Friday, June 30, 2017

Hydrangea Season on the Kawagoe Line

EMU JR East E233-7000 series arrives at Nishi-Omiya Station on the Kawagoe Line

On June 7th, the Japan Meteorological Agency announced that this year's rainy season had begun in Tokyo. From early June to mid-July, the Tokyo metropolitan area has a hot and humid rainy season called Tsuyu. Although it is a gloomy period before midsummer, it is a pleasure for me to see beautiful hydrangea flowers. There are many famous places with hydrangea blossoms in the Tokyo metropolitan area. I visited Saitama City in Saitama Prefecture with my family this year.

Nishi Ward is located in the northwestern part of Saitama City, about 40 km northwest of Tokyo. This neighborhood has recently become a residential area, but it has a long history as a rich agricultural area, where various crops including rice and vegetables are being produced. Nishi Ward also has a historical shrine, Sashiogi-Hikawa Jinja, which dates at least back to 796. In this season, we can see fully blown hydrangeas in the garden of the shrine. More than 1,500 hydrangeas are planted there. Especially, I like to view the large blue colored flowers in the garden.

The nearest station to the garden was Sashiogi on the JR East Kawagoe Line. It took about 45 minutes from Shinjuku, a sub-center of Tokyo, by a rapid service train. A green colored striped train, the EMU E233-7000 series, was our vehicle. The E233-7000 series was launched in 2013 to replace the old 205 series. Along with the Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transport 70-000 series, the E233-7000 series transports 730,000 passengers every day.

Hydrangea are in full bloom in the garden of Sashiogi-Hikawa Shrine near Nishi-Omiya Station

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Dancing Girl on the Sunzu Line

EMU JR East 185 series, limited express "Odoriko" travels on the Sunzu Line

On April 8th, a media outlet stated that the EMU 185 series will be retired from the JR East lines within a few years. This retirement will cause JR East to make train transfers one after another. Firstly, the 185 series will be replaced by the EMU E257 series, which is currently operated on the Chuo Main Line as limited expresses Azusa and Kaiji. Secondly, the EMU 257 series will be replaced by a new limited express model, the EMU 353 series, which will debut soon.

What is the EMU 185 series? It is a limited express model developed by ex-Japanese National Railways (JNR), and went into service as a limited express "Odoriko" in 1981. Since then, the 185 series has been transporting millions of holidaymakers from Tokyo to Izu, a reputable resort peninsula. "Odoriko" is operated on the two routes. One is between Tokyo and Izukyu-Shimoda via the JR East Tokaido Main Line and the Izukyu Line. The other one is between Tokyo and Shuzenji via the JR East Tokaido Main Line and the Sunzu Line of Izu-Hakone Railway.

For your information, the name of the limited express "Odoriko" means "a dancing girl" in Japanese. Why is the name of this limited express train so strange? It's because the name comes from the famous novel, "Izu no Odoriko (The Dancing Girl of Izu)" by Japanese author Kawabata Yasunari (1899 - 1972). He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, as the first Japanese author to receive the award.

EMU 185 series, limited express "Odoriko", travels on the Sunzu Line backed by Mt. Fuji

Saturday, June 24, 2017

California Poppy Field on the Chichibu Railway

7507F of the EMU Chichibu Railway 7500 series arrives at Nagatoro Station (April, 2015)

Hanabishi-sou (California poppy) is a flowering plant native to the United States and Mexico. It is known as the official state flower of California in the United States. California poppy was introduced to Japan more than 100 years ago for ornamental purposes. Its yellow-colored blossoms are very vivid in the early summer gardens and fields.

One of the famous spots for admiring this beautiful flower is Nagatoro Hana-no-sato (Nagatoro Flower Village), about 100 km northwest of Tokyo. In a total area of 10,000 square meters, one million California poppies are planted. They bloom during the daytime, and close on rainy days and evenings. 

To visit this flower village, the nearest station is Nagatoro on the Chichibu Railway. EMU 7500 series is the main fleet on the line. The 7500 series was moved from the Tokyu lines, and launched in 2010. Its former name was the EMU 8090 series. Currently, a total of 7 sets, 21 cars are operated as local trains. Different from its Tokyu days, the 7500 series has green colored stripes. Really, it looks good in them.

In the meantime, the 7500 series has two kinds of "faces". One has front lights on the green colored stripe (i.e. 7507F); while the other one has front lights under the green colored stripe (i.e. 7501F). Rail-fans like me enjoy the subtle differences in each train. That kind of thing doesn't matter to non-rail-fans, but it makes rail-fans happy. Rail-fans are indeed simple forms of life.

Carifornia poppy field near Nagatoro Station (June, 2017)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Newcomer on the Shonan Monorail Line

5613F of the EMU Shonan Monorail 5000 series arrives at Shonan-Machiya Station

It is slightly old news, but Shonan Monorail Company launched a new set of the EMU 5000 series, set number 5613 (hereafter 5613F), for their Enoshima Line on May 28th, 2016. As a result, the old train 551F of the EMU 500 series was retired from the track, which means that all of the 500 series trains have now disappeared from the Enoshima Line.

The newcomer, 5613F, which has pink colored stripes on its bodies, is the 7th set of the 5000 series. The other colors of the stripes on the 5000 series are red for 5601F, blue for 5603F, green for 5605F, yellow for 5607F, purple for 5609F, and black for 5611F. Because of its color, the nickname of 5613F is Pink Ribbon. As you may know, Pink Ribbon is the international campaign for breast cancer awareness, so 5613F has an emblem of the Pink Ribbon Campaign on its bodies to support this campaign.

The EMU Shonan Monorail 5000 series is the only model operated on the Enoshima Line. It was launched in 2004 to replace old models, such as the 400 series. One set of the train is composed of three cars with six induction motors (55 kW x 6). Its body length is 13 meters, and the riding capacity is 228 passengers per set. All sets of the 5000 series have been built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, as they have technologies of the suspended monorail system.

Set number 5613 of the EMU Shonan Monorail 5000 series travels on the Enoshima Line

Official information about the EMU Shonan Monorail 5000 series (in Japanese):
 http://www.shonan-monorail.co.jp/fun/monorail5000.html
Official information about Shonan Monorail: http://kamakura-enoshima-monorail.jp/
Monorail lines of Japan (in Japanese): http://www.shonan-monorail.co.jp/fun/

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Crossing Rainbow Bridge on Foot

EMU Yurikamome 7300 series approaches the Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge is a suspension bridge crossing Tokyo Bay between Shibaura Pier and the Odaiba Waterfront Subcenter. It was opened in 1993 as a 798-m long double-decked suspension bridge. You can drive across Rainbow Bridge using the expressway on the 2nd floor or the ordinary road on the 1st floor. You can also cross the bridge by taking the Yurikamome AGT (automated guide way transit) Line on the 1st floor... and one more... you can cross the bridge on foot!

At the weekend, I visited Odaiba Waterfront Subcenter and walked across Rainbow Bridge for the first time. The nearest station to the bridge is JR East Tamachi Station. I got off the train, and started walking toward the southeast. It took about twenty minutes to get to the entrance building of the bridge. Taking an elevator, I could easily to get to the bridge girder, which is 52 m high. The sidewalk is located on the 1st floor parallel to the ordinary road and the Yurikamome Line.

The view from the girder was fantastic. Specifically, the view of Daiba Park was interesting for me. Daiba Park is an artificial island, which was originally constructed as a fort and batteries in 1853. It was then modified to a public park in 1928. We can still see the beautiful square island surrounded by greenery from the girder backed by skyscrapers of the subcenter area.

Crossing Rainbow Bridge on foot... it is a definitely unique experience.

View of Daiba Park from the Rainbow Bridge

Thursday, June 15, 2017

EMU 700 Series: Leading Train on the Ohmi Railway

EMU Ohmi Railway 700 series stands at Hikone station yard

Ohmi is a local private railway company in Shiga Prefecture. Its eastern terminal is Maibara, about 450 km west of Tokyo. Maibara is well known as a key junction station of transportation, as four railways, namely the Tokaido Shinkansen, the Tokaido Main Line, the Hokuriku Main Line, and the Ohmi Railway trains run into this station.

Ohmi operates 59.5 km of track. The routes extend westward from Maibara to three terminals in the prefecture. They are Kibukawa on the Main Line, Ohmi-Hachiman on the Manyo-akane Line, and Taga-taisha-mae on the Taga Line. The track is single and electrified. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. 

Because this local company belongs to the Seibu Group, its rolling stock has been provided by Seibu Railway. The EMU 700 series is no exception. It is the ex-Seibu 401 series, which was retired from the Seibu Line in 1997. After moving to Ohmi Railway, it was totally renovated and debuted as the EMU Ohmi 700 series on June 13th, 1998.

The 700 series is a two-car train (Mc + Mc') with streamlined bodies. Only one set (MoHa 701 + MoHa 1701) is operated on the line. Its large front windows are my favorite, since we can enjoy frontal views from the comfortable cross seats. Its specifications are rather old, but the 700 series is still maintained in good condition. The electric control system is classic rheostatic.

The EMU 700 series is the leading train on the Ohmi Railway.

EMU Ohmi Railway 700 series arrives at Hikone-guchi Station

Monday, June 12, 2017

Turtle Rock on the Gomen-Nahari Line

Diesel rail-car Tosa-Kuroshio Type 9640 arrives at Tano Station on the Gomen-Nahari Line

Cape Muroto was known as a dangerous spot for sea voyage in the old days. It is located in the eastern part of Kochi Prefecture, about 700 km southwest of Tokyo. The geology of the cape is quite interesting. We can see the beautiful sandstone and shale beds, which was deposited in the deep sea about 16 million years ago. It, then, uplifted and emerged thousands of years ago. When I visited Cape Muroto last year, I found a unique rock in the form of a turtle. The disturbance of its geological beds was caused by submarine landslides soon after deposition of the beds.

To get to Cape Muroto, I took the Gomen-Nahari Line of Tosa-Kuroshio Railway, and got off at Nahari terminal. Subsequently, I used bus services from Nahari to Cape Muroto. It took a total of two hours and a half from Kochi, the main city of Kochi Prefecture, to Cape Muroto.

The Gomen-Nahari Line was opened in 2002. Connecting Gomen on the JR Shikoku Dosan Line and Nahari in the eastern part of the prefecture, the total length is 42.7km. The track is non-electrified, single and elevated. A lovely diesel rail-car, the 9640 series, is operated every half an hour during the daytime. So far, a total of 11 cars have been built by Fuji Heavy Industries and Niigata Transys. It has a 450 ps engine and its maximum speed is 110 km per hour.

I enjoyed the unique geology and the railway travel to Cape Muroto.

"Turtle Rock" at Cape Muroto, Kochi Prefecture

Friday, June 9, 2017

Two Kinds of the EMU 719 Series

EMU JR East 719-5000 series (for the 1,435 mm-wide gauge track)

There are two kinds of railway gauge sizes on the JR group lines. They are the 1,067 mm and the 1,435 mm-wide gauges. The 1,067 mm-wide gauge is the most common. It was originally introduced by the U.K. when the first railway route was constructed between Shimbashi and Yokohama in 1872. Most of the JR group lines are this size of gauge. On the other hand, the 1,435 mm-wide gauge is adopted by the Shinkansens and two so-called Mini-Shinkansens. Needless to say, they are suitable for high speed train operations. 

Most of the JR group train models are only for 1,435 mm tracks or 1,067 mm tracks, but there are exceptions. For instance, the EMU JR East 719 series is for both 1,067 and 1,435 mm-wide gauge tracks models. You can see two kinds of the 719 series at Fukushima Station in the Tohoku District. They are the 719-0 series (for the 1,067 mm-wide gauge Tohoku Main Line) and the 719-5000 series (for the 1,435 mm-wide gauge Oou Main Line, the Mini-Shinkansen). For your information, the 719 series was launched in 1989, and a total of 84 units have been built by Tokyu Sharyo and Nippon Sharyo.

On May 26th, 2016, JR East Sendai Office made a press release announcing that the EMU 719 series will be retired soon. It will be replaced by 4-car trains, named the E721-1000 series. The EMU 719 series is now an endangered species on the tracks.

EMU JR East 719-0 series (for the 1,067 mm-wide gauge track) stands at Fukushima Station

Official information about the EMU JR East 719 series (in Japanese):

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wedding Boat on the Keiyo Line

EMU JR East 209-500 series travels on the Keiyo Line

It is early summer in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Just before the glooming rainy season, I enjoyed strolling with my family at the weekend. Our destination was Urayasu in Chiba Prefecture, about 20 km east of Tokyo. Urayasu is famous for being the location of Tokyo Disneyland, but it is also known as a commuter city for Tokyo Metropolis.

Although Uraysu looks like a contemporary city now, it was a quiet fishing village until several decades ago. The traditions of the local people are still cherished in the city. One such tradition is the Wedding Boat. On the weekends of late May, new couples board the traditional boat and travel on Sakai River, which flows through the city. There are many local people on the both sides of the river celebrating the new couples. This event was revived seven years ago, and has become firmly re-established among local people.

To get to Urayasu, the JR East Keiyo Line was convenient. It took only 18 minutes from Tokyo to Shin-Urayasu by a rapid service train. We luckily came across the rare train, 209-500 series, which is only set on the Keiyo Line. As you may know, the same model is also operated on the Musashino Line, but the color of the body stripes is different from those of the Musashino Line.

Wedding Boat and the EMU 209-500 series, I saw a unique festival and a train on the Keiyo Line.

Wedding boat travels Sakai River near Shin-Urayasu Station

Saturday, June 3, 2017

EMU Shin-Keisei 8800 Series: New and Old Colors

EMU 8800 series (new color) travels on the Shin-Keisei Line

What made you like trains? For me, many answers that come to mind are..., because I love traveling, because I like cameras, because my father and grandfather worked for a railway company..., but, the prime reason is that I am excited with the coloring of trains! Once I see a beautifully colored train such as the Shinkansen E5 series or the Keikyu 2100 series, my heart beats faster. I am sure that you are no different.

Needless to say, coloring change of trains is also the greatest interest for me. I have been closely watching the trend of train colors in the Tokyo metropolitan area. For instance, Shin-Keisei Electric Railway is in the process of changing their train coloring from old corporate colors to new ones. Please look at the photos. The old colors are ivory and reddish brown; meanwhile new ones are white and pink. Although the train model is the same (EMU 8800 series), the new color design gives an impression totally different from that of the old one. The new design is certainly beautiful, but mere beauty does not wear well. To be honest, I prefer the old design, because it is simple and stylish for long-lasting usage. I hope that the original old design will be kept as long as possible.

For your information, the EMU Shin-Keisei 8800 series was launched in 1986. It is well known as the train with the then current technology, namely VVVF (Adjustable Voltage Adjustable Frequency) inverter control system..

EMU 8800 series (old color) travels on the Shin-Keisei Line