Friday, September 30, 2016

Renewal of the EMU 9000 Series

Set 9105F (after the renewal) of the EMU Tokyo Metro 9000 series

It has been a long time since I was brought up the topic of Tokyo Metro. I am going to show you something new about the subway in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

I recently took the Tokyo Metro Namboku Line, as something came up. When I got on the train, the EMU 9000 series, I found that my vehicle had been renovated. The 9000 series was launched in 1991, when the Namboku Line was opened.

The Namboku Line was partially opened in 1991 as the eleventh subway route in Tokyo. The entire route was then opened in 2000. Penetrating from south to north, the Namboku Line connects Meguro and Akabane-Iwabuchi with a total length of 21.3 km. The track is double and the gauge size is 1,067 mm. Its electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. The trains are directly operated onto the Tokyu-Meguro and Saitama Railway lines. The section between Shirokane-Takanawa and Meguro is shared with the Toei (Tokyo Metropolitan Government) Mita Line.

What was new with the 9000 series? Firstly, the design of the stripe on the outer body has been changed from a straight to a wavy one. Secondly, the electric control system has been changed to the latest one with full-SIC inverters. SIVs have also been replaced by new ones, which are operated cooperatively. Thirdly, the interior has also been changed. For instance, informative double VCD monitors have been equipped above the passenger doors.

The first renovated set, namely 9105F, was launched on August 15th.

Set 9105F stands at Tamagawa Station on the Tokyu Meguro Line

Official information about the renewal of the EMU Tokyo Metro 9000 series (in Japanese):

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Japan's Largest Bus Terminal above Shinjuku Station

Japan's largest expressway bus terminal is located just above JR East Shinjuku Station

Tokyo is a super-high density city. More than 30 million people live in this small metropolitan area. It has been spreading into the air, underground and into the suburbs. They are skyscrapers, underground shopping malls, subways, underground expressways and suburban new towns. Is there any space left?

Yes, there is. We still have vast spaces in the center of the city. One of the typical examples is the overhead spaces of surface railway stations. Look at the top photo. It is Japan's largest expressway bus terminal constructed just above the platforms of JR East Shinjuku Station.

Shinjuku is the world's largest railway station. The ridership of this giant terminal is 3.5 million passengers per day. Trains of six operators arrive at and leave this station. The largest operator, namely JR East, has a surface station there. In other words, they have a vast overhead space just above the platforms. The best utilization for this space is the expressway bus terminal, as it is convenient for passengers to change from and to the trains.

On April 4th this year, Japan's largest expressway bus terminal, named Basta Shinjuku, was opened just above the JR East's railway platforms. A total of 1,625 services operated by 118 companies arrive at and leave this giant terminal every day. It is always busy with passengers, who are mainly young people and tourists who can afford the time.

Gate D10 of Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal (Basta Shinjuku)

Official information of Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal (in Japanese):

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Centram: Convenient Transit in the Local City

Electric car Toyama Chiho Railway De9000 series leaves Toyama Station on the Route 3

Toyama is the main city of Toyama Prefecture, about 390 km northwest of Tokyo. This local city is facing the Sea of Japan, and had poor access from Tokyo, which is located on the side of the Pacific Ocean.

The situation totally changed in 2015, when the Hokuriku Shinkansen was opened. Now, it takes only 2 hours and 10 minutes from Tokyo by super-express train, Kagayaki (brilliance) with a maximum speed of 260 km per hour. Needless to say, tourists are flocking to this beautiful city and its suburban area for sightseeing. I was also one of them this summer.

Centram is a must-ride streetcar in Toyama City for rail-fans. Its formal name is the electric car, Toyama Chiho Railway De9000 series. This modern vehicle was launched in 2009, when the Circle Line was opened. It is included in the category of low floor type LRV (light rail vehicle). So far, a total of three units have been built by Niigata Transys.

Different from the other cities in Japan, Toyama creates a tram network as a main urban public transportation system. As you may know, tram routes in Japan were abolished one after another due to heavy traffic jams. They just stay in people's minds in many large cities such as Yokohama, Nagoya and Sendai; however, the merit of tram systems is now being recognized once again, mainly in local cities, from the point of view of environmental protection and barrier-free.

Centram... it is a convenient transit system in the local city.

Electric car Toyama Chiho Railway De9000 series travels on the Route 3

Official information about the tram in Toyama City:
Official information about the rolling stock of Toyama Chiho Railway (in Japanese):

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

World Heritage Area on the Takayama Main Line

DMU JR Central KiHa 85 series travels on the Takayama Main Line

Gassho-zukuri is one of traditional farmhouses seen in the snowy areas of Japan. It has a steep straw-thatched roof to counter the snowfall by increasing the slidability of the snow accumulated on the roof. Along with the famous Shirakawago in Gifu Prefecture, Gokayama in Toyama Prefecture is also known as an area of Gassho-zukuri village. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Until the late 19th century, Gokayama was a hidden place for the Maeda family in Kaga Domain to produce ensho (material of explosives). Even strong Tokugawa Shogunate (central government) couldn't sniff it out, since Gokayama was an isolated "non-existing village" surrounded by deep and snowy mountains at that time. 

There are two routes to get to Gokayama. One is from Johana Terminal on the JR West Johana Line. The other is from Takayama Station on the JR Central/West Takayama Main Line. The Takayama Main Line is a trunk route connecting Gifu on the Tokaido Main Line and Toyama on the Hokuriku Shinkansen. Its total line length is 225.8 km. The track is single and un-electrified. The gauge size is 1,067 mm.

The leading train on the Takayama Main Line is a limited express "Wide-view Hida", the DMU JR Central KiHa 85 series. This DMU was launched in 1989 to replace the old model, KiHa 82 series. Thanks to the two powerful 350 PS diesel engines made by Cummins in the U.K., the DMU KiHa 85 series exhibits the same performance as EMUs.

Gokayama, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Official information of the DMU KiHa 85 series  by Nippon Sharyo:
Official information of the DMU KiHa 85 series  by JR Central (in Japanese):

Sunday, September 18, 2016

JNR-type DMU in the Akita Area

DMU  JR East KiHa 48 series arrives at Akita Station

Following the DMU JR West KiHa 47 series in Toyama Prefecture, I am going to show you their brothers, named the JR East KiHa 48 series, operated in Akita Prefecture.

Akita is a snowy country facing the Sea of Japan. One of the attractive trains for rail-fans in the prefecture is an old JNR-type DMU, the KiHa 48 series. JNR stands for Japanese National Railways, which was Japan's largest railway network. It was split into seven railway companies and privatized in 1987 due to financial difficulties. During the JNR era, many DMUs were introduced to railways all over Japan.

The DMU KiHa 48 series is a single cabin car, so it must form at least as a 2-car train being coupled with the other diesel rail-cars. What is the difference between the KiHa 48 and the KiHa 47 series? The answer is the type of doors. The KiHa 47 series has double (center-opened) doors; meanwhile the KiHa 48 series is a single (side-opened) door car. It means that the KiHa 47 series is suitable for urban lines; meanwhile the 48 series is recommended to be operated on local routes.

Although the KiHa 48 series is operated on the local route in Akita Prefecture, it is crowded in the morning and the late afternoon. Why was it so crowded? It was because high school students use the train for commuting. The old JNR-type DMU in Akita Prefecture is a precious transportation means for local high school students.

A 5-car train of the DMU JR East KiHa 48 series

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Sankyoson: Beautiful Countryside on the Johana Line

DMU JR West 47 series stands at Takaoka Station on the Johana Line 

Sankyoson is one of the settlement patterns in the countryside of the world. Each farmstead is scattered throughout the area. In other words, houses are not densely distributed like a nucleated village.

Generally speaking, sankyoson is not common in Japan, probably because our country is narrow; however, there are several exceptions. For instance, we can see a typical sankyoson on the Tonami Plain in Toyama Prefecture. Once you climb up a hill, named Hachibuseyama, you will then see dispersed farmers' houses surrounded by green paddies. If you look carefully, you will also find that each house is protected by a windbreak forest. It is very beautiful scenery, isn't it?

To get to this gorgeous observatory, please take the JR West Johana Line and get off at Tonami Station. The Johana Line is an un-electrified single track. Connecting Takaoka Station to Johana Terminal, its route length is 29.9 km. The old DMU KiHa 47 series is the main fleet on the route. The KiHa 47 series was launched by Japanese National Railways in 1977. So far, a total of 370 units have been built by Niigata Tekko and Fuji Heavy industries. Different from the KiHa 40 series, which is a double cab car, the KiHa 47 series is a single cab car. Furthermore, the KiHa 47 series has double doors; meanwhile the KiHa 40 series has single doors on each unit.

Taking the local Johana Line, please visit traditional sankyoson in Tonami Plain.

The scenery of Sankyoson from Hachibuseyama observatory

Monday, September 12, 2016

New Attraction on the Dead Track: Part 2

Group tour of Rail Mountain Bike, Gattan-Go

I was asked a question from one of my blog readers regarding the mechanism of "Rail Mountain Bike, Gattan-Go" in Kamioka Town. In answer to the question...

Firstly, the route of Gattan-Go is not a path, but a railway track. It means that the track is kept quite as it was while the railway was being operated. Local people didn't need to remove the rails from the track bed after Kamioka Railway ended its operations.

Secondly, Gattan-Go is a special vehicle operated on the track. It is modified from a bicycle. Once you pedal it, the vehicle travels on the track. The basic model is composed of two bicycles connected in parallel. The special model for families has auxiliary seats and a box for pet animals.

Because of the single track, the operation of Gattan-Go should be a group tour. More than twenty vehicles leave ex-Okuhida-onsenguchi Station one after another. It takes about 15 minutes to ex-Kamioka-kozanmae Terminal. After a break at the terminal, the participants again pedal the vehicles and go back to the starting station. It takes about 25 minutes because the return route is uphill.

There are several sights to see on the route. The most thrilling ones are two tunnels. Specifically, the longer tunnel is curved; therefore, it is perfectly black at the center of the tunnel. Furthermore, it is very cool even in summer. Ex-way stations and railway bridges are also good accents on the route.

A one hour tour went by so fast.

Ex-railway tunnel on the route of Gattan-Go

Official information of Rail Mountain Bike, Gattan-Go: http://rail-mtb.com/en/

Friday, September 9, 2016

EMU 5000 Series: Evergreen Train on the Nishitetsu Line

EMU Nishitetsu 5000 series arrives at Futsukaichi Station on the Oomuta Line

There are lively old gentlemen everywhere in the world. The same can be said of trains in Japan. For instance, the EMU Nishitetsu 5000 series is one of the representative evergreen trains on Kyushu Island.

The 5000 series was launched in 1975 to reinforce the transportation capacity of the Nishitetsu's Oomuta Line. Replacement of the small-sized old models, such as the 100, 200, 300 and 313 series, had another purpose to introduce the 5000 series. A total of 40 sets (3-car and 4-car trains), 136 units, have been built by Kawasaki heavy Industries over 16 years. The 5000 series is a 20 m-long car with 1,500 V DC electric systems. The gauge size is 1,435 mm (standard gauge). Its technical specification is rather old, but the 5000 series is still maintained in good condition.

I like the 5000 series as its face is unique. It looks like a flatfish or a flounder. Only the right side of its face has a curved panoramic window to secure the driver's visibility. For your information, the driver's seat is equipped on the right side (the left side with respect to a vehicle travelling direction) of most Japanese trains.

The coloring of the 5000 series is also unique. It has a light blue colored body with a red colored stripe. I have never seen this color combination elsewhere. They are not current fashionable colors in Japan, but they are at least my favorite. 

The EMU Nishitetsu 5000 series, it is an evergreen flatfish train.

Front mask of the EMU Nishitetsu 5000 series

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

New Attraction on the Dead Track

Rail Mountain Bike, Gattan-Go in Kamioka Town

Kamioka has been developed as a mining town in Gifu Prefecture about 440 km northwest of Tokyo. Zinc and lead deposits of the Kamioka Mine were found in 720. More than 27,000 people lived in this mountainous town at its peak from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. A railway, namely the Kamioka Line of Kamioka Railway, was opened in 1930 to transport people and ore.

Life has its ups and downs. The same applied to cities and towns. In 2001, Kamioka Mine was closed due to depletion. The population of the town had rapidly decreased. In 2009, the Kamioka Line was also abolished due to a decrease of passengers. Kamioka Town obviously declined in prosperity. Could they save the town from its difficulties?

Yes, they could. They have begun a new attraction using the dead track of the Kamioka Line. Its name is "Rail Mountain Bike, Gattan-Go". Local people built special bicycles for running on the ex-railway track. The bicycles are for couples and for families including their pet animals. This new business has become a great success. Today, Gattan-Go is one of the most popular attractions in Gifu Prefecture. Good has come out of evil. I also enjoyed this attraction with my family this summer. Being blown by a breeze, we felt refreshed. Passing along several bridges, through dark tunnels and ex-stations, we enjoyed a total route length of 5.8 km.

Rail Mountain Bike, Gattan-Go, is a unique sightseeing attraction, which has saved the declining town.

Gattan-Go and the ex-railway track

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Nomo-chan: Upside Down Monorail in Chiba City

Set number 10, Nomo-chan, of the EMU Chiba Urban Monorail 1000 series (upside down)

Suspended-type monorail is a unique transportation system. Contrary to standard railways, it has rails above the trains. Using this unique shape, Chiba Urban Monorail Company has launched a unique upside down train, called Nomo-chan, on their lines.

Look at the top picture. It looks like a diesel rail-car without overhead wires, but in fact, it is the upside down suspended monorail train... Nomo-chan. The photo is upside down. You can see logos and animal illustrations, which are all upside down. With the legal restrictions, only minimum displays, such as guide stickers for wheelchair users, are not upside down. Incidentally, the train name, Nomo-chan, is the reverse word of Mono (monorail)-chan. Chan is used as the diminutive suffix and rather to call a little boy and a girl.

Nomo-chan is set number 10 of the EMU 1000 series built in 1991. It is a 2-car train with a 1,500 V DC electric system. So far, a total of 20 sets, 40 units, of the 1000 series have been built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. 8 sets of them, 16 units, have still to go into service. Chiba Urban Monorail was partially opened in 1988 between the Sports Center and Chishirodai stations. Currently, the total line length is 15.2km. The EMU 1000 series has been operating since then.

Chiba Urban Monorail Company tries to attract passengers by every possible means the same as the other railway companies in Japan. Railway business in this country is by no means easy.

Set number 10, Nomo-chan, of the EMU 1000 series travels on the Line 2

Official information of the upside down train, Nomo-chan (in Japanese):