Saturday, August 29, 2015

2015 "Sunrise" Summer in Himeji Station

EMU JR West 285 series, sleeper train, "Sunrise Izumo No.92", stands at Himeji Station

"Obon" is a Buddhist festival to recognize ancestral spirits. The souls of the dead are believed to return to their families during the festival in the middle of August. It is an occasion for people to visit their ancestors' graves to pray and make offerings of food and flowers. So, many people take holidays, and go back to their hometowns.

Although my hometown is Tokyo, I had an opportunity to go outside Tokyo during the obon season, as something came up. My destination was Himeji City in Hyogo Prefecture, some 640 km west of Tokyo. After finishing my meeting, I came across an extra overnight sleeper train, the EMU 285 series, "Sunrise Izumo No.92", at Himeji Station. Connecting Izumo-shi in Shimane Prefecture and Tokyo, its operating length is 954 km.

The 285 series was launched in 1998. It is not a series of passenger cars pulled by a locomotive, but an EMU. A total of 5 sets of 7-car trains have been built so far by Kinki Sharyo, Nippon Sharyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Three sets belong to JR West, while the other two sets are owned by JR Central.

Sunrise Izumo No.92 made a 10-minute stop at Himeji Station, so I could secure enough time to shoot this unique sleeper EMU. It then departed for Tokyo at 21.00 on schedule. I saw many families with children in the special train of the peak tourist season. Everyone looked to be having fun.

Have a good dream!

 
"Sunrise Izumo No.92", stands at Himeji Station on the Sanyo Main Line
 
Official information about the EMU 285 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Old Post Town on the Aizu Line

DMU Aizu Railway AT-700 series leaves Tou-no-hetsuri Station
 
After our visit to the vast sunflower field in San-no-kura Highland, we headed to Oouchjuku in Fukushima Prefecture. Oouchijuku is a small village along Aizu West Road and once flourished as a post town in the Edo Period (1603-1868). The great number of feudal lords with their servants and the other travelers had been staying or taking a break there.

In 1884, after the Meiji Restoration, National Highway 121 was constructed far to the east. The old town and its name Oouchijuku slipped from people's memories, but in 1981, it appeared in the picture again. Oouchijuku was designated as a Group of Traditional Buildings by the government. Today, many old houses with straw-thatched roofs are carefully preserved along the main road. Thousands of tourists flock to this time-slipped post town.

To visit Oouchijuku, Aizu Railway is convenient. The nearest station is Yunokami-onsen. Aizu Railway is a local company, which has taken over the operation of the Aizu Line from Japanese National Railways. Connecting Aizukogen-Ozeguchi and Nishi-Wakamatsu, its operating length is 54.7 km. The track is 1,067 mm-gauge size single and partially electrified with a 1,500 V DC system.

The DMU AT-750 series is the latest model on the line. It was launched in 2010 to replace the old model, the DMU 8500 series. The AT-750 series is a 2-car train operated as "Aizu Mount Express", which is a flagship train on the line. Its red colored vivid bodies attract tourists and are popular among rail fans.

 
Oouchijuku post town near Yunokami-onsen Station on the Aizu Line
 
Official information about the rolling stock of Aizu Railway (in Japanese):

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tsudoi: Leisure Train on the Toba-Shima Line

EMU Kintetsu 2013 series, Tsudoi, passes through Kaminogou Station
 
Along with luxury limited express trains, Kintetsu also focuses on leisure trains for young families. The EMU 2013 series, called Tsudoi (gathering), is a typical example.

Tsudoi was originally a commuter train, the EMU 2000 series, operated on the Nagoya Line. Kintetsu renovated this 3-car train (Mo2014-Mo2013-Ku2107) in 2013, and launched it as a leisure train on the Toba-Shima Line. Currently, it is operated every weekend; 2-round trips in a day between Iseshi and Kashikojima stations (38.3 km). The route is mostly double track with 1,500 V DC electric systems. The travel time is just one hour.

Tsudoi has a playroom for kids and a view room for adults in the cars. It is similar to that of JR East's Yamadori, but Tsudoi is clearly Yamadori's superior in passenger services. For instance, Tsudoi has a special confectionery shop in the train. Kids can buy all kinds of candies for only 20 yen each, which is a cool price for kids. On the other hand, fathers can enjoy drinking beer, as Tsudoi has a bar with a beer server. It is a good service, but don't drink too much! Don't forget to take care of your kids!

To ride this joyful leisure train, you just pay an additional 300 yen (150 yen for a kid) and book your seat. Enjoying the ample interior facilities and the beautiful coast scenery, Tsudoi will take you to Kashikojima, the gate station of the Shima marine resort.

 
EMU Kintetsu 2013 series, Tsudoi, arrives at Iseshi Station
 
Official information about Kintetsu's leisure train, Tsudoi (in Japanese):

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Summer Scenery of Fukushima Prefecture

EMU Fukushima Kotsu 7000 series arrives at Fukushima Station on the Iizaka Line
 
The hot summer still continues in the Tokyo metropolitan area. According to the weather report, the daytime maximum temperature still reaches 30 degrees Celsius every day. I took a short midsummer holiday, and went to the cool north with my family. This year's destination was Fukushima Prefecture in Tohoku District, some 270 km north of Tokyo.

When we arrived at Fukushima Station by Tohoku Shinkansen, a 2-car small train was standing at the eastern side of the station. It was the EMU Fukushima Kotsu 7000 series on the Iizaka Line. The 7000 series is the ex-Tokyu train built by Tokyu Sharyo from 1963 to 1966. A total of 16 units were moved to Fukushima Kotsu in 1991, when the Iizaka Line was boosted from 750 to 1,500 V DC. Before being transferred, 14 units were modified from non-driving to driving motor cars.

Currently, the 7000 series are operated as Hanamomo (Hana peach) poster trains to promote tourism to Iizaka Hot Spring on the Iizaka Line. The pink-colored decorated face of the train was lovely and was my favorite. For your information, the Iizaka Line is a 9.2 km-long single track railway, connecting Fukushima and Iizaka stations.

After strolling in Fukushima station yard, we headed to San-no-kura Highland, where nearly 2 million sunflowers were blooming on a hill. It was similar to that of Akeno Sunflower Field in Yamanashi Prefecture, but San-no-kura Highland was more large-scale and gorgeous.

We enjoyed the summer scenery of Fukushima Prefecture, both the station and the sunflower field.
 
Sunflower field of San-no-kura Highland in Fukushima Prefecture
 
Official information about history and trains of Fukushima Kotsu (in Japanese):

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Night View of Himeji City: Castle and Station

DMU JR West KiHa127 series stands at Himeji Station on the Kishin Line
 
Himeji is the second largest city in Hyogo Prefecture, some 640 km west of Tokyo. It is well known as a heavy industrial city, but an old castle, namely Himeji Castle, is another symbol of this city.

Himeji Castle, also called Shirasagi (egret) Castle, was originally constructed by Akamastu Sadanori in 1333. After several renovations, it was completed in 1617 by Honda Tadamasa. The main tower with some attached buildings is still in existence. Himeji Castle was designated as a World Heritage site in 1993.

To get to this historical castle, the nearest station is JR West's Himeji. It takes three hours from Tokyo by Nozomi super-express train on the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen. When I arrived at Himeji Station, it was just after sunset. I saw a stainless-steel DMU on platform 3.

It was JR West's KiHa127 series on the Kishin Line. This route is a 158 km-long un-electrified single track connecting Himeji and Niimi stations. The section between Himeji and Harima-Shingu is a commuter route, whereas the section from Harima-Shingu to Niimi is a typical local line. The KiHa127 series was launched in 2009 as a JR West commuter DMU. A total of 19 units have been built by Niigata Transys.

After strolling in Himeji station yard, I headed to Himeji Castle. When I arrived at the castle, it had become completely dark. The beautiful white building appeared in the illuminations. I enjoyed night view of Himeji City, both the station and the castle.

 
Night view of Himeji Castle near Himeji Station
 
Official information about JR West's local trains (in Japanese):

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Japan's Second Largest Lake on the Joban Line

EMU JR East E531 series arrives at Tomobe Station on the Joban Line

Kasumigaura is the second largest lake in Japan. It is located in Ibaraki Prefecture, some 70 km northeast of Tokyo. Area of the lake is 168 square kilometers, but its maximum water depth is only seven meters, as it is a lagoon. People can enjoy fishing, playing with boats and riding a bike in this vast leisure area.

To get to Kasumigaura, please take the JR East Joban Line from Ueno Station. The EMU E531 series is the main fleet on the line. The E531 was launched in 2005 to counter the Tsukuba Express (TX), which is an adjacent railway of the Joban Line.

The E531 is an AC-DC dual system EMU with a maximum speed of 130 km/hour. It is composed of 10 cars in the main sets, with 5 cars in the subsets. Usually, it is operated as a 15-car train (a main set + a sub set) on the line. The gleaming stainless steel body with a dark blue colored stripe is an outward characteristic of the E531 series.

Most of the commuter railways in the Tokyo metropolitan area are operated on direct current (DC), but the alternate current (AC) system is adopted on the north side of Toride Station on the Joban Line. The reason for applying the AC system in the northern section is that the direct current has adverse effects on the observation work at the national magnetic observatory located near the track.

Taking the unique AC-DC dual system train, enjoy your weekend in the lake area.

View of Japan's second largest lake, Kasumigaura near Tsuchiura Station on the Joban Line

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Mitake Tozan Railway: New Colors

Funicular "Mitake" of the Mitake Tozan Railway
 
The hot summer still continues in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The only thing we can do is escape the city and go to somewhere cool. I visited Mt. Mitake for the first time in three years with my family last weekend. Mt. Mitake is located 50 km west of downtown Tokyo, and is known as a sanctuary for mountain worship. Although the peak is only 929 m above sea level, it is a steep mountain, surrounded by a deep forest.

To climb up Mt. Mitake, Mitake Tozan Railway is convenient. It was opened in 1934 as a funicular route. Connecting Takimoto and Mitakesan stations, its line length is 1,107m. The height difference between the two stations is 423.6m. The maximum inclination of the route is 25 degrees. The gauge size is 1,049 mm, which is quite rare in this country. The operating interval is every 15 to 30 minutes depending on the congestion situation.

Last year, the color of the funiculars was changed in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the company. The one vehicle was changed to red and another is green. The name of the vehicles was also changed. One was changed from Aozora (blue sky) to Mitake and another was changed from Hinode (sunrise) to Musashi (old name of Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture).

After arriving at Mitakesan Station, we enjoyed full-blown rengeshouma (Anemonopsis macrophylla). It is very rare lovely blossom seen in deep forests in Japan. We had losts of enjoyment in Mt. Mitake.

 
Full-blown rengeshouma is seen near Mitakesan Station on the Mitake Tozan Railway

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Old Stainless-steel Cars in the Histrical City

Set 6511F of the EMU Nankai 6200 series stands at Sakai-higashi Station on the Koya Line

When I visited Osaka Prefecture last year, I stopped by Daisenryo Tumulus, an old mounded tomb, in Sakai City. It is considered to have been constructed in the early 5th century as the mausoleum of Emperor Nintoku.

That's not the only one. There are many other ancient mounded tombs in this city. For instance, I saw a small keyhole-shaped barrow adjacent to Daisen Mounded Tomb. It is Nagayama Mounded Tomb, which was also built in the 5th century. Many researchers estimate that this tomb is a so-called baizuka, which is a tomb attached to the larger one.

To visit these ancient tombs, please take the Nankai-Koya Line and get off at Sakai-Higashi Station. Nankai is one of the major private railway companies in the Osaka area. The route extends to the southern part of Osaka and northern Wakayama Prefecture.

The EMU 6200 series is one of the main fleets on the Koya Line. It is an old stainless steel car, which debuted in 1974. A total of 11 sets (6-car and 4-car trains), 58 units, have been built over 8 years. Some sets were then modified from the rheostatic to VVVF (variable frequency drive) control system in the 2000s.

Is there something familiar about the Nankai 6200 series? Yes, it is similar to that of the EMU Tokyu 8000 series. A gable front with a gangway door, two large rounded front lights and corrugated stainless steel bodies... these two models are like two peas in a pod.

 
Nagayama Tumulus is located near Sakai-higashi Station on the Nankai Koya Line

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Urban Liner: Spirit of Kintetsu

EMU Kintetsu 21000 series, "Urban Liner" passes through Nabari Station on the Osaka Line
 
Railway business in Japan is by no means easy. Many companies are involved in tough competition for survival. Kintetsu and JR Central are fated rivals in the western part of Japan. Their main battlefield is the section between Osaka and Nagoya cities, often called the Meihan section. As you know, Osaka and Nagoya are Japan's second and third largest metropolises. The distance between the two mega-cities is 190 km. The overwhelming strong company is JR Central, which has the Tokaido Shinkansen with a maximum speed of 285 km per hour. It takes 50 minutes by Nozomi super-express from Shin-Osaka to Nagoya. Kintetsu has no chance of winning in the speed. What should they do for survival?

The answer is passenger services and the fare. Kintetsu operates a luxury limited express train, "Urban Liner", the EMU 21000 (and 21020) series on the Meihan section. This train travels between Osaka-Namba and Nagoya in about 2 hours with a maximum speed of only 130 km per hour, but the interior of Urban Liner is more luxurious and the fare is 37% lower than that of Nozomi Super-express on the Tokaido Shinkansen. Specifically, I recommend you use the deluxe seat in car number 1. Once you pay an extra fee (510 yen), a squashy reclining seat with 2+1 configuration is offered for you.

The 21000 series was launched in 1988. Currently, a total of 72 units (6-cars and 2-cars) are operated on the line. Kintetsu's Urban Liner... it is the spirit of Kintetsu.
 
Interior of the deluxe seat car, the EMU Kintetsu 21000 series, "Urban Liner"
 
Official information about "Urban Liner" (in English):
Official information about "Urban Liner" (in Japanese): http://www.kintetsu.co.jp/gyoumu/Express/train/urban.html

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Special Operation of the Classic Train

EMU Entetsu 30 series (MoHa25-KuHa85) arrives at Enshu-byoin-mae Station

It is midsummer in Japan. According to the weather report, the daytime maximum temperature reaches 35 degrees Celsius in many places every day. People take summer vacations and go somewhere cool, but rail fans have many things to do except going to cool highland resorts.

In this season, many railway companies hold special events in order to increase passengers. Their main potential customers are rail fans and children with their families. Enshu Railway (Entetsu) is no exception. They operate a special classic train on the weekends during the summer vacation season. Entetsu is a local private railway company based in Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka Prefecture, some 260 km west of Tokyo. Hamamatsu is the largest urban area in Shizuoka Prefecture known as an industrial city, home to Yamaha and Suzuki's headquarters.

The special classic train is a 2-car train (MoHa25-KuHa85) of the EMU 30 series built in 1978. Its two large frontal windows show a typical design of the 1960s to 1970s era. The red-colored body with a white stripe is my favorite, as it is similar to Keikyu trains in Tokyo. More importantly, the running sound of the old nose suspension driving system is very nostalgic. It was worth coming all the way to Hamamatsu City by Tokaido Shinkansen train.

For your information, Entetsu has a 17.8 km electrified single track between Shin-Hamamatsu and Nishikashima stations. The gauge size is 1,067 mm and the electric system is 750 V DC overhead.
 
EMU Entetsu 30 series (MoHa25-KuHa85) leaves Enshu-byoin-mae Station
 
Official information about the Entetsu trains (in Japanese):

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Shogun Train on the Shizuoka-Shimizu Line

Set number 1002F, "Shogun Train", of the EMU Shizutetsu 1000 series
 
Tokugawa Ieyasu was the first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate. In 1603, he was appointed as a commander-in-chief of an army in pre-modern Japan, called 'Seii-taishogun', by the Emperor after the Battle of Sekigahara. The Tokugawa shogunate had been ruling this country until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

This year is the 400th anniversary of the death of Tokugawa Ieyasu. For the anniversary of 400 years, many ceremonies and exhibitions are being held in Japan. Specifically, Shizuoka City is very enthusiastic about the memorial events, since it was the place of Ieyasu's death. For your information, Shizuoka is the main city of Shizuoka Prefecture, some 180 km west of Tokyo.

To create the events atmosphere, a local railway company, Shizuoka Railway (Shizutetsu), launched a special poster train early this year. Shizutetsu has been operating the 11km-long Shizuoka-Shimizu Line since 1908. Connecting Shin-Shizuoka and Shin-Shimizu, the whole route is electrified double track. The gauge size is 1,067mm and the electric system is 600V DC overhead.

The special poster train, 'Shogun Train', has black-colored body with large gold-colored Aoi-no-Gomons on the front and side of the train's body. What an up-front design it is! Aoi-no-Gomon, which is also known as Mitsuba-aoi (three leaves of hollyhock), is the Tokugawa family's crest. Shogun Train is the two-car train, set number 1002F of the EMU Shizutetsu 1000 series.

The shogun train appears. Does the crest not get into your eyes? Bow your head! Down on your knees!

 
Set number 1005F (standard color) of the EMU Shizutetsu 1000 series
 
Official promotion movie of Shizuoka Railway (Shizutetsu):
Official movie of Shizutetsu's EMU, A3000 series under development:

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Double Fuji on the Odakyu-Odawara Line

Short (6-car) train of the EMU Odakyu 3000 series travels on the Odawara Line
 
Gazing at ever-changing scenery through a train window is the enjoyment for railway travelers like me. I never forget my own memory of finding a beautiful scenery from a train. For instance, Mt. Fuji through the Odakyu train window is my unforgettable scenery. What is special about it?

We can see the "Double Fuji" there. They are real Mt. Fuji (3,776 m) and the Fuji-like mountain, called Mt. Yaguradake (870 m). When a train passes through the special place on the track, real Mt. Fuji and the Fuji-like mountain seem to be overlapped. I am particular about this kind of rare scenery.

To view this rare scenery, please get on the westbound train on the Odakyu-Odawara Line from Kaisei Station. The train will soon lead to the special place to see the Double Fuji on your right. It is very beautiful if you get on a train just after sunset, as the clouds above the Double Fuji take on the glow of the evening sun.

EMU 3000 series is the representative model operated on the Odakyu-Odawara Line. The 3000 series was launched in 2001 to reinforce Odakyu's commuter train fleet. A total of 47 sets, 332 units have been manufactured so far. Since it is a local section far from the over-crowded urban area, a short (6-car) train is enough to meet the demand of transportation.

Just relax in your own way and enjoy your train journey on the Odakyu-Odawara Line with the Double Fuji scenery.
 
"Double Fuji" is seen through a train window near Kaisei Station on the Odawara Line
 
Note: The top photo location was recently closed by the railway company due to poor footing. The photo was taken in June, 2014.

More information aboout Odakyu trains (Odakyu Virtual Railway Museum):
http://www.odakyu.jp/museum/main.html

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Old Five-Storied Pagoda on the Kintetsu-Osaka Line

EMU Kintetsu 2800 series arrives at Akameguchi Station on the Kintetsu-Osaka Line

Muro-ji is an old temple in Nara Prefecture, some 500 km west of Tokyo. It is considered to be founded by En-no Ozuno in 680, but it's anybody's guess. The temple is located in a mountain along Muro River. The existing oldest building on the premises is the five-storied pagoda, which was constructed around 794. The small slender tower is very beautiful backed by a green forest. Roofs covered with Japanese cypress barks are also characteristic of this pagoda. It was designated as a National Treasure in 1951.

To get to this historical temple, please take the Kintetsu-Osaka Line and get off at Muroguchi-Ono Station. It takes about one hour from Uehonmachi Station in the downtown Osaka area. Luxury intercity express trains, such as Urban Liner and Ise-Shima Liner, don't stop at this quiet station, so please take a local train bound for Nabari, Aoyamacho or Isuzugawa.

EMU 2800 series is a main fleet on the Kintetsu-Osaka Line. It was launched in 1972 to replace the decrepit model, EMU 1400 series. The gauge size is 1,435 mm and the electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. Two rounded frontal lights beside the destination display are lovely and good accents. Although more than 40 years have passed since the 2800 series debuted, 17 sets (2-car, 3-car and 4-car trains), 59 units are still operated on the track.

Enjoy the Kintetsu's old train and the five-storied pagoda! It will be an unforgettable day for you.
 
Five-storied pagoda is seen in Muro-ji Temple near Muroguchi-Ono Station on the Kintetsu-Osaka Line
 
Official information about the EMU Kintetsu 2800 series (in Japanese):