Saturday, August 30, 2014

Cool Cascade on the Hakone Tozan Line

EMU 30000 series with a gangway on the front (right) and the same model without a gangway (left) 
 
It is late summer in Japan. The maximum daytime temperature is still over 30 degrees Celsius in Tokyo, but a breath of fresh air in the sight of a waterfall must be cooling. I visited a small waterfall in Kanagawa Prefecture on the weekend.

Chisuji-no-taki Waterfall is located in the forest of the Hakone area near Kowakidani Station on the Hakone Tozan Railway. The height of the fall is only several meters, but it is a paradise in summer, as visitors can feel a rush of cool air there. "Chisuji" means "one thousand lines". As its name suggests, we can see many string-like water flows on the small cliff.

To visit this gorgeous spot, the Hakone Tozan Line is convenient. Connecting Odawara on the Odakyu Line and Goura, the 15 km long route climbs Hakone Mountain. The whole route is an electrified single track. The gauge size and electric system are 1,067 mm and 1,500 V DC overhead between Odawada and Hakone-Yumoto, meanwhile 1,435 mm and 700 V DC overhead between Hakone-Yumoto and Goura.

Before leaving Odawara, I saw two sets of Odakyu Romance Cars, the EMU 30000 series, in the station yard. You can easily compare a train with a gangway in the front and the same model without a gangway. I could take a unique photograph in a lucky twist.

The cool cascade and the unique train photo... this is killing two birds with one stone.
 
Chisuji-no-taki Waterfall is seen near Kowakidani Station on the Hakone Tozan Line

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Newcomers on the Branch Line

Set number 03F of the EMU Tokyo Metro 05 series travels on the Kita-Ayase Branch Line
 
As I introduced before, the Kita-Ayase Branch Line is known as the shortest subway route in the Tokyo metropolitan area. As its name suggests, it is a feeder route of the Chiyoda Line, which is one of the main lines operated by Tokyo Metro. Connecting Ayase on the Chiyoda Line and Kita-Ayase near Ayase Rail Yard, its operating length is only 2.1 km. The entire route is an electrified double track. Three car trains are operated every 15 minutes on average.

In May this year, Tokyo Metro replaced all trains on the Kita-Ayase Branch Line. As a result, the EMU 5000 series, which was the Tokyo Metro's oldest train manufactured in 1967, was finally retired. I think that all of those trains have already been scrapped.

Who are the newcomers? They are the EMU 05 series from the Tozai Line. Tokyo Metro has renovated 4 sets, a total of 12 units, of the 05 series, and has relaunched them on the Kita-Ayase Branch Line. The key of the renovations are the following.

Firstly, the control system has been changed from armature chopper to IGBT-VVVF (variable frequency drive). The SiC (silicon carbide) module, which has high temperature stability, is used for this system. Secondly, the stripes of the colors on the bodies have been changed from light blue (the Tozai Line color) to green (the Chiyoda Line color). Thirdly, the interior has also been renovated. For instance, new 17 inch-wide LCD displays have been installed just above the passenger doors.

 
Set number 13F of the EMU Tokyo Metro 05 series stands at Ayase Terminal

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The 100th Anniversary of Railways in the Chichibu Area

EMU Chichibu 5000 (ex-Toei 6000) series with the 100th anniversary sticker on the front
 
Chichibu is an intermontane basin located in the northern part of Saitama Prefecture, some 70 km northwest of Tokyo. This area has been known as a center of industries, such as a mining, since the 8th century. For instance, natural copper was discovered in 708 in this area, which was sent to the Emperor as a tribute.

Although Chichibu had been an advanced industrial area, construction of the railway was a bit late because of its mountainous topography. The first railway route, the Jobu Railway (present Chichibu Railway), was extended into Chichibu City in 1914, 100 years ago. Seibu Railway Company, then, also extended their line into this city.

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of railway operation in the Chichibu area, Chichibu Railway Company have organized many events. For instance, they are planning to operate a special memorial train pulled by a steam locomotive this month.

I also found a special red colored sticker, celebrating the 100th anniversary, on the body of the EMU 5000 series. The 5000 series is the ex-Toei (Tokyo Metropolitan Government) 6000 series. They were transferred to Chichibu Railway in 1999 after their retirement from the Toei-Mita Line. A total of 4 sets, 12 units, of the ex-6000 series are operated on the Chichibu Railway.

Some of the ex-Toei 6000 series have crossed the ocean and are operated in Indonesia. I am going to show their pictures some time in the future.

 
EMU Chichibu 5000 (ex-Toei 6000) series stands at Kumagaya Station

Sunday, August 24, 2014

EMU Toei 5300 Series: Train with Fresh White Bodies

EMU Toei 5300 series arrives at Yotsugi Station on the Keisei-Oshiage Line
 
I assumed that I had already introduced all of the labyrinthine subway routes in Tokyo in my blog. They are the Ginza, Marunouchi, Hibiya, Tozai, Chiyoda, Yurakucho, Hanzomon, NambokuToei-Mita, Toei-Shinjuku and Toei-Ooedo lines; but, there are still some left. Today, I am going to show you the Toei-Asakusa Line.

The Asakusa Line was opened in 1960 as the first Toei (the Tokyo Metropolitan Government owned) subway line. Connecting Oshiage and Nishi-Magome, its operating length is 18.3 km. The whole route is double track and the gauge size is 1,435mm. Its electric system is 1,500V DC overhead.

Trains on the Toei-Asakusa Line are directly operated onto the Keikyu and the Keisei lines. Furthermore, some trains are operated for an extended route onto the Hokuso and the Shibayama railways through the Keisei Line. It means that a large railway network is formed by 5 train operators around the Toei-Asakusa Line.

The EMU 5300 series is the only model owned by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government on the Toei-Asakusa Line. It was launched in 1991 to replace their old model, the 5000 series. The 5300 series is known as the first train with the VVVF (variable frequency drive) control system on the Toei-Asakusa Line.

I like this train as it has an urban style design with a white colored fresh body. It has changed the image of the Toei-Asakusa Line from a meat-and-potato route to one of sophistication.

The EMU 5300 series... it is my cup of tea.
 
EMU Toei 5300 series arrives at Keisei-Takasago Station on the Keisei Main Line

Friday, August 22, 2014

Photogenic Bridge and SL Train

Special train, SL Ginga (C58 239 + DMU KiHa 141 series) passes through Glasses Bridge
 
One of the photogenic spots in Toono City is a railway bridge called Glasses Bridge, spanning the Miyamori River. Since the bridge looks like a pair of glasses, local people call it Glasses Bridge. Its formal name is Miyamori-gawa Railway Bridge.

The Glasses Bridge was constructed in 1915 by Iwate Light Railway (present JR East Kamaishi Line). It attains a height of 20 m and its length is 107 m. It is similar to another glasses bridge, which is preserved as a national important cultural property, in Gumma Prefecture; but, Miyamori-gawa Railway Bridge is still being used as a railway bridge in active service. I like this bridge, as it is not only an arched bridge but also the girder is beautifully curved.

When we visited this spot, many families and rail fans were waiting for a train. What was coming? It was a special train, "SL Ginga". SL Ginga (Milky Way) is a passenger train pulled by steam locomotive (SL), C58 239. It is operated only on weekends of vacation seasons. The leading SL was manufactured in 1940 by Kawasaki Sharyo. It was once retired in 1973, but came back onto the track in March this year after a careful inspection and maintenance.

The following 4-cars are not passenger coaches, but DMUs, KiHa 141 series. It is because the power of the SL is not strong enough to climb a steep track in the Kitakami Mountains. The blue colored bodies with the Milky Way design are my favorite.

 
DMU KiHa 141 series (Milky Way color)
 
More information about SL Ginga (in Japanese): http://www.jr-morioka.com/sl/

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Night View of Toono Station

Diesel railcars, JR East KiHa 100 series arrives at Toono Station on the Kamaishi Line

After stopping at Morioka City, we headed to Toono (or frequently designated as "Tono" in English), a small city in the central part of Iwate Prefecture. Toono is surrounded by the Kitakami Mountains and it is well known as a region of legends and folklores. It became famous after Yanagida Kunio, an ethnologist, wrote a book called, "Toono Monogatari (The legends of Toono)" in 1910.

In fact, there are numerous legends and folklores in this region. "Kappa" and "zashiki warashi" are depicted in many legends. Kappa is an imaginary animal shaped like a child but with a dish of water on its head. It lives on either land or in water. On the other hand, zashiki warashi is a spirit believed to protect houses. Even now, there are some inns, where zashiki warashi is known to appear in the middle of the night. Do you believe in it?

To visit this mysterious city, we took the JR East Kamaishi Line and got off at Toono Station. The Kamaishi Line is a local route connecting Hanamaki on the Tohoku Main line and Kamaishi stations. The total operating length is 90.2 km. The whole route is single and non-electrified. Trains are operated every two hours on average.

When we arrived at Toono Station, it was already dark and rainy... it was so quiet. We checked into a hotel located on the second floor of the small two-storied station building... it was very convenient and cozy.

To be continued...

 
Night view of Toono Station on the JR East Kamaishi Line

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mid-summer Trip to Iwate Prefecture

EMU JR East Shinkansen E5 series, super express "Hayabusa (falcon)", stands at Morioka Station
 
It's "obon" week again in Japan. Obon is a Buddhist festival to recognize ancestral spirits. The souls of the dead are believed to return to their families during the festival. It's an occasion for people to visit their relatives' graves to pray and make offerings of food and flowers. So, many people take holidays, and go back to their hometowns. My hometown is Tokyo, but I also took a summer vacation and went to the north with my family. This year's destination was Iwate Prefecture, some 500km north of Tokyo.

To visit Iwate, the Tohoku Shinkansen train is convenient. The newest model EMU JR East E5 series, a super express train "Hayabusa (Falcon)" is very comfortable with a maximum speed of 320km/h (199MPH). A total of 28 sets, 280 units, are operated on the line. It is a major fleet of the Tohoku Shinkansen trains, currently.

After arriving at Morioka, the main city of Iwate Prefecture, I met with my old friend and visited Morioka Handi-works Square together. The handi-works square is a reputable sightseeing spot for visitors to experience making local crafts and meals including pottery art, woodworking, dyeing, making toys, and cooking. I tried to cook local noodles, "Reimen" as I was hungry. Reimen is a Moriokan's "soul-food", which is cold noodles topped with egg, water melon and cucumber. It's a very special feeling to eat my self-cooked meal.

To be continued...

 
 I cook local noodles, "Reimen" at Morioka Handi-works Square near Morioka Station
 
More information about the Tohoku Shinkansen:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Revisit the Japanese Azalea Community

EMU JR East 115 series (Nagano color) passes through Shin-Katsuragawa Bridge
 
Amariyama (Mt. Amari) is an unforgettable place for me. It is located in Yamanashi Prefecture, some 120 km west of Tokyo. The altitude of the summit is 1,731 meters above sea level, 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.

When I visited there last year, a full blown Japanese azalea community was seen in the vicinity of the summit. Tangerine colored blossoms showed up the light green colored leaves. It was indeed beautiful, but the only problem was the weather... it was rainy and misty.

This summer, I visited Amariyama again with my family. I chose a double occasion day of the full blown Japanese azaleas and fine weather. It was the best day to visit there this year. We could enjoy viewing lovely flowers backed by a blue sky and Mt. Fuji.

To visit this reputable viewing spot, we took the JR East Chuo Line and got off at Nirasaki Station. As I didn't have an opportunity to take train photos on the way to Nirasaki, I am going to show you the picture, which I took the other day on the Chuo Line. You can see a local train of the EMU 115 series (Nagano color), passing through the famous Shin-Katsuragawa Bridge near Torisawa Station. It is the longest bridge (513 m long) on the line, and is a famous location among rail fans to shoot photos of the Chuo Line trains.
 
Japanese azalea community is seen on the Mt. Amari near Nirasaki Station on the Chuo Line

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tokyo Snow Scene: The Keio Line

EMU Keio 8000 series arrives at Meidaimae Station on the Keio Line
 
The hot summer continues in Tokyo. Daily temperatures frequently top 30 degrees Celsius. The only thing I can do is escape the city and go to the highlands, but the trains to resort areas are crowded with students, couples and families. People also get stuck in traffic on the express roads. What can I do?

Let's start by looking photos of Tokyo snow scenes from last winter to cool off. As I mentioned before, on Saturday, February 8th this year, a strong low-pressure system hit Tokyo. We saw 27cm of snow, which was the heaviest snowfall in 45 years. It was a hard time for railway employees, as they got sucked into snow shoveling in the railway facilities. Thanks to their hard work, most of the trains were operated smoothly in Tokyo.

I felt guilty about the hardworking railway employees, but nothing was more exciting than the snowfall, since it was a chance to take photos of snow scenes. Meidaimae Station on the Keio Line was my primary destination.

Generally speaking, railways in Tokyo have a low tolerance for snowfall; however, Keio is an exception. When we had heavy snow in the evening of January 8th, 1998, only the Keio lines were operated on schedule in Tokyo. I couldn't return home on the Odakyu Line, so I visited my parent's house taking Keio-Main and Keio-Inokashira lines. Since then, Keio has been known as a railway that is resistant to snow.

The key success factor of Keio was... forewarned is forearmed.

 
EMU Keio 9000 series arrives at Meidaimae Station on the Keio Line

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

EMU E3-2000 Series: New Color

Set number L64 of the EMU JR East E3-2000 series (new color) stands at Tokyo station
 
JR East has started a coloring change of its EMU E3-2000 series, "Tsubasa (wing)" on the Yamagata Shinkansen. The first new colored train, set number L56 was launched on April 26th of this year.

The EMU JR East E3-2000 series debuted in December, 2008 to replace the old model, the EMU 400 series. The largest characteristic of the E3-2000 series was an increase of its maximum speed to 275 km/hour. As you may know, the maximum speed of the old models, such as the EMU 400 series and the E3-1000 series, was 240 km/hour.

I like the new color design. Specifically, the dark purple stripe on the front mask is my favorite, as it is almost like an eggplant color. For your information, this dark purple color was not taken from an eggplant, but from a stripe of mandarin duck, which is a local bird in Yamagata Prefecture. Some of Yamagata's local products, such as cherries, butterbur sprouts and safflowers are also emblazoned on the side of the train bodies.

JR East also launched a special sightseeing Shinkansen train, "Toleil" of the EMU E3-700 series, recently on the Yamagata Shinkansen. Toleil is a combination of an English word for "train" and a French word for "soleil". This train has a footbath to relax travelers as a passenger service. I will also report on this new Shinkansen train sometime in the future.

I can't take my eyes off the Yamagata Shinkansen.

 
Side view of unit number E325-2004 and E322-2004 of the EMU E3-2000 series (new color)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

New Fuji-san Express on the Fujikyu Line

EMU Fujikyu 8000 series, "New Fuji-san Express" stands at Ootsuki Station
 
Fujikyu is going at high speed in the railway business. Following the introduction of a new commuter train (EMU 6000 series), the company launched a new Fuji-san express train, the EMU 8000 series, to replace an old model (EMU 2000 series).

Fujikyu is a local railway company in Yamanashi Prefecture. Connecting Ootsuki and Kawaguchi-ko, there are 16 stations over a total operating length of 23.6 km. The track is single (1,067 mm gauge) and the electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. Several trains are directly operated onto the JR East Chuo Line through Ootsuki Terminal.

This railway company has been known as the railway to the foot of Japan's highest mountain, Mt. Fuji (3,776 m above the sea level). Mt. Fuji was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013. This big news has brought a large benefit to Fujikyu, as many holidaymakers including foreign sightseers are flocking to Mt. Fuji. It is a rare opportunity for Fujikyu to expand its business.

The EMU Fujikyu 8000 series is the ex-Odakyu Romance Car, RSE, which was originally launched in 1991. The most peculiar point was that it had double decker Green Cars (first class) at the center of the 7-car train. Unfortunately, the 8000 series was composed of only three cars without the double deckers, but it still has a remnant of its former beauty in the Odakyu-era.

I wish the 8000 series well for its new life on the Fujikyu Line.

 
Side view of the Fujikyu 8000 series

Friday, August 8, 2014

EMU 10000 Series: New Model on the Haneda Airport Line

EMU Tokyo Monorail 10000 series travels on the Haneda Airport Line
 
As I mentioned before, Tokyo Monorail Company will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Haneda Airport Line on September 17th of this year. Following the launching of a special meorial colored train, the company has recently launched a new model, the EMU 10000 series in commemoration of the anniversary.

The Haneda Airport Line was opened between Hamamatsu-cho on the JNR (present JR East) Yamanote Line and Haneda Airport on September 17th in 1964 as an airport access route from downtown Tokyo to Tokyo International Airport (Haneda). There were only 2 terminal stations at first; however, it expanded the number of en route stations later to take the role of not only airport access but also a commuter train. Currently, there are 11 stations over a total operating length of 17.8 km. The track is double and the electric system is 750 V DC. The maximum operating speed is 80 km/hour. The Haneda Airport Line is the oldest straddle-beam system monorail route in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

The EMU 10000 series consists of 6 cars. It covers 4 motor cars and 2 trailers (4M2T). The body is made of aluminum and the bogies are bolsterless. The IGBT-VVVF (variable-frequency drive) control system is applied. A green colored stripe above the windows is a good accent of the 10000 series. Train announcements are made in four languages, namely, Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean. In-car LED displays are also broadcast in four languages.

Congratulations for over half a century of the Haneda Aiport Line!

 
EMU 10000 series arrives at International Terminal Station of Haneda Airport
 
Tokyo Monorail Official Information (in Japanese):
Live camera image of the Haneda Airport Line:
More information about the 50th anniversary and the EMU 10000 series (in Japanese):

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Last of Classic Romance Cars

EMU Odakyu Romance Car, LSE 7000 series, travels on the Odawara Line
 
In the Tokyo metropolitan area, several private railway companies operate gorgeous express trains as their flagships. One of the venerable trains is the Romance Car on the Odakyu line. Its operating route extends from Shinjuku, a subcenter of Tokyo, to Hakone, a reputable mountain resort in a western suburb.

The EMU 7000 series, "LSE" is the oldest Romance Car at work. 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. Currently, two sets are still being operated on the Odawara Line. Recent topics of the LSE are its body color change. Odakyu returned the body color of LSE to its original, namely orange vermilion, gray and white in 2012. As a result, the white and wine-red colored LSE cars have disappeared from the tracks.

The original coloring design is a tradition of the Romance Car. For instance, the first and second generation Romance Cars also had the same coloring design. You can still see this design on the preserved car, the EMU 3100 series, in Kaisei Town, Kanagawa Prefecture.

In January, 2010, the 7000 series faced difficulty surviving. A malfunction occurred on its articulated bogies. Many rail fans were anxious about the future of the 7000 series, but it came back onto the track in April 2010, after careful inspection.

The EMU 7000 series, LSE... it is a phoenix-like classic Romance Car on the Odakyu Line.

 
EMU Odakyu Romance Car, LSE 7000 series, stands at Shinjuku Terminal

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tokyu 7601F: The Last of the Kabuki Face 7600 Series

Set number 7601F of the EMU Tokyu 7600 series leaves Senzokuike Station on the Ikegami Line
 
According to several rail fans' websites, Tokyu's old train, set number 7602F of the EMU 7600 series, was transported to Nagatsuta Railyard on July 5th, 2014, being pulled by special vehicles. Although an official announcement from Tokyu has not yet been made, most of the rail fans expect that 7602F will be scrapped soon. If it is true, only one set (7601F) of the 7600 series remains on the tracks of Tokyu lines.

The EMU 7600 series debuted in 1986 as a remodel of the 7200 series. The purpose of the remodeling was to transfer the 7200 series from the Oimachi to the Ikegami Line. For that purpose, the ratio of the motor cars per set was increased from half (MT ratio 1:1) to two-thirds (MT ratio 2:1). As a result, several trailer cars have been modified to motor cars. That was the time of the birth of the 7600 series.

The EMU 7600 series is popular among rail fans. Firstly, the coloring on the "face" is quite unique. They are a combination of black and red stripes. Many rail fans call it "Kabuki face". As you may know, Kabuki is a Japanese traditional performing art. Its stage makeup is very vivid. Secondly, the odd-shaped face is also lovely and attractive.

Tokyu 7601F... it is the last of the Kabuki face trains of the EMU 7600 series on the Tokyu lines.

 
Set number 7601F arrives at Yukigaya-Ootsuka Station on the Tokyu-Ikegami Line

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Good Day to Yamagata Campaign

Poster train of "Yamagata-biyori" campaign, the EMU JR East E3-2000 series
 
It is hot midsummer now in Japan. According to the weather report, the daytime maximum temperature in many cities reached 35 degrees Celsius last weekend. A breath of fresh air in the northern part of Japan must be cooling. One of the ideal areas is Yamagata Prefecture in Tohoku District.

Yamagata is located some 360km north of Tokyo. This prefecture faces the Sea of Japan and is famous for its beautiful scenery and an abundance of fruit. Currently, Yamagata Prefecture and JR East are running a joint campaign to promote tourists to visit Yamagata Prefecture under the name of "Yamagata-biyori (good day to Yamagata)".

To visit Yamagata, the Yamagata Shinkansen is convenient. The EMU JR East E3-2000 series is very comfortable with a maximum speed of 275km/h. Yamagata Shinkansen is a kind of "Mini-shinkansen", which is not built the same as the standard full-sized shinkansen. It was originally constructed as a conventional line with narrow gauge (1067mm). The gauge was later changed to the shinkansen size (1435mm).

As part of the Yamagata-biyori campaign, JR East operates a poster train on the Yamagata Shinkansen. We can see many illustrations of notable sightseeing spots and Yamagata's staples on the train bodies. They include a five-story pagoda and strolling monk in Mt. Haguro, cherry fruits, a water melon, noodles, local beef, and a hanagasa (a conical hat adorned with flowers used in traditional local performing arts).

It is indeed a good day to visit Yamagata Prefecture today.

 
Side view of the poster train, the EMU E3-2000 series on the Yamagata Shinkansen