to get on these trains once it is announced that the models will be retired soon. Rail fans might be fond of rare species of trains. As a matter of fact, so am I.

Last week I visited Kamakura for a stroll. As you may know, Kamakura is known as a historic city where the bakufu (shogunate government) was located from 1185 to 1333. It was enjoyable for me to visit historical temples and shrines, but I had another purpose to visit Kamakura. It was to see a rare EMU that would come to Kamakura as a special train.

Look at the top photo. It is an EMU JR East E653 series arriving at Kita-Kamakura Station on the Yokosuka Line. The E653 series was commissioned in 1997 to replace the old limited express model, the 485 series, on the Joban Line. A total of 12 sets, 72 units, have been manufactured so far by Hitachi, Kinki Sharyo and Tokyu Sharyo. They were being operated as limited express trains on the Joban Line until March 15th, 2013. The E653 was then retired from regular trains on the tracks. Currently, E653's field of performance is only as special trains. It means that the E653 has become a rare train to be chased by rail fans.

The E653... haven't seen you for yonks.

Side view of the KuHa E653-8, EMU JR East E653 series

Monday, 24 June 2013

Lotus Garden and Poster Train in Chiba City

Special poster train of the Chiba Urban Monorail, EMU 1000 series, "My younger sister"

"My younger sister" is a Chiba-based popular novel written by Tsukasa Fushimi. It has also been published as a comic and an animation cooperating with illustrator, Hiro Kanzaki. The story of "My younger sister" is a conflictual relationship between a teenage brother and his younger sister. But, they start to understand each other when the brother finds out his sister's secret.

The Chiba Urban Monorail Line often appears in this popular story. Why not use this power to promote tourism for Chiba City? For that purpose, Chiba Urban Monorail has been operating a special poster train, "My younger sister", since this March. The unit number 1037-1038 of the EMU 1000 series is wrapped in Hiro Kanzaki's illustrations and is being operated on the No.1 and No.2 lines everyday.

I visited Chiba City last weekend to get on this poster train (see the top photo). In addition, I could visit a gorgeous lotus garden in Chiba Park, which is located in front of Chiba-koen Station. The lotus is a famous midsummer flower in Japan. Along with Gyoda (see my blog on August 13th, 2012), the lotus in Chiba is also reputable.

Currently, the lotus in Chiba Park is fully blown, and it announces the arrival of summer. I could shoot beautiful lotus flowers and a contemporary monorail train together (see the following picture). There's nothing like Chiba during summer.

EMU Chiba Urban Monorail 1000 series passes through the lotus garden near  Chiba-koen Station
More information about special poster train on the Chiba Urban Monorail Line (in Japanese):

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Nippon Bells Community on the Karasuyama Line

Rail car JR East Type KiHa 40 (JNR color) leaves Niita Station on the Karasuyama Line

Following the introduction of the JR East Karasuyama Line (see my blog on June 12th, 2013), I am going to show you a beautiful natural flower community on the line.

Look at the following photo. It is an "Iwauchiwa (Nippon Bells)" community seen in Nakagawa Town, Tochigi Prefecture in April. Nippon Bells is a tiny plant; but it is very beautiful when bunched together. Especially, in this area, thousands of natural Nippon Bells fill the slopes of mountains as underbrush of forests. I love these pale pink colored serrated petals. It bids farewell to winter and celebrates the coming of spring in this area. I appreciate that the landlord has been carefully protecting this community and kindly opened it to the public.

In the meantime, I don't know why this plant is named "Nippon" Bells. As you may know, we call our country "Nippon" in Japanese. "Japan" is the English name. Nippon Bells might be an endemic in Japan.

To get to this beautiful spot, take the Karasuyama Line and get off at Karasuyama Terminal. It takes around 50 minutes from Utsunomiya, the main city of Tochigi Prefecture. The diesel rail cars, Type KiHa 40 "JNR color" on the line is my "cup of tea"(see the top photo).

You can enjoy nostalgic diesel trains and beautiful flowers on the Karasuyama Line.

Iwauchiwa (Nippon bells) community near Karasuyama Station on the Karasuyama Line

Friday, 21 June 2013

Scenic Train in Izu Peninsula, Part 2

Set number R-3 of the EMU Izukyu 2100 series, Resort 21, stands at Atami Station

This website received many hits when I introduced the scenic train in Izu Peninsula last time (see my blog on April 9th, 2013). It was set number R-5 of the EMU 2100 series, "Resort 21" on the Izukyu Railway. Today, I am going to show you the other scenic train, set number R-3 on the line.

Look at the top photo. It is set number R-3 of the EMU 2100 series. The R-3 was manufactured in 1998, five years earlier than the R-5. The R-3 keeps an original style of the Resort 21. In particular, the body design of the R-3 is more angular than that of the R-5.

The passenger services of the R-3 are the same as those of the R-5. To enjoy gorgeous views, sloping tiers of seats are equipped in the front of the train. The passengers can enjoy a front view through the cockpit. Furthermore, the scenic seats are equipped facing the Pacific Ocean in the other parts of the train. They are very exciting attractions for passengers.

I have got on the R-3 several times and enjoyed scenic views of the Izu Peninsula. The R-3 used to have a Green Car (first class) "Royal Box", which had a starry ceiling in the cabin. The ceiling shined like a starry sky, while the train passed through tunnels. The passengers could enjoy beautiful scenery on the surface track; meanwhile they could see the beautiful planetarium in the tunnel. Unfortunately, this Green Car has already been scrapped.

Side view of set number R-3, the EMU Izukyu 2100 series

Thursday, 20 June 2013

White Train on the Tama Monorail Line

The 1102F of the EMU Tama Monorail 1000 series arrives at Takahatafudo Station

The Tama Monorail Line is a north-south trending suburban route in the western part of Tokyo Metropolis. Connecting Tama Center and Kamikitadai (16.0km) in about 36 minutes, it penetrates the Tama Hills from south to north. The route was opened in 1998 as a straddle-beam system monorail like the Haneda Line of Tokyo Monorail Company.

The EMU 1000 series has been operated on the line since 1998 when the route was opened. It consists of 4 cars, and a total of 15 sets have been manufactured so far. Most of the trains have orange and yellow colored stripes (see my blog on October 29th, 2011); however, only one set is painted white. It is set number 1102F.

The 1102F was commissioned in 1998 as the initial manufactured group. Why is it white colored? It is because the 1102F is used as a poster train. It is expected to be wrapped by commercial posters such as a department store or a home appliance manufacturer. In other words, the 1102F currently doesn't have a sponsor.

It might not be satisfactory for the railway company on the revenue front; but I personally like this solid white colored train. Look at the top photo. The white colored train, the 1102F, runs backed by the white colored apartments and the white colored pillars supporting the railway tracks. It is an all-white scenery except the blue sky... very exotic like the Mediterranean region. Don't you agree?

Close up picture of the 1102F with a snow claning brush

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Ozashiki 485 "Utage", Party Train in Japan

Set G4+G5 of the EMU JR East 485 series "Utage" stands at Shinjuku Station

The season of school excursions ended with the beginning of the rainy season. I no longer see the school excursion trains in Shinjuku Station. Instead, another special train has been coming to Shinjuku in the early mornings of this week.

Look at the top photo. It is the set G4+G5 of the EMU 485 series "Utage", which belongs to JR East's Oyama Rail Yard. Utage (feast or party) is the so-called "ozashiki train", whose interior is arranged as a Japanese-type room. For instance, the floor is straw-matted with Japanese-style low tables so that the passengers are relaxed taking off their shoes as if they are at home. Typically, Utage is used for group tours. Most of the passengers are friends, families, and groups from work. As its name suggests, the passengers can enjoy a party in the Utage train.

The Utage train was commissioned in 1994 after being renovated from a standard limited express train. It is an AC-DC (Alternate Current - Direct Current) dual system train, which is composed of 6 cars. Thanks to the dual system, Utage can be operated on most of the tracks except non-electrified ones.

I haven't had an opportunity to get on the Utage train up to now; but, I often see passengers enjoying a party on this train from the station platform. They were chatting, drinking sake (rice wine) and sometimes singing.

You will find the Japanese lifestyle on the Utage train.

Side view of KuRo 485-1, the EMU JR East 485 series "Utage"

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Final Year of the EMU Chichibu 1000 Series

EMU Chichibu 1000 (ex-JR East 101) series arrives at Nagatoro Station (November, 2012)

On June 12th, 2013, Chichibu Railway made an announcement that the EMU 1000 series will be retired by the end of 2014.

The EMU 1000 series was originally commissioned in 1957 by ex-JNR (Japanese National Railways) as a new high speed commuter train, the JNR 101 series. A total of 1,535 units had been manufactured over 12 years. It is a big family isn't it? The design is not too hot; but it is very staunch and robust. I have many memories of my childhood getting on the 101 series, such as school excursions, visits to relatives, and so on.

Most of the units have been already scrapped; however, a total of 36 units were fortunately moved to Chichibu Railway in the 1980s to spend their second life. Three sets, nine units, are still operated on the line; but they have got older and are near the end of their own life.

According to Chichibu Railway, the set number 1010 (see the top photo) will be retired next March. It has only nine months left. Rail fans in Japan, including me, have started to become nervous about the situation. "When should I visit Chichibu Railway to get on the 1000 series and say good-bye?" It will be very crowded with rail fans just before its retirement. I want to avoid an unnecessary rush. On the contrary, if I visit too soon, the mood won't be right.

When should I visit? That is the question.

Side view of the EMU Chichibu 1000 series (Mitsumine-guchi Station, November, 2012)

Monday, 17 June 2013

The E257 "Kaiji" and Japanese Azalea on the Chuo Line

EMU JR East E257 series, "Kaiji" arrives at Shinjuku Station on the Chuo Line

It's rainy season in Tokyo. It is a gloomy period for Tokyoites before midsummer, but it is also pleasure to see some kinds of beautiful flowers, which only bloom in this season. Along with the hydrangea and iris, the Japanese azalea (Renge-tsutsiji) is my favorite flower in June. Mt. Amari in Yamanashi Prefecture is a reputable spot for viewing it.

Mt. Amari is located about 120km west of Tokyo. The altitude of the summit is 1,731meters, not as high as the surrounding mountains, but it is famous in spite of its altitude because there is a large natural community of Japanese azaleas around the summit.

Look at the following photo. It is a full blown Japanese azalea community seen in the vicinity of the summit. Tangerine colored blossoms that show up the light green colored leaves. When I visited there, the summit of Mt. Amari was enveloped in a mist. It was a very mysterious scenery.

To visit this beautiful spot, take the JR East Chuo Line. The limited express, "Kaiji" is convenient to get to Kofu, the main city of Yamanashi Prefecture. You should, then, transfer to a local train and get off at Nirasaki Station.

The main fleet of "Kaiji" trains is the EMU E257 series, which was commissioned in 2001 (see the top photo). One of the features of this EMU is the positioning of the air conditioners. To keep its under-slung body, all of the air conditioners are equipped under the floors. As a result, the roof of the train is flat and clear.
Japanese Azalea commuity in Mt. Amari (1,731m) near Nirasaki Station on the Chuo Line

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Generational Change on the Nikko Line

EMU JR East 205-600 series stands at Utsunomiya Station on the Nikko Line

The trains on the JR East Nikko Line have totally changed. Replacing the EMU 107 series (see my blog on March 12th, 2013), the new EMU 205-600 series was introduced on March 16th, 2013 (see the top photo).

The 205-600 series had previously been operated on the Keiyo Line in the eastern part of the Tokyo metropolitan area. Due to the launch of the new train, EMU 233-5000 series on the Keiyo Line, the 205 series was moved to the Nikko Line. As a result, the 107 series, then, got kicked out. It is like a series of linked personnel changes in an office, isn't it?

When the 205 series was moved to the Nikko Line, it was renovated from an urban commuter to a local train. For instance, the number of cars has decreased from 10 to 4. A toilet has been newly equipped in car number 4. The color of the body stripes has also been changed from red to brown, gold and cream.

For your information, the Nikko Line is a sightseeing route from Utsunomiya, a major city of Tochigi Prefecture to Nikko, a World Heritage site. There are 7 stations over a total operating length of 40.5km. The route is an electrified single track.

Nikko is a reputable sightseeing area in the northern part of the Tokyo metropolitan area. For example, Konsei pass (see the following picture) is one of my favorite spots to view Mt. Nantai and Lake Yunoko. Beautiful mountains, lakes and historical spots always attract tourists.

View of Mt. Nantai and Lake Yunoko from Konsei Pass in Nikko City 

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Ghost of WWII in Tokyo

Departure information for the Shinkansen trains in Tokyo Station on June 4th, 2013

It is said that the train operation in Japan is very punctual, but not always. On June 4th, 2013, the operation of several railways in the northern part of Tokyo was suspended for three hours. It was caused by bomb disposal.

Japan has been a nation of peace for 68 years since 1945 when WWII ended. Most people, including me, were born after WWII; however, we sometimes remember that this country used to be involved in wars. For instance, we sometimes hear news about the discovery of an unexploded bomb, which was dropped by coalition aircraft during WWII.

Once it is found, the bomb-disposal squad of the Ground Self-Defense Force is sent to the site. While the bomb disposal operation is being conducted, the residents in the vicinity are forced to evacuate, and railway operations near the site are suspended.

Look at the following photo. This picture shows the platforms for the Tohoku Shinkansen in Tokyo Station at 12.30 on June 4th. There were no trains on the tracks, since all the trains were only going as far south as Omiya Station, which is north of Tokyo.

The top picture shows the departure information at the entrance of Tokyo Station. The first train to pass by the bomb disposal site was due to be at 14.04 (left display), despite the first train on the westbound Tokaido Shinkansen, which was being operated as usual, leaving at 12.26 (right display).

Bomb disposal in Tokyo, it is a ghost of WWII. For the sake of world peace...
Platform for the Tohoku Shinkansen in Tokyo Station on June 4th, 2013

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Iris Garden on the Kashima Line

EMU JR East 209 series approarches Junikyo Station on the Kashima Line 

As I mentioned in my blog on June 9th, 2013, June is the iris season in Suigo (Water Country). I am going to show you the largest iris garden in the area.

Look at the following picture. It is an iris community of Suigo-Sahara Water Garden, Katori City in Chiba Prefecture. The iris is a typical flower in the rainy season in Japan. Large colorful flowers attract millions of gardeners and flower lovers. My favorite is the bluish purple colored blossom. It is very gorgeous, but elegant as well. It is said that the practice of viewing iris flowers began to spread throughout Japan in the 13th century. Then, in the 17th century in the Edo Period, the iris was modified by flower-loving Samurais, and various kinds of breeds were generated.

To visit this beautiful water garden, take the JR East Kashima Line and get off at Junikyo Station. The Kashima Line was opened in 1970. Connecting Katori and Kashima Soccer Stadium, the total operating length is 17.4km. The whole route is an electrified single track. All trains are directly operated into the Narita Line for Sahara and Narita. Furthermore, some of them are extended to Chiba and Tokyo.

Four and 6-car trains, the EMU 209-2000 and 2100 series, are in service as local trains on the Kashima Line (see the top photo). It was previously operated in the central part Tokyo, and sent to this local line in 2010 after interior renovation.

Iris community in Suigo-Sahara Water Garden near Junikyo Station on the Kashima Line

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The 90th Anniversary of the Karasuyama Line

Diesel rail cars JR East Type KiHa 40 arrive at Niita Station on the Karasuyama Line

The JR East Karasuyama Line is a short local route in Tochigi Prefecture. The line penetrates the beautiful countryside of rice paddies and gently undulating hills. Connecting Hoshakuji and Karasuyama, the total operating length is 20.4km. The whole route is an un-electrified single track. A 2-car train, diesel rail cars, Type KiHa 40 (see my blogs on May 2nd and 17th, 2013) is operated hourly on average (see the top photo). Most of the trains are directly operated into the Tohoku Main Line to Utsunomiya.

On April 15th, 2013, the Karasuyama Line marked the 90th anniversary of its train operation. The line had to face many challenges before its anniversary. For instance, it was originally planned as a connecting route between the Tohoku Main Line and Joban Line; but only opened partially in 1913. In 1968, the Karasuyama Line fell into a crisis of abandonment, as it looked to be a "money-losing route".

Today, the Karasuyama Line has a bright future. On November 6th, 2012, JR East made an announcement that Japan's first battery driven EMU, EV-E301 series, will be introduced to this local line in 2014. The EV-E301 has a composite of ordinary electric and storage battery systems. It will be operated as an ordinary EMU on the electrified track between Utsunomiya and Hoshakuji using pantographs. It will then change into battery cars on the un-electrified track between Hoshakuji and Karasuyama. After arriving at Karasuyama Terminal, the EV-E301 will charge its battery at a charging facility.

Putting up "the 90th anniversary" plate, the diesel rail cars Type KiHa 40 stand at Hoshakuji Station

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

1200-year-old Wisteria on the Tobu-Noda Line

EMU Tobu 8000 series arrives at Nanasato Station on the Tobu-Noda Line
Wisteria is a pea family plant commonly seen in the low-mountains in Japan. It is a pale purple flower in the middle of spring. The natural wisteria in the mountains is definitely attractive; but artificial ones, grown using a trellis, is more gorgeous and impressive.

Look at the following photo. It is a full- blown wisteria tree seen in Ushijima Wisteria Garden of Kasukabe City, Saitama Prefecture. Amazingly, it is not a group of trees, but a single tree grown on the trellis. In other words, you can see only one trunk of the wisteria in the center of the trellis. What a horizontally extensive tree it is! More surprisingly, the oldest wisteria in this garden is 1200 years old. It was designated as a national treasure in 1928.

Why has it been able to survive for such a long time? It is because this garden used to be a part of an old temple. In early May, flower lovers flock to this beautiful garden to enjoy the advent of spring.

To get to this precious spot, take the Tobu-Noda Line and get off at Fuji-no-Ushijima Station. The Noda line is a circular route in the eastern half of the Tokyo metropolitan area, connecting Omiya and Funabashi. The major fleet on the route is an EMU 8000 series (see the top photo), which was launched in 1963. It is rather old, but a new model, the EMU 60000 series is planned to be introduced on the line later this month.

I will report on the 60000 series soon.

An old wisteria tree near Fuji-no-Ushijima Station on the Tobu-Noda Line

Monday, 10 June 2013

The Tokyu 7000, Smart Train in the Residential Area

EMU Tokyu 7000 series leaves Kamata Station on the Tamagawa Line
I can't believe it's the middle of the June already. We are halfway through this year. Although the maximum daytime temperature is still lower than 30 degrees Celsius, the sunlight is very strong down here in Tokyo as it is an early summer.

One sunny day, I visited a friend of mine, who lived in a residential quarter in the southwestern part of Tokyo on the Tokyu-Ikegami Line. When I was waiting for my train at Kamata Terminal, I came across the latest model EMU, the 7000 series (see the top photo).

The 7000 series was commissioned in 2007 to replace old models on the Ikegami and the Tamagawa lines. So far, a total of 7 sets, 21 units, have been manufactured by Tokyu Sharyo. One of the features of this train is its body size. Different from the other major rolling stock on the Tokyu lines, the 7000 series is a smaller sized train (18m in length per unit) with smaller number of doors (3 doors on one side per unit).

I was fascinated by the 7000 series. The design is smart as a train of the fashionable urban residential areas. The green colored body is totally new, since most of the Tokyu trains have red stripes on the stainless steel bodies (see the following pictures). The interior of the 7000 series is also attractive for me. Specifically, the heavily used wood-grain walls offer the passengers peace and comfort.

EMU 7000 series (left) and the other rolling stock stand at Yukigaya Rail Yard,Tokyu-Ikegami Line
More information about trains on the Tokyu Lines (in Japanese):

Sunday, 9 June 2013

June Bride on the Kashima Line

EMU JR East 257-500 series, "Ayame", heads to Itako City on the Kashima Line

In June, the bells perhaps ring nonstop in churches in Western countries. The girls in the West must dream of being a June bride. But, it doesn't necessarily apply in Japan, as June is a hot and humid rainy season here. It is not suitable for a wedding ceremony or party in general. The only exception is Suigo (the water country) in the eastern part of the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Suigo lies astride the prefectures of Ibaraki and Chiba. Being surrounded by large rivers and lakes, it is known as the water country. The small rowboat has been a means of transportation for local people since medieval times. Suigo is also known for iris flowers in June. We can view colorful blossoms in the glade. It is the most gorgeous season of the year in Suigo.

In June, the bride in Suigo embarks the small wedding boat and marries into her bridegroom's home (see the following photo). The full blown iris adds grace to the traditional ceremony. Today, the wedding boat is one of the most popular events in Suigo.

To get to this traditional water country, take the JR East Kashima Line and get off at Itako Station. It takes about two hours from downtown Tokyo by limited express "Ayame (iris)" (see the top photo). You will find a beautiful iris garden only a few minutes' walk from the station. The dock of the wedding boat is also located near the iris garden.

Boardng a wedding boat, the June bride marries into her bridegroom's home in Itako City

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Train Pictures on the Yurakucho Line

EMU Tokyo Metro 10000 series stands at Shintomicho Station on the Yurakucho Line

It is a matter of supreme indifference to ordinary passengers; but, subway trains are annoying for rail photo lovers.

One of the problems is its dark environment on the railway track. Some rail fans shoot subway trains only on the surface tracks during the daytime instead of on underground tracks; but, such "subway" tracks are limited in Tokyo (see my blog on July 15th, 2011). Even if we can take the train photographs on the surface, it is a "not-subway-like photo", anyway. I recommend you shoot a subway train, which stands at an underground station, using a slow shutter speed with your camera. As you may know, shooting with the flash on is prohibited, because it will distract a train driver from his/her safe operation.

The next hurdle is the design and structure of the station. Most rail photo lovers wish to shoot the whole train including the bogies. So, you have to find a suitable station for that purpose. A separate platform is an idealized condition, because you can shoot the whole train from the opposite platform. But you still have obstacles, which are pillars between your position and the subway train. You have to carefully choose a station without pillars between the two tracks. For instance, Shintomicho on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line is an idealized spot (see the photos). You must be able to shoot the whole train....oh no! Platform doors are hampering the photo.

Rail fans' troubles never seem to end.

EMU Tokyo Metro 7000 series stands at Shintomicho Station on the Yurakucho Line

Friday, 7 June 2013

Silence within the City on the Marunouchi Line

EMU Tokyo Metro 02 series stands at Yotsuya Station on the Marunouchi Line
Tokyo is a super high density city. More than 30 million people live in this small metropolitan area. It has been expanding above, underground and horizontal for the last 400 years. It is a truly exploding city. Tokyoites are always busy. The city center is full of noise such as cars, promos seeping through speakers, people's chatter and so on. We really need oases of relaxation even in the city center area.

Don't worry, we have some. Along with the outer garden of the Imperial Palace and the garden of the Meiji Shrine, Shinjuku Gyoen is an idealized spot for relaxation. Shinjuku Gyoen is a large garden, which is located in the Shinjuku sub-center area. It was originally a residence of a feudal lord family in the Edo period (1603-1868). Afterwards, it became a garden under the management of the new government. It is now a park under the jurisdiction of the national Ministry of the Environment.

Today, Shinjuku Gyoen is a recreation area for the general public. We can see beautiful gardens such as British, French and Japanese styles. It is a very quiet area even in the center of the bustling city (see the following photo).

To get to this urban oasis, take the subway Marunouchi Line and get off at Shinjuku Gyoen-mae Station. It takes only 5 minutes from Shinjuku to Shinjuku Gyoen-mae Station on the red train, EMU Tokyo Metro 02 series (see the top photo).

Feel the silence within a bustling city.

Japanese style garden in Shinjuku Gyoen near Shinjuku Gyoen-mae Station

Thursday, 6 June 2013

A Piece of Osaka within Hiroshima City

Electric car Hiroden (ex-Osaka City Tram) 750 series stands at Dobashi Stop

Osaka is the largest city in the western part of Japan. It has been a rival city of Tokyo since the 17th century when the Tokugawa Shogunate (Government) was established in Edo (present Tokyo).

For instance, Osaka opened its first tram route in 1903, which was the same year as the start of the tram operation in Tokyo. During WWII, Osaka matured into a large tram network city, which had a total of 118km operating length; meanwhile Tokyo had a 213km tram network in 1955. Unfortunately, Osaka City Tram was abolished in 1969 due to severe traffic congestion. As a result, almost all streetcars in Osaka were scrapped. Currently, we can see only a few preserved cars there.

But, don't worry. They have been surviving in Hiroshima. A total of 2 models, 15 units had been moved from Osaka. Hiroden (Hiroshima Electric Railway) is still operating ex-Osaka streetcars.

Look at the top photo. It is an ex-Osaka streetcar, 750 series. This model was launched in 1940. A total of 6 units were moved to Hiroshima between 1965 and 1968. I like this single large frontal top light and three classic windows.

The following picture shows the other ex-Osaka streetcar, 900 series. This model was commissioned in 1957. A total of 9 units were manufactured by Osaka Sharyo. They were moved to Hiroshima in 1969. The black colored large frontal bumper is my favorite.

Hiroden 750 and 900 series... they are a piece of Osaka within Hiroshima City.

Electric car Hiroden (ex-Osaka City Tram) 900 series arrives at Dobashi Stop

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Return of Hydrangea Season on the Inokashira Line

1714F of the EMU Keio 1000 series arrives at Shin-Daita Station on the Inokashira Line

It is rainy season again. On May 29th, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) announced that this year's rainy season had begun in Tokyo. But it was ironic that the weather has been perfect since the rainy season was announced by the JMA.

Whatever the weather is, the season of hydrangeas has also returned. Following years 2011 and 2012, I am going to show you the full blown hydrangeas on the Keio-Inokashira Line again. This year, it seems they have bloomed a few days earlier than usual. We can view the beautiful flowers here and there now.

Look at the top photo. It is a train and hydrangea flowers taken near Shin-Daita Station on the Inokashira Line. As I mentioned before, Keio has been working on planting hydrangeas on the embankments of the railways to prevent slope failure and protect the environment since 1991. Nowadays, we can enjoy seeing colorful hydrangea blossoms at the side of the railway tracks specifically around Meidaimae, Higashi-Matsubara, Shimokitazawa and Shin-Daita stations in June.

The train in the photo is an EMU 1000 series. It was commissioned in 1996 as the first long (20m) body train on the line. It is composed of 5 cars and each train set has a different color on the frontal mask and the side lines. Those are light-blue (photo at the top), salmon-pink (photo at the bottom), lilac, light-green, orange-beige, ivory white and blue-green ... the seven colors of the rainbow.

The vivid train, EMU 1000 series stands against colorful hydrangea flowers in the background.

1724F of the EMU Keio 1000 series leaves Shin-Daita Station on the Inokashira Line

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Rose Festival on the Toyo Rapid Line

EMU Tokyo Metro 05 series arrives at Yachiyo-Midorigaoka Station on the Toyo Rapid Line

It is rose flower season in Tokyo. We can see the beautiful blossoms here and there. They are fully blown in public parks, private gardens, and unexpectedly, on exterior walls of office buildings as well.

One of the reputable rose gardens in the Tokyo metropolitan area is Keisei Rose Garden in Yachiyo City, Chiba Prefecture. Along with Yatsu Rose Garden (see my blog on November 26th, 2011), Keisei Rose Garden is referred to as one-half of the twin jewels of rose gardens in Chiba Prefecture.

I visited this beautiful garden last weekend with my family. It was in peak blooming season. Visitors could see 1000s of different kinds of roses among the 7,000 on display there. We enjoyed the colorful blossoms, and smelled the sweet flavors of the full blown flowers. A rose festival was being held in the garden and a local high school jazz band gave us a brilliant performance (see the following photo). The garden was filled with not only colors and smells of the roses, but also sounds of the student performers.

To get to this flower lovers' paradise, the Toyo Rapid Line is convenient (see the top picture). Connecting Nishi-Funabashi and Toyo-Katsutadai, the total operating length is 16.2km. Most of the trains are directly operated into the subway, Tokyo Metro Tozai Line. Using the rapid train, it takes around 40 minutes from Ootemachi, a city center of Tokyo, to Yachiyo-Midorigaoka, the nearest station to the rose garden. The railway station and the garden are connected by paths and pedestrian malls.

Jazz performance by Tomisato High School Band in Keisei Rose Garden on the Toyo Rapid Line

Monday, 3 June 2013

Long-sized Articulated Tram on the Hiroden

Electric car Hiroden 5100 series arrives at Hacchobori Stop

Getting on locally-specific trains outside Tokyo is one of my greatest pleasures as a rail fan. I am going to show you Hiroden's long-sized articulated streetcars, which I have never seen in Tokyo. Hiroden (Hiroshima Electric Railway) enjoys Japan's largest tram network. It consists of seven routes, whose total operating length is 35.1km.

Look at the top photo. It is an electric car 5100 series, "Green mover max". The 5100 series is Hiroden's latest long-sized (30m) articulated streetcar, which was commissioned in 2005. It is composed of 5 bodies with 3 bogies. A total of 10 sets, 50 units, have been manufactured by Kinki Sharyo, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Toyo Denki Seizo. It is classified as the so-called LF-LRT (Low Floor Light Rail Transit). The height of the cabin floor is only 36cm from the track. The futuristic design is my favorite as well as the state of the art specification such as VVVF control with regenerative brake system.

On the other hand, the following picture shows Hiroden's oldest active long-sized (25.3m) articulated streetcar. It is the 3000 series, which was commissioned in 1954. This streetcar consists of 3 bodies with 4 bogies. A total of 7 sets, 21 units, have been manufactured by Hitachi and Kisha Seizo. The specification is rather old; but, the classic style body with two large rounded top front lights is my favorite. The large iron which stands below the pantograph is also peculiar to this streetcar.

Hiroden is a museum of active streetcars, isn't it?

Electric car Hiroden 3000 series runs near Enkobashi-cho Stop

Saturday, 1 June 2013

EMU Keio 9000 Series, Multi-purpose Commuter Train

EMU Keio 9000 series passes through Nakagawara Station

As I have mentioned frequently, the railway business in Tokyo is competitive. Many companies are fighting for survival. But, on the contrary, they also cooperate with each other in emergency situations.

An example of mutual cooperation is the so-called "transfer transportation". When train operation is suspended on one route because of an accident, the passengers are allowed to take adjacent lines without any extra charge. In my case, for instance, I take the Odakyu Line, and go to my office downtown; but, I can take the Keio Line using the commuter pass for the Odakyu Line if the train operation on the Odakyu is suspended.

When I use the "transfer transportation" system, I often get on the EMU 9000 series on the Keio Line (see the photos). The 9000 series is the latest model on the Keio Line. It was commissioned in 2001 to replace old models such as the 6000 series. A total of 28 sets, 264 units, have been manufactured by Nippon Sharyo and Tokyu Sharyo so far.

One of the features of the 9000 series is its multi-purpose function. For example, this group is used for all kinds of trains, such as limited express, express, rapid, and local. Furthermore, it is used for direct operation between the Keio and the Subway Toei-Shinjuku lines. So, the 9000 series travels all the way to Chiba Prefecture (Motoyawata Terminal on the Toei-Shinjuku Line) crossing the Tokyo Metropolis.

The EMU Keio 9000 series... you must be tired after your long trip.

EMU Keio 9000 series stands at Meidaimae Station
More infomation about trains of Keio Electric Railway (in Japanese):