Saturday, 29 December 2018

Winter Illumination on the Izukyu Line

Electric car Izukyu 103 of the 100 series stands at Izu-kogen rail yard

Winter is known as a season of illumination. Urban streets are nicely decorated with millions of LED lights. Recently, winter illuminations are more than just street events. Many amusement parks also hold winter illumination events to attract holiday makers.

This winter, I visited Izu Granpal Amusement Park to see its popular illumination event named "Granillumi". The park was ornamented with a total of 6 million LED lights. The most distinctive feature is the zip line passing above the illumination. Visitors can take a 400-meter trip glide above the illumination site. They can become a "meteor" during traveling this zip line. 

To visit Izu Granpal Amusement Park, the nearest station is Izu-kogen on the Izukyu line. Before visiting the event site, I stopped by the Izu-kogen rail yard to take a photo of the old electric car, KuMoHa 103 of the 100 series. The 100 series was launched in 1961 when the Izukyu line was inaugurated. Since then, the 100 series had been functioned as the main fleet of this sightseeing railway on Izu Peninsula, but it was retired from the track by 2002. Only one unit, namely KuMoHa 103, survived as a yard-track shunting car. KuMoHa 103 once faced extinction because it became deteriorated, but Izukyu eventually preserved KuMoHa 103 as a special event car in 2012. Currently, we can rent it as a special train on the main track.

I enjoyed both beautiful illuminations and a historic electric car on Izu Peninsula.

Winter illumination event is held at Izu Granpal Park near Izu-kogen station on the Izukyu line

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Early Winter in Kamakura

EMU JR East E217 series approaches Kamakura station on the Yokosuka line

I visited Kamakura with my family again. It was the first time in almost one year. Kamakura, about 40 kilometers south of Tokyo, is known as a historic city where the Bakufu (Shogunate government) was located from 1185 to 1333. We visited Jufukuji temple, about a 10 minute walk from Kamakura station. Although it was the weekend, the precinct of the temple was very quiet. We fully enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere and the evergreen trees in the temple.

To visit the city of Kamakura from Tokyo, the JR East Yokosuka line is convenient. The EMU E217 series is the main fleet on the line. The E217 series was launched in 1994 to replace the old EMU 113 series. It is a typical commuter train with eight doors per unit. It is equipped with long seats, but cross seats are also allocated for long distance passengers in several cars. Most trains are directly operated onto the Sobu line via Tokyo station.

What's new with the E217 series? Firstly, the E217 series operated on the Tokaido line was moved to the Yokosuka line in March, 2015. As a result, all the E217 series (745 units) currently belong to the Kamakura depot being operated only on the Yokosuka line. Secondly, JR East recently made a press release announcing that the new model, E235 series, will be introduced onto the Yokosuka line in 2020.

I have to keep an eye on the city of Kamakura... both the places of interest and the trains.

Jufukuji-temple in early winter

Monday, 24 December 2018

Visiting Matsudo in Autumn

EMU Odakyu 4000 series arrives at Matsudo station on the JR East Joban line

It is late-December already. Autumn has gone and winter is here in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Before the New Year, I am going to hurry and show you the topic of this autumn.

Matsudo is a commuter city in Chiba Prefecture. I visited it with my family last month for the first time in one year and a half. Last time, we enjoyed walking along Edo River and saw a beautiful corn poppy field. This time, our purpose of the visit was touching upon the local history of the city of Matsudo.

Our destination was Tojo-tei on a small hill. It was a large house originally owned by Akitake Tokugawa, who was the younger brother of the last shogun in the Edo Period. The Tokugawa family ruled Japan over a period of 264 years until 1867. After the establishment of the Meiji Government, Akitake retired and lived in Tojo-tei House. The last shogun Yoshinobu often visited him. We saw a well maintained traditional house currently owned by the city of Matsudo. It was good timing because the chrysanthemum show was being held by the local people.

To visit this historical house, the nearest station is Matsudo on the JR East Joban Line. Since we live in the western part of Tokyo on the Odakyu line, Matsudo looks far from our home; but it was not necessarily true. Odakyu frequently operates direct trains onto the Joban line via the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda line. It takes just one hour from our nearest station to Matsudo.

Interior of Tojo-tei House near Matsudo station on the JR East Joban line

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Autumn Colors on the Osaka Line

EMU Kintetsu 22000 series passes through Sakurai station on the Osaka line

Sakurai is a small city located in the central part of Nara Prefecture. It is said that this city was the capital of ancient Japan in the 3rd century. Hashihaka Tumulus, which was found in the city, is likely the tomb of Himiko, who was the queen of ancient Japan at that time.

In addition to the history, Sakurai is also famous for its beautiful nature. For example, the autumn colors of the Tanzan Shine is popular among tourists. The mountain around the shrine glows red in mid-November. It goes well with the thirteen-story pagoda in the shrine.

To visit Tanzan Shrine, the nearest station is Sakurai on the Kintetsu Osaka line. When I was waiting for a local train on the platform, I came across a limited express train passing through the station. It was the EMU 22000 series bound for Toba. The 22000 series is the major model of the Kintetsu limited express fleet for the standard gauge (1,435 mm-wide gauge) track. It was launched in 1992 to replace the old models such as the 10400 and the 11400 series.

The rounded frontal mask is cute and is my favorite. Same as the EMU 30000 series, I found that the coloring design of the 22000 series was not what it used to be five years ago. The body stripes were changed from ultramarine to gold colors. It was elegant and my cup of tea. Regarding the interior, I like its footrest in front of the comfortable reclining seat.

Autumn colors in Tanzan shrine near Sakurai station

Official information about the Kintetsu limited express, the EMU 22000 series (in Japanese):

Monday, 10 December 2018

Blue Symphony: Limited Express to Yoshino Mountain

EMU Kintetsu16200 series, Blue Symphony, stands at Kashihara-jingumae station

Yoshino is a mountainous area located in the southern part of Nara Prefecture. It is known as a holy place for Shugendo, which is Japanese mountain asceticism-shamanism incorporating Shinto and Buddhist concepts. Kimpusenji temple, which was opened by En-no-ozuno in the 7th century, is the very center of Shugendo. Currently, the function of Yoshino is not only Shugendo, but also sightseeing. For instance, Yoshino is famous for its sakura (cherry) blossoms in spring. The autumn color is also very beautiful. When we visited there last month, we could see red-colored maple trees here and there. It was vivid backed by the blue sky.

To get to Yoshino Mountain, the Kintetsu Yoshino line is convenient. Kintetsu is Japan's largest private railway company, which has a 508.2-kilometer network. The Yoshino line is a 25.2-kilometer local route connecting Kashiharajingu-mae and Yoshino stations. Different from the other Kintetsu lines, the track gauge size of the Yoshino and the Minami-Osaka lines is 1,067 millimeters.

When we were waiting for the Yoshino line train at Kashihara-jingumae station, I came across a limited express, the EMU 16200 series named Blue Symphony. It is a sightseeing train operated between Osaka-Abenobashi on the Minami-Osaka line and Yoshino station. Blue Symphony was renovated from the EMU 6200 series in 2016. It is composed of three cars including one lounge car, which functions as a bar and a cafe. Two passenger cars have gorgeous classic designed seats. The extra cost for boarding this train is 720 yen per passenger.

Jizo-do (the main hall) in Kimpusenji temple near Yoshino station

Official movie about the EMU Kintetsu 16200 series, Blue Symphony 1:
Official information about the Kintetsu limited express trains:
Official information about the EMU Kintetsu 16200 series, Blue Symphony (in Japanese):

Saturday, 1 December 2018

City of Deer: Revisit to Nara

New coloring design of the EMU Kintetsu 30000 series, Vista-EX

I visited Nara City with my family for the first time in five years. Nara is the main city in Nara Prefecture, some 550 kilometers west of Tokyo. It was Japan's capital from 710 to 784. The ancient capital, named Heijo-kyo, was located west of the present downtown area in Nara City. It was a preplanned city with checkerboard streets.

What was new with this historical city? Firstly, there were a lot of foreign tourists visiting the city. The same as Mt. Fuji, the number of foreign visitors to Nara has obviously increased in recent years. We could hear many kinds of foreign languages in the city. Secondly, we found a procession of wild deer in the downtown area in the early morning. They appeared one after another, and headed to the public park perhaps to have breakfast. We saw a precious scene. An early bird catches the worm, doesn't it? 

To get to Nara, we rode Kintetsu's limited express train, Vista-EX (the EMU 30000 series), from Kashihara-jingumae to Yamato-Saidaiji station. We reserved seats on the second floor of the bi-level car in advance. It was the right decision to enjoy the scenery of countryside through the windows. Before boarding the train, I found that the coloring design of Vista-EX was not what it used to be five years ago. The body stripes were changed from ultramarine to gold colors. The new design was definitely my cup of tea. 

To be continued...

Wild deer are seen in the downtown area of Nara City in the early morning

Official information about the Kintetsu limited express trains:

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

2018 Summer Memories, Part 3: Godzzilla Rock

EMU JR East 701 series (Akita color) stands at Akita station

Godzilla is a famous Japanese cinema character created in 1954 by Toho Company. It is a reptile monster, which changed due to radiation. I have watched the series of Godzilla movies since I was a kid. My favorite scene is when Godzilla charges its power before releasing an atomic blast. We can see the blue colored buildup starting at the end of its tail and moving through its back plates. It is very cool!

To our joy, we can see Godzilla Rock in Oga Peninsula of Akita Prefecture. It is a natural rock standing on the southern coast of the peninsula. At sunset, visitors can see a black colored monster backed by the red colored setting sun. It is the exact image of Godzilla in the movie, especially because the rugged volcanic rock surface looks just like Godzilla's skin. It is very cool!

Before visiting Godzilla Rock, I came across a local train, the EMU 701 series, at Akita station. I often see this model in the Akita area, but that was the first time to see a 3-car train made up of the 701 series. EMU JR East 701 series is a standard commuter train in the Tohoku area. It was launched in 1993 to replace the old commuter EMUs and the passenger coaches. Different from EMUs in the Tokyo metropolitan area, the 701 series is an AC (alternate current) train. The body color of the 701 series varies by area and it has pink and purple colored stripes in the Akita area.

Godzilla Rock

Official information about the JR East 701 series (In Japanese):

Sunday, 25 November 2018

2018 Tama-mono Festival: Part 2

Tama Monorail's track maintenance vehicle, unit K-2 (left), and the lifting vehicle (right)

Following my last post, I am going to continue to show you the 2018 Tama-mono Festival held at the Tama Monorail Depot near Takamatsu station.

My best memory from the festival was an operation demonstration of the track maintenance vehicles. As you know, monorail operators need special track maintenance vehicles because the tracks are located at higher elevations than those of standard railways. I saw a special lifting vehicle (unit number unknown) being pulled by self-propelled vehicle named K-2 in the depot. Unit K-2 was built in 2015 by Hokuriku Heavy Industries and the other companies. It has four batteries and a VVVF (variable frequency drive) electric control system. Those batteries can obtain regenerative power in regeneration brake control.

The lifting vehicle has special trestles moved by motors. Using these trestles, engineers can inspect at higher elevations or even below the monorail track. During the demonstration, the railway engineers on board the vehicles were smiling and waving to the visitors, which also made for a good performance.

Inside the train inspection building, I saw an operation demonstration of a pantograph equipped on the train. Using pantographs, monorail trains obtain electric power from the feeders on the sides of the track. Different from the standard trains, pantographs on monorail trains are very small and inconspicuous. I found the pantograph operation performance very interesting and easy to understand.

I am truly grateful to Tokyo Tama Intercity Monorail Company (Tama monorail) for holding this special event.

A pantograph of the EMU Tama Monorail 1000 series

Thursday, 22 November 2018

2018 Tama-mono Festival

EMU Tama Monorail 1000 series is exhibited in the Tama Monorail Depot

After visiting TX Sogo Rail Yard, I visited another rail yard tour two weeks later. It was the Tama-mono Festival held by Tokyo Tama Intercity Monorail Company (hereafter Tama Monorail). On November 17th, Tama Monorail held a rail yard tour at their depot. It is located about 800 meters west of the main track between Takamatsu and Tachihi stations. There are two siding tracks from the main track to the depot, one from Takamatsu station and the other from Tachihi station.

I mostly enjoyed the inspection shed, where two sets of the EMU 1000 series were stored. I had time to observe the bogies and underfloor equipment there. It was very interesting. Kids were allowed to enter the train cockpit. They also enjoyed simulated driving experiences using a master controller and a brake system.

Incidentally, the Tama Monorail Line was opened in 1998. The route penetrates the Tama region, a western suburb of Tokyo, from south to north. Connecting Tama Center and Kamikitadai stations, its operating length is 16.0 kilometers. Tama Monorail adopts a straddle-beam system like the Haneda Line of Tokyo Monorail. The track is double, and the electric system is 1,500 V DC. Four-car trains, named the EMU 1000 series, are operated every 6 to 10 minutes. Like other monorail lines, passengers can enjoy superb views from the train windows, including modern buildings in the Tachikawa urban area and the green hilly countryside near Tama Zoo Station.

To be continued...

A siding track (left) and main tracks (right) of the Tama Monorail line

Monday, 19 November 2018

Photogenic Spot on the Kominato Railway

DMU Kominato KiHa200 series travels near Kazusa-Okubo station

Boso is a large peninsula in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo. It is situated between the Pacific Ocean and Tokyo Bay. The coastal area of Boso Peninsula is famous for being a resort area to enjoy marine activities.

By contrast, the inland area of Boso Peninsula is totally different. We can see beautiful hills and valleys covered by thick forests and rice paddies. To visit this countryside, a local private railway named Kominato Railway is convenient. Kominato connects Goi on the west coast and Kazusa-Nakano in the center of the peninsula. There are 18 stations over a total operating length of 39.1km. The route is single track and non-electrified.

A nostalgic two-car DMU train, KiHa 200 series is the main fleet on the track. A total of 14 units were built from 1961 to 1977 by Nippon Sharyo. Currently, they are rather old, but still maintained in good condition. For taking photographs of these classic DMUs, I recommend you get off at Kazusa-Ookubo station. Once you step onto the platform of the station, you will find a nostalgic landscape with forests and rice paddies. Specifically, the large curved track, which is located west of the station, is very beautiful. It is famous among rail fans as a photogenic spot. 

When I visited there in September, the rice paddies in front of the track were still retaining a fresh green. I could fully enjoy looking at the landscape and shooting photos. Kominato Railway attracts reminiscent rail fans like me.

DMU KiHa200 series travels on the Kominato Railway

Friday, 16 November 2018

Chofu Fireworks on the Keio Line

EMU Keio 5000 series, "Keio Liner", stands at Fuchu station on the Keio main line

Large firework displays are very popular summer events in Japan. My family also really likes fireworks. For instance, we enjoyed Oga - Sea of Japan Fireworks in August in Akita Prefecture. It was one of our best memories of the 2018 summer season.

The situation has changed a little in recent years. Some of the large firework displays are held in autumn. Why? One of the reasons is the climate change in summer. Recently, we have many evening showers with thunderbolts and strong winds in the middle of summer. It is a risk for firework displays. High temperature is another cause of worry for visitors. If summer is not the best season for firework displays, then it'd be better to hold in autumn.

Chofu Fireworks is no exception. It was held in October this year. It was a clear evening. It was not hot and not cold. About 10,000 fireworks were set off on the Tama River. They were very gorgeous and well programmed. They added a sort of poetic charm to the comfortable autumn season.

To see the Chofu Fireworks, the nearest station is Chofu on the Keio line. The city of Chofu with a population close to 230,000 is a typical commuter city in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The new underground station was opened in 2012. It is indeed a modern station, but annoying for rail photo lovers, as the platform doors hamper photos. Instead of Chofu, I am going to show you Fuchu station in an evening.

Chofu Fireworks

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

The State Guest House on the Chuo Line

EMU JR East E233 series arrives at Yotsuya station on the Chuo line

Geihin-kan (the state guest house) is a facility in which the government accommodates visiting state guests, such as heads of state or ministers. Japan has two Geihin-kans, one in Tokyo and one in Kyoto, which belong to the national facilities under the Cabinet Office. Although an admission fee is charged, anyone can now visit the Geihin-kan in Tokyo when state guests aren't using the facility. Not only the building but also the front garden is very beautiful.

The Geihin-kan building in Tokyo was originally constructed in 1909 as the Crown Prince's palace. It was an era of Datsua-nyuo (leaving Asia and entering Europe). After the feudal times, the new Meiji government promoted the policy of Datsua-nyuo, while the government also promoted the adaptation of Western culture, custom, and architecture. Geihin-kan was a typical example of Datsua-nyuo, but the Crown Prince didn't use this building as it was too luxurious. Geihin-kan was then utilized as a government building such as the National Diet Library, but it was eventually changed to the state guest house in 1974. The first state guest to Geihin-kan was the thirty-eighth President of the United States, Gerald Rudolph "Jerry" Ford, Jr.

To get to Geihin-kan, the nearest station is Yotsuya on the JR East Chuo line. Yotsuya is a valley in a hilly area, so the trains arrive at the station after passing through a tunnel. We can see a beautiful hilly landscape around the station, even though it is situated in the center of the city. It is a good area for strolling.

The Geihin-kan building and the front garden near Yotsuya station

Saturday, 10 November 2018

2018 Tsukuba Express Festival: Part 2

Set 70 of the EMU TX-2000 series

Subsequent to my last post, I am going to continue to show you the 2018 Tsukuba Express Festival held in the TX Sogo Rail Yard.

Visitors could enjoy various events in the yard. For instance, rail fans were allowed to enter the train cockpit. Families got special souvenirs, such as train-printed mugs, after joining the stamp rally. They also enjoyed famous comedians putting on comic plays on a special stage in the train inspection building.

What children delighted in was a tug-of-war game with a train. TX prepared a long and heavy train (TX-2000 + TX-1000 series). It consisted of 12 cars and its total weight was 392,700 kilograms according to my calculation. A group of the children pulled the tug and had to move the train. It was hard work for them, but they eventually won. That became a very good memory for them.

Incidentally, the front design of the train used for the tug-of-war looked special. It had vermilion and white colored special stripes. What was that? It was the specially designed train for the 2nd and the 3rd batch of the TX-2000 series. Finding such subtle design differences between train models is a pleasure for trainspotters.

The railway employees of TX, as well as those of Kantetsu, were very friendly and kind to visitors. The festival was indeed a great success. Plenty of people enjoyed the festival safely. I am truly grateful to TX and Kantetsu to have held this special event.

Children enjoy a tug-of-war game with the EMU TX-2000 and TX-1000 series

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

2018 Tsukuba Express Festival

EMU TX-1000 series are exhibited in TX Sogo Rail Yard

After visiting Kantetsu's Mitsukaido Rail Yard, I headed to another rail yard nearby. It was Sogo Rail Yard of Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company (Tsukuba Express or TX). In cooperation with Kantetsu, TX also held a rail yard tour on the very same day. Much to my joy, Kantetsu kindly gave the rail fans free bus services between Kantetsu Mitsukaido Rail Yard and TX Sogo Rail Yard, so that I could smoothly move from the former to the latter. The admissions of the two rail yards were of course free.

TX exhibited their EMUs, the TX-1000 and the TX-2000 series in the center of the rail yard. Both the TX-1000 and the TX-2000 series are composed of 6 cars. The outer designs of the TX-1000 and the TX-2000 series look almost same. What is the difference between the two models?

The answer is their electric systems. The TX-1000 series is a DC (direct current) train; meanwhile, the TX-2000 series is an AC-DC (alternate current and direct current) dual system train. The southern part of the TX line between Akihabara and Moriya stations has adopted the DC system; meanwhile, the AC system is applied to the northern part of the route between Moriya and Tsukuba stations. It means that the TX 1000 series can be operated only on the section between Akihabara and Moriya stations; meanwhile, the TX-2000 series is able to be operated on the whole route of the TX line.

To be continued...

Set 03 of the EMU TX-1000 series stands at Sogo Rail Yard

Official information about TX:

Sunday, 4 November 2018

2018 Kantetsu Rail Yard Tour in Mitsukaido

Kantetsu KiHa 5010 series (left), KiHa 310 series (center) and KiHa 2100 series (right)

Autumn is the season of railways in Japan. It originated from the inauguration of Japan's first railway that was completed on October 14th in 1872. In commemoration of this special day, the Japanese government designated October 14 as Railway Day in 1994. Since then, many railway companies have started to hold special public events in October and November such as rail yard tours and/or special memorial train operations.

Kanto Railway (Kantetsu), which is a local railway in Ibaraki Prefecture, is no exception. They held a rail yard tour in Mitsukaido Rail Yard on November 3rd this year. It was a bright and clear day. I saw many families with small children, young couples and rail fans in the yard. Kentetsu exhibited their diesel rail cars, the KiHa 5010 series, the KiHa 310 series and the KiHa 2100 series in the center of the rail yard.

The KiHa 5010 series is a new model on the Kantetsu Joso line. It was launched in 2017 to replace the old diesel rail car, KiHa 100 series. A total of two units (KiHa 5011 and 5012) were built by Niigata Transys. The color design of the KiHa 5010 series is different from the other diesel rail cars. It is white with yellow and blue stripes. The technical specifications are similar with those of the KiHa 5000 series, but the KiHa 5010 series has a new engine named SA6D125-HE2 manufactured by Komatsu Ltd. Its capacity is 355 PS.

To be continued...

Diesel rail car number 5011 of the Kantetsu 5010 series is exhibited in Mitsukaido Rail Yard

Official information about the trains of Kanto Railway (in Japanese):

Thursday, 1 November 2018

A Shift of Business: Fujikyu Railway

EMU Fujikyu 6000 series arrives at Tsuru-shi station

Subsequent to my last post, I am going to continue to show you the recent topic of Fujikyu Railway.

When I took Fujikyu last month, I found many foreign tourists on the local train, the EMU 6000 series. They were speaking English, French, Chinese, Thai and so on. In accordance with this situation, Fujikyu clearly shifted their business from Japanese tourists to both Japanese and foreign tourists. For instance, the on-board announcement was conducted both in Japanese and English. Needless to say, the on-board display was also multilingual. It is common in Tokyo, but still new on local railways. And what was more surprising, all of the advertisement posters hanging in the trains were written in foreign languages; one train was in English and the other train was in Chinese. Except for the railway vehicle itself, I couldn't realize that I was taking Japanese railway.

Fujikyu was also providing foreign tourists with direct trains from New Tokyo International Airport (Narita) to Mt. Fuji to improve passenger services. It is Narita Express (NEX) jointly operating with JR East. It takes 2 hour 22 minutes from Narita to Fuji-san, which is a gateway station to Mt. Fuji. At the moment, it operates only one round trip on every weekend, but the train looked full. NEX train (EMU JR East E259 series) with two tone of red and white is fresh and very vivid backed by the green forests at the foot of Mt. Fuji.

Fujikyu appears to be shifting their business.

EMU JR East E259 series, Narita Express (NEX), passes by Tahara-no-taki waterfall 

Monday, 29 October 2018

Natural Springs on the Fujikyu Line

EMU Fujikyu 1200 series, Fuji-tozan-densha, passes through Tsuru Bunka Daigaku station

Fujikyu is a local private railway company in Yamanashi Prefecture. It is known as the railway to the foot of Japan's highest mountain, Mt. Fuji (3,776 m above sea level). We can see many tourists visiting Mt. Fuji in the trains, but that is not everything.

There are many natural springs on the line. Specifically, the western part of Tsuru City is a local secret to visit. For instance, a beautiful natural spring named Reimei-suigen near Tohkaichiba station is famous among local people. A twin waterfall named Taro-daki and Jiro-daki near Higashikatsura station is also worth visiting. It is close to a beautiful wasabi (Japanese horseradish) field in a natural spring.

The best place, especially for rail fans, is Tahara-no-taki (Tahara waterfall) beside the rail track. We can see both the trains and the torrent of Katsura River there. When I visited there, a unique designed train, the Fuji-san Express, EMU 8000 series (ex-Odakyu 20000 series), was just passing by the waterfall. It was indeed a photogenic scene.

To get to Tahara-no-taki, the nearest station is Tsuru-bunka-daigaku (Tsuru University). On the way back home, I enjoyed taking train pictures at the station. I could shoot an ex-Keio train, the EMU 1200 series, named "Fuji-tozan-densha", passing through the station. The interior of this train looks like a living room. There are even bookshelves and showcases. During the trip, passengers can fully enjoy this "living room", and relax as if they are at home.

Tourists can find an unfailing resource on the Fujikyu line.

EMU Fujikyu 8000 series, Fuji-san Express, passes by Tahara-no-taki waterfall

Official information about Fuji-san Express and Fuji-tozan-densha:
Official information abount Fuji-san Express (in Japanese):
Official information about Fuji-tozan-densha (in Japanese):

Friday, 26 October 2018

Classic Train and Pirate Ship on Hakone Mountain

Unit 109 of the Hakone-tozan MoHa2 series and the other two units of classic electric cars

Following the debut of the new Romance Car, EMU 70000 series (GSE), Odakyu Electric Railway group has accelerated their investment in the Hakone resort area to accompany the increase of inbound tourists. On August 1st, Odakyu made a press release announcing that one more sightseeing ship on Lake Ashinoko will be launched in April, 2019.

Currently, Odakyu group has three sightseeing ships on Lake Ashinoko, Hakone Mountain. They are all pirate ship-type boats. The fourth boat will also be pirate ship-type. It was designed by Eiji Mitooka, and will be built in the shipyard of Togendai port on Lake Ashinoko. The name of the new "pirate ship" will be released in February next year. 

Incidentally, I am going to show you an electric car on Hakone Mountain, as this is a railway blog. Unit 109 of the MoHa2 series is a classic electric car on the Hakone-tozan Railway. It was originally built by Nippon Sharyo in 1927. The original name of the 109 was electric car number 9 of the ChiKi2 series. The body of this old electric car was, then, replaced by a steel one by Toyo Kouki in 1955. The car number was also changed from 9 to 109 of the electric car MoHa 2 series. 

Currently, two units (108 and 109) of the MoHa2 series are still operated on the track. I am anxious about their scrapping, because the new model, electric cars 3000 and 3100 series, were built one after another.

Pirate ship-type sightseeing boat on Lake Ashinoko, Hakone Mountain

Official information about the electric car Hakone-tozan MoHa2 series (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

The Last Chapter of the EMU Sotetsu 7000 Series

EMU Sotetsu 7000 series arrives at Izumi-chuo Station on the Izumino line

Sagami Railway (Sotetsu) is known as a Yokohama-based private railway company. Starting from Yokohama, the main city in Kanagawa Prefecture, Sotetsu has a 35.9 kilometer-long railway network.

Sotetsu recently has been consumed with an ambition. It is to operate direct access trains to downtown Tokyo and increase passengers. For that purpose, Sotetsu is constructing connecting lines from Nishiya station to existing JR East and Tokyu lines. The construction is delayed by several years, but it is estimated to be completed in the second half of FY2019 (Sotetsu - JR East connecting line) and the second half of FY2022 (Sotetsu - Tokyu connecting line) respectively.

Sotetsu now needs advance preparation for the direct operation onto JR East and Tokyu lines. For that purpose, Sotetsu plans to introduce plenty of new trains, namely the EMU 12000 series and the 20000 series. It is exciting news for rail fans including me, but I am also uneasy about the future of the old trains, namely the EMU 7000 series.

The 7000 series is Sotetsu's longest-serving active model, which was launched in 1975. A total of 80 units have been built, but only two sets, 16 units, are currently operated on the line. I absolutely love this train, because it has an afterglow of the 1970s. Its design is rough with angular bodies, simple rounded front lights, and bare jumper cables in the front. Everything fills me with nostalgia.

The last chapter of the 7000 series has begun on the Sotetsu line.

EMU Sotetsu 7000 series leaves Izumi-chuo Station on the Izumino line

Official information aboout the trains on the Sotetsu line (in Japanese):

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Old Astronomical Observatory on the Chuo Line

EMU JR East E353 series, limited express Super-Azusa, passes through Mitaka station

It is mid-Autumn in Japan. The maximum daytime temperature in Tokyo is around 20 degrees Celsius. It is the best season for strolling. I visited a suburban area with my family on the weekend. Our destination was Mitaka on the JR East Chuo line.

Many people think that Mitaka is just one of the average commuter cities in Tokyo Metropolis, but that is not everything. Mitaka has a large forest in the southern part of the city. There is an old astronomical observatory in the forest area. Its formal name is the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). It was opened in 1888 under the name of the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory. Most of the observation apparatus are already old and not used anymore, but visitors can freely observe those historical apparatus, for example a large refracting telescope, whose diameter is 65 centimeters. In contrast to the old observation apparatus, there is a state of the art large dome theater on the site. Visitors can learn the structure of the universe using 3D glasses. It is very beautiful and instructive. The background music is also comfortable. The good news is that it is all free of charge. Thank you NAOJ.

On the way back home, I enjoyed taking railway pictures at Mitaka station. It was getting dark, but I fortunately could shoot a state of the art limited express train, Super-Azusa, the EMU E353 series passing through the station. It was a good finale to the weekend.

Old refracting telescope is exhibited in the National Astronomical Observatory in Mitaka City

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

EMU 209-1000 Series: Transfer to the Chuo Line

EMU JR East 209-1000 series arrives at Abiko station on the Joban line

On September 1st, the Workers' Union of the JR East Hachioji Branch Office, whose members are mainly crew of the Chuo line trains, announced that the EMU 209-1000 series on the Joban line will soon be transferred to the Chuo line. Then, on September 5th, JR East Company also announced that the final operation of the 209-1000 series on the Joban line will be conducted on October 13th this year.

As you may know, the commuter train model on the Chuo line is only the EMU E233 series. It must be enough for JR East as things are. Why does the 209-1000 series have to be transferred from the Joban to the Chuo line now?

The gimmick is as follows. JR East currently plans to renovate and connect additional cars for the existing Chuo line trains. For instance, toilets will be newly equipped. The Green Cars (the first class cars) will be added to test for improvement in the quality of services. During the above work period, trains on the Chuo line will be shorthanded, so that the 209-1000 series will be temporarily invited from the Joban line.

There are only two sets of the EMU 209-1000 series operated on the Joban line. It is impossible to be directly operated onto the Odakyu line due to its technical specifications. In other words, the 209-1000 series is a burden on the Joban line at the moment.

I hope for success of the 209-1000 series on the Chuo line... its new post.

EMU JR East 209-1000 series stands at Abiko station on the Joban line

Official information about the EMU JR East 209 series (in Japanese):

Sunday, 14 October 2018

The Last Chapter of the 115 Series in Niigata: Part 2

"Shonan color" of the EMU 115 series in the Niigata area (June, 2014)

Subsequent to my last post, I am going to continue to show you the other color designs of the EMU 115 series in the Niigata area.

"Shonan color" of the 115 series used to be seen in many places in Japan. The Shonan color train has a beautiful two-tone orange and green painted body. Needless to say, Shonan is the zonal area along the Pacific Ocean coast in Kanagawa Prefecture. It is a residential area along the Tokaido main line. From the 1960s to 1980s, many "Shonan color" trains were operated on the Tokaido main line and the local lines throughout Japan, but they have been disappearing one after another. Niigata is currently a precious area to see the Shonan color trains.

"Nostalgic Niigata color" of the 115 series is also my favorite color design. It is a two-tone red and yellow. This color design was adopted specifically in the Niigata area, as it is very vivid backed by white snow. Niigata Prefecture is known as a snowy country. Trains with the nostalgic Niigata color was once abolished in 1978 but revived later upon requested by rail fans.

Incidentally, the EMU 115 series has already disappeared from the Chuo, Ryomo and the other lines. Certain sets are still operated in the western part of Japan such as the Hiroshima area, but it has continuously been decreasing. In the Niigata area, 7 sets of the 115 series are still operated having the attention to local people and rail fans.

"Nostalgic Niigata color" of the EMU 115 series in the Niigata area (left) (June, 2018)

Official information about color variation of the 115 series in the Niigata area (in Japanese):

Thursday, 11 October 2018

The Last Chapter of the 115 Series in the Niigata Area

Set N35 of the EMU JR East 115 series before coloring change (June, 2018)

The EMU 115 series is a standard local train launched in 1963. Nearly 2,000 units had been built for 20 years, but most of them have already been scrapped. For instance, all the 115 series had already been replaced by the 211 series on the Chuo line in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The Niigata area is no exception. Many sets of the 115 series have already been replaced by the E129 series. Currently, only 7 sets of the 115 series are barely living; the 115 series is close to extinction in the Niigata area.

The JR East Niigata Branch Office has started action for rail fans under the above circumstances. On February 22nd this year, they started to ask the public to help the next color design for set N35 of the 115 series, since set N35 is going to be taken out of operation for inspection. It will be a good chance to change the body color for rail fans. Then, on July 24th, they announced the result. Set N35 will be backed from "the 3rd generation Niigata color" to "the 2nd generation Niigata color" upon many requests by rail fains. 

Eventually, on September 14th, the JR East Niigata Branch Office made a press release announcing that set N35 of the EMU 115 series with "the 2nd generation Niigata color" will be launched on September 15th.

By cooperation of the railway operator and the rail fans, the last chapter of the 115 series has just begun in the Niigata area.

"The 2nd generation Niigata color" of the EMU 115 series (June, 2014)

Official information about the EMU JR East 115 series (in Japanese):