Thursday, 29 October 2015

Access to the Holy Mountain: Part 3

The gondola number 2 of the Eizan Ropeway (aerial tramway), Keifuku Electric Railway

Following my previous post, I am going to continue to show you the access route to Mt. Hiei from the Kyoto Prefecture side.

After getting off the funicular at Cable-Hiei Station, I transferred to the aerial tramway, the Eizan Ropeway Line of Keifuku Electric Railway. The aerial tramway on Mt. Hiei was originally opened in 1928 by Kyoto Dento, which was an electric power company; however, it was suspended during WWII. The new route was opened in 1956 by Keifuku Electric Railway Company. Connecting Rope-Hiei and Hiei-sancho (the summit of Mt. Hiei) stations, its route length is 486 m. The height difference between the highest and the lowest points on the route is 131 m. The operation interval is 8 to 24 minutes. It takes 3 minutes from Rope-Hiei to Hiei-sancho Station.

After arriving at Hiei-sancho Station, I visited Enryaku-ji temple. It was very cool because the temple was located about 800 m above sea level. On that night, I stayed at Shukubo (temple lodging) and had a Shojin Ryori. It was Budhist cuisine, which was similar to vegetarian food. Shojin Ryori contains vegetables, beans and rice, but neither fish nor meat.

Non-Buddhist is also welcome to stay there as a guest. Drinking beer or sake (Japanese rice wine) is also allowed. Furthermore, guests can join the morning praying at the main hall of Enryaku-ji temple, if you wish. It will be your unique experience in Japan.

Monju-ro of Enryaku-ji Temple

Monday, 26 October 2015

Access to the Holy Mountain: Part 2

Funicular Ke 1 of the Eizan Cable Line, Keifuku Electric Railway

Following my previous post, I am going to continue to show you the access route to Mt. Hiei from the Kyoto Prefecture side.

After getting off the train at Yase-Hieizanguchi Terminal, I transferred to the funicular, Eizan Cable Line of Keifuku Electric Railway. The Eizan Cable Line was opened in 1925 by Kyoto Dento, which was an electric power company. Connecting Cable-Yase and Cable-Hiei stations, its route length is 1.3 km. The route is a unique S-shaped curve. The track gauge size is 1,067 mm. The maximum inclination of the route is 27.9 degrees. The height difference between the lowest and the highest points on the route is 561 m, which is the largest of funicular lines in Japan. The operation interval is 15 to 30 minutes. It takes 9 minutes from Cable-Yase to Cable-Hiei Station.

The vehicles are third generation ones called Ke 1 and Ke 2, which were built by Mukogawa Sharyo in 1987. Each car can accommodate 136 passengers. The outer design is rather old, but its large windows provide passengers with fantastic views of the green forest and the steep mountain. Four pantographs on the roof is very unique.

After arriving at Cable-Hiei Station, I transferred to the aerial tramway, namely the Eizan Ropeway. Space does not permit me to introduce you to this tramway, so, I am going to show you it in my next post.

To be continued...
Hokke So Ji-in (left) and Amida-do (right) of the Enryaku-ji Temple

Friday, 23 October 2015

The Eizan Main Line: Access to the Holy Mountain

Electric car Eiden 700 series arrives at Demachiyanagi Terminal on the Eizan Main Line

Hiei-zan (848.3 m) is a mountain that straddles the eastern part of Kyoto and the western part of Shiga Prefecture. It faces Japan's largest lake, Biwako, on the Shiga Prefecture side. Hiei-zan is known as the holy mountain, since the famous Buddhist temple, Enryaku-ji, is located there. It is a large Tendai monastery founded by Saigyo (767-822). The precinct yard, which is composed of three areas in Mt. Hiei, is very large. Each area has many halls, such as Konpon-chudo (the main hall) of the National Treasure.

To get to this holy mountain, there are several access routes from Kyoto and Shiga prefectures. I took a train from Kyoto city to Yase-Hieizanguchi Station and transferred to the funicular and the aerial tramway. My vehicle was a small electric car, the Eizan Electric Railway (Eiden) 700 series. This tiny car was launched in 1987 to respond to the introduction of the ATS (automatic train stopping) system, air-conditioners and driver-only operation (train operation without a conductor on board).

The 700 series is a 15.7 meter-long car operated as a single-car train. It is lovely and popular among tourists. The mechanical and electrical equipment of the 700 series is rather old, but this classic car matches the historical Kyoto streetscape and the deep green forest in the foot of Mt. Hiei.

I am going to report the connecting funicular and aerial tramway line in my next post. To be continued...

Konpon-chudo (the main hall) is shrouded in a morning mist

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Nostalgic Warehouses Quarter in Tochigi City

EMU Tobu 100 series, "Spacia", stands at Tochigi Station on the Nikko Line. 

Tochigi is a city with the third largest population in Tochigi Prefecture, about 90 km north of Tokyo. It has a population of 160,000.

Along with Kawagoe in Saitama Prefecture, Tochigi is famous for its historic storehouses quarter. They were constructed along Uzuma River during the Edo Period (1603 - 1868), because Tochigi was grown as a commercial city using water-transport on the river. Today, many old storehouses are still preserved in good condition and used as museums, shops, restaurants and cafes. The best season to visit Tochigi City is from April to May. You can see numerous carp streamers spanned above Uzuma River to pray for children's healthy growth.

To get to this nostalgic storehouses quarter, please take the Tobu-Nikko Line and get off at Tochigi Station. If you live in the western part of Tokyo, I suggest that you use the limited express train from JR East Shinjuku Station. This gorgeous train is jointly operated by Tobu Railway and JR East, and directly operated onto the Tobu-Nikko Line via Kurihashi Station.

Your vehicle is the EMU 100 series, "Spacia", which was launched in 1990. A quarter of a century has already passed, since it debuted. Tobu Railway recently gave a press release announcing that the new model, EMU 500 series, will debut in 2017. The 500 series will be a 3-car train with an active suspension system.
Old warehouses quarter near Tochigi Station

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Sightseeing Train to Mt. Kurama

EMU Eiden 900 series stands at Kurama Station on the Kurama Line
Kuramadera is an old Buddhist temple founded in 770. Although the original main hall had been destroyed by fire in its long history, some of the old Buddha statues are still preserved. They are designated as National Treasures. Kuramadera is located within a deep forest on Mt. Kurama in Kyoto Prefecture, some 500 km west of Tokyo. It is said that Tengu (a goblin) lives in the forest. Tengu is a legendary creature, who has a red face and a long nose.

To get to this mysterious mountain, the Kurama Line of Eizan Electric Railway (Eiden) is convenient. Connecting Takaragaike and Kurama stations, the length of the Kurama Line is 8.8 km. The track is mostly double and the gauge size is 1,435 mm. The electric system is 600 V DC overhead. All trains are directly operated onto the Eizan Main Line to Demachiyanagi Terminal in Kyoto City.

One of the popular trains on the Kurama Line is the EMU 900 series, called Kirara. The 900 series debuted in 1997 to promote tourism to Mt. Kurama. A total of two sets, four units have been built by Mukogawa Sharyo. The 900 series has large windows and special seats, which provide passengers with the fantastic scenery of Mt. Kurama.

For your information, the 900 series was a winner of the 1998 Laurel Prize awarded by Japan Rail Fan Club. This special prize is awarded to trains, which were launched in the previous year as the most outstanding technical and designed ones.

Kuramadera near Kurama Station on the Eiden-Kurama Line
Official information about the EMU Eiden 900 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Supermoon on the Inokashira Line

EMU Keio 1000 series arrives at Eifukucho Station on the Inokashira Line

Moon viewing is one of the traditional autumn events in Japan. Its exact origin is unknown, but moon viewing is a celebration of harvest for modern people. In Japan, people offer silver grass and rice dumpling to the moon. This year, moon viewing coincided with supermoon.

Supermoon, also known as a perigee full moon, is a unique ‎celestial phenomenon. It is a full moon occurring when the moon passes through the nearest point to the earth in its elliptical orbit. As a result, the apparent size of a supermoon is 14 % larger than the one that passes through the farthest point. It is also 30 % brighter than the one that passes through the farthest point.

To enjoy the "supermoon viewing", I visited my parents, who live on the Keio-Inokashira Line. It was an evening rush hour. Outbound trains were crowded with commuters and students as usual. The Inokashira Line is a short commuter route connecting Shibuya and Kichijoji. Its line length is only 12.7 km. The track is 1,067 mm-size double. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. Although the Inokashira Line is a short route, the express train is frequently operated for flying passengers. It connects with a local train at Eifukucho Station, which is located on the middle point of the line.

Following the beautiful cardinal sunset, the supermoon went up in the eastern sky. It was indeed big, bright and fantastically shining. Feeling the cool autumn breeze, we could enjoy the special supermoon viewing this year.

Supermoon is seen on the Keio-Inokashira Line

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Classic Train on the Ooigawa Railway

EMU Ooigawa Railway 21000 series stands at Kanaya Station

Ooigawa is a large river in Shizuoka Prefecture, some 200 km west of Tokyo. The valley of Ooigawa is well known for tea cultivation and hot springs. I often visit this area on vacation with my family. Our transportation means is usually the railway. We can take a local line, Ooigawa Railway, from Kanaya Station on the Tokaido Main Line.

Ooigawa Railway is a small private company. It has the 39.5 km-long Ooigawa Main Line and the 25.5 km-long light railway, namely the Ikawa Line. The Ooigawa Main Line is a 1,067 mm-size single track with a 1,500 V DC overhead electric system. The express train, pulled by a steam locomotive, is very famous among tourists, but I am going to show you the classic EMU 21000 series today.

The 21000 series is an old EMU launched in 1958. It had been operated on the Nankai Line in Osaka and Wakayama prefectures. A total of 4 units, namely car numbers 21001, 21002, 21003 and 21004, were moved to Ooigawa Railway in 1997 after their retirement from Nankai Electric Railway.

This classic train is definitely my favorite. The body has a nostalgic 50s design. The interior of the train is also nostalgic, as it has switchable cross seats using red-colored moquette fabric. The reading lights under the shelves are beautiful and elegant. The 21000 series looks very old, but it is equipped with the same air conditioners as the other standard trains in Japan.

Interior of the EMU Ooigawa Railway 21000 series

Official information about rolling stock of Ooigawa Railway (in Japanese):

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Patoden in Kagoshima City

Electric car 9507 of the 9500 series (Patoden color) in Kagoshima City

A patoden is a special poster train for a road safety campaign. What does a patoden look like? It looks like a police patrol car painted with black and white colors. It also has red colored squares, which resemble warning lamps, on top of the train's face. In many cases, the patoden is a streetcar operated on a shared track of a public road. It means that many car drivers, riders and pedestrians can easily see it. The patoden is eye-catching and is expected to reduce the number of traffic accidents.

For instance, the Transportation Bureau of Kagoshima City Office has a patoden, car number 9507, for their two tram routes. It is sponsored by the Kagoshima Prefectural Police and major auto manufacturers. You can see the slogan, "Let's get rid of traffic accidents!" on the side body of the streetcar. The letters of the KAGOSHIMA PREFECTURAL POLICE are a bit coercive, aren't they?

Car number 9507 was built in 1997 by Aluna Koki. It belongs to the electric car 9500 series. A total of 15 units of the 9500 series were built from 1995 to 2000. Their electric and mechanical equipment, such as DC motors and rheostatic control system, are rather old, since they have been diverted from the retired 800 series, but are still in good condition.

For your information, The Transportation Bureau of Kagoshima City has a total of 13.1 km tram routes in the urban area. The gauge size is 1,435mm and the electric system is 600V DC overhead.

Electric car 9510 of the 9500 series (standard color) in Kagoshima City

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Projection Mapping Event in the Traditional Garden

EMU Keihan 2400 series arrives at Shichijo Station on the Keihan Main Line

Projection mapping is an advanced technology using a computer and a variety of objects in place of a screen. These objects may be walls of buildings or complex landscapes. Projection mapping is currently very popular in Japan. I recently saw one such event in a unique venue... a Buddhist temple in Kyoto City.

Kodaiji was established in 1606 by Kita-no-mandokoro, who was a widow of a pre-eminent Daimyo, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. This historical temple is famous for its traditional Japanese style garden, and popular among tourists. The projection mapping was held in the temple garden using karesansui (a traditional dry landscape garden), a garden gate and hedges. I could enjoy the fantastic projected scenery one after another with live violin music. A half-moon was also beautifully shining in the clear night sky.

To visit this event, I took the Keihan Main Line and got off at Gion-Shijo Station. My vehicle was the EMU 2400 series, a standard commuter train launched in 1969. A total of 6 sets, 42 units have been built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The 2400 series is known as the first commuter train with air-conditioners in the Kansai (Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe) area.

For your information, Keihan is one of the major private railway companies in the Kansai area. The route extends to the eastern part of the Kansai area including Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka Prefectures. The track is electrified (1,500 V DC, overhead) and the gauge size is 1,435 mm.

Projection mapping event is held in Kodai-ji temple near Gion-Shijo Station

Official information about rolling stock of Keihan Electric Railway (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Visit to the Northern Kanto City

EMU JR East E233-3000 series stands at Utsunomiya station yard

Utsunomiya is the main city in Tochigi Prefecture, some 110 km north of Tokyo. It is located in the northern part of Kanto Plain, and known as the machine and food industries city.

I often stop by Utsunomiya, when I go sightseeing in Nikko, the World Heritage site. Whenever I visit Utsunomiya, I enjoy walking in the downtown area, as there are many beautiful spots. They are quiet and peaceful. Jiko-ji temple near the prefectural government office is one such place. The large red colored gate is vivid. It is also famous for the cherry blossoms in spring.

To visit Utsunomiya, there are three railway routes from downtown Tokyo. The Tohoku Shinkansen is the fastest and most convenient route for flying passengers, but it is a bit expensive. Tobu Railway is also convenient, if you live in the eastern part of Tokyo. I often take the JR East Shonan-Shinjuku Line, as it is suitable for people who live in the western part of Tokyo. It takes 1 hour and 40 minutes from Shinjuku, a western terminal of Tokyo, to Utsunomiya without having to transfer.

The main fleet on the Shonan-Shinjuku Line is the EMU E233-3000 series, which is composed of 10 or 15 cars. My favorite is a double-decker Green Car (the first class car) in the central part of the train. Once you pay a small extra fee (780 yen), a comfortable reclining seat is provided for you. I recommend it for long distance journeys over 100 km.

Main gate of Jiko-ji temple near Utsunomiya Station

Saturday, 3 October 2015

EMU 6000 Series: New Climber in Kobe City

EMU Shintetsu 6000 series arrives at Maruyama Station

Kobe Electric Railway (Shintetsu) has a 70 km-long network in the Rokko mountain area. Its route has many steep sections. Their rolling stock must have special equipment to climb up the steep tracks. Following "the expert climber", EMU 1100 series, I am going to introduce you to the new climber, EMU 6000 series, today.

The 6000 series debuted in 2008. A total of 2 sets, 8 units have been built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. It is a 4-car train composed of all motor cars to climb up the steep track. A regenerative brake system is equipped. The 6000 series is known as Shintetsu's first stainless-steel train. I like this modern body design, but the nostalgic design of the expert climber, 1100 series, is also my favorite.

On June 9th, Shintetsu gave a press release announcing that the new model, 6500 series will be launched in spring of the year 2016. The purpose of the introduction of the new model is to replace the old model, 1000 series. The outer design of the 6500 series is the same as that of the 6000 series, however, the 6500 series will be a 3-car train with two motor cars. It will be equipped with the new VVVF electric control (variable frequency drive) system using new semiconductor devices.

Shintetsu's main train fleet was built during the so-called rapid growth years of Japan's economic boom in the 1960's and 1970's. Currently, Shintetsu has a hard time with the transition of their rolling stock to the next generation.

EMU Shintetsu 6000 series stands at Maruyama Station

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The 8900 Series: New Model on the Toei Arakawa Line

Electric car, Toei 8900 series stands at Asukayama Stop on the Arakawa Line

On September 18, the Transportation Bureau of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (Toei) launched a new model of their electric car, the 8900 series, on the Arakawa Line. This is the first introduction of a new model in seven years.

The rectilinear-designed body painted with orange and white colors is very vivid for people living along the line. Energy saving LED lights light up the interior. The electric control system, the VVVF inverter (variable frequency drive), is also energy saving. Two units, namely car numbers 8901 and 8902, have been built by Aluna Sharyo. The operator plans to launch the other six sets by 2017. Their body colors will be blue, rose-red and yellow.

I easily shot this new model at Asukayama Stop last weekend, since the operator published the timetable of the 8900 series on their website. It was sunset and getting dark, but the new electric car stood out backed by the evening gloom. The LED interior lights were brighter than I thought.

For your information, the Arakawa Line is a precious survivor of the tram route in Tokyo. It had been operated as two routes, Routes 27 and 32, which were merged into one route, the Arakawa Line, in 1974. Connecting Waseda and Miniowabashi, its route length is 12.2 km. The track is 1,372 mm-size gauge and double. The electric system is 600 V DC overhead.

The 8900 series will soon be the symbol of the Toei-Arakawa Line.

The oldest model, 7000 series (left) and the newest model, 8900 series (right)