Monday, 29 January 2018

2018 Tokyo Snow Scene: Tokyo Station

Snow-capped Tokyo Station

It is the coldest season in Japan. The mountains block the cold and wet wind blowing from the northwest. It causes heavy snow to fall on the Japan Sea side. Only dry air then comes to the Pacific side including Tokyo. It stays fine every day in Tokyo. Indeed it may be so, but it is not so always. Once a low-pressure system approaches the Pacific side, Tokyo also experiences snowfall. 

On Monday, January 22nd, a strong low-pressure system hit the Pacific side. We saw 23 cm of snow, which was the heaviest snowfall in 4 years. It started around noon and increased in intensity. Many offices and shops were closed so that the commuters flocked to stations to go home. I was also one of them. My train was very crowded even in the daytime. To make matters worse, the train was delayed. It took one hour and a half to home, although it usually takes 40 minutes.

It was clear the next day. I took a picture of snow-capped Tokyo Station from my office. The roofs of the platforms were covered by the uniform whiteness. That was certainly a different world, but the snow had melted away by that evening. It was like a dream.

In the meantime, I found that construction of the station square was completed on the Marunouchi side of Tokyo Station. It consists of a plaza, a taxi pool and a bus stop. Please compare with the former state of things on my previous post.

Night view of Tokyo Station

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The 90th Anniversary of the Tokyu-Ikegami Line

1023F of the EMU Tokyu 1000 series arrives at Senzokuike Station on the Ikegami Line

The Tokyu-Ikegami Line is a short commuter route in the southwestern part of Tokyo Metropolis. Connecting Kamata and Gotanda, the total operating length is 10.9 km. The track is 1,067 mm-size double. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. It carries an average of 220,000 passengers per day.

The Ikegami Line was partially opened between Kamata and Ikegami (1.8 km) on October 6th, 1922. It was constructed to transport visitors to Ikegami-Honmonji temple. The route was then extended to Osaki-hirokoji on October 9th, 1927. Eventually, it was opened through to Gotanda on June 17th, 1928. That is to say, it is the 90th anniversary of the entire route opening of the Ikegami Line this year.

In commemoration of the 90th anniversary, Tokyu conducted a gratis railway service on October 9th, 2017 on the Ikegami Line. On that day, passengers could use the Ikegami line trains any number of times for free. Tokyu is generous, isn't it?

Tokyu currently operates a train with a special plate on the front for celebrating the 90th anniversary. It is an 18 meter-long, 3-car train, namely 1023F of the EMU 1000 series. The EMU 1000 series debuted in 1988 to replace the decrepit old EMU, the 7000 series. Currently, a total of 9 sets are operated on the line. They usually have red-colored stripes on the bodies, but only one set, namely 1017F has special classic colored bodies, as I introduced before. 

The Ikegami line trains are heading for their centenary history.

A special plate in commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the Ikegami Line

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

2018 New Year Scene on the Keio-Inokashira Line

Kichijoji Station and the EMU Keio 1000 series

Here we are in the middle of winter in Japan. The daytime temperature is lower than 10 degrees Celsius in Tokyo. People tend to stay indoors, but I can't keep still at home on weekends, as it is clear every day in the regions here on the Pacific Ocean.

On New Year's Day, I visited my mother, who lives in Suginami Ward. On the way back home, I saw a beautiful supermoon in the eastern sky from the rooftop garden of Eifuku-cho station building. Supermoon, also known as a perigee full moon, is a unique ‎celestial phenomenon. It is a full moon occurring when the moon passes through the nearest point to the earth in its elliptical orbit. As a result, it was indeed big, bright and fantastically shining.

To get to Eifuku-cho station, I took the Keio-Inokashira Line from Kichijoji terminal. The Inokashira Line is a short commuter route connecting Kichijoji and Shibuya. Its line length is 12.7 km. The track is 1,067 mm-size double. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. I found a special round plate, which celebrates New Year, on the front of the EMU 1000 series. The 1000 series is a sole model on the Inokashira line. Each train set shows a different color on the front mask and the side lines.

2018 is the Year of the Dog, according to the oriental zodiac. Asian people think that the dog is a friendly animal. I hope that people also become friendly to each other in 2018.

Supermoon is seen from Eifuku-cho station building on the Keio Inokashira Line

Friday, 19 January 2018

EMU E235 Series: Large Force on the Yamanote Line

Set ToU 10 of the EMU JR East E235 series arrives at Okachimachi Station

Replacing the E231-500 series, the EMU JR East E235 series has recently become the large force on the Yamanote line. 

The E235 series was launched on November 30th, 2015 as the latest model on the Yamanote line for the first time in 13 years. It is an 11-car direct current EMU consisting of 6 motor cars and 5 trailers. As of January 2018, a total of 14 sets (151 units) are operated. Most of them were newly built by J-TREC Niitsu Factory, but 12 units (the Type SaHa E235) were modified from the Type SaHa E231-4600 of the EMU E231 series.

The Yamanote line is well known as Japan's busiest railway. This line is looped through the downtown area of Tokyo. Its total route length is 34 km. The train covers the entire route in about 60 minutes both clockwise and counter-clockwise. There are 29 stations and most of them are interchange stations to the subway, private railways and/or other JR lines.

The E235 series has an advanced apparatus such as an SIC-element VVVF inverter (variable frequency drive) electric control system. I agree with its innovativeness; however, the outer design of the E235 series is not my cup of tea, to be honest. I call it "a microwave oven" because of its front design.

JR East plans to introduce a total of 50 sets of the E235 series by March 2020. It means that the EMU 231-500 series will be totally replaced by the E235 series by that time.

Set ToU 11 of the EMU JR East E235 series leaves Shibuya Station on the Yamanote Line

Official information about the EMU JR East E235 series (in Japanese):

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Winter Scene and Old Climber in Hakone

Electric car number 106 of the Hakone-Tozan MoHa 1 series arrives at Tonosawa Station

Hakone is a popular sightseeing area in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It is said that nearly 20 million tourists visit this mountain resort per year because they can enjoy the nature and the hot springs less than two hours from the heart of the city. Hakone is always busy with visitors, but it is a bit empty in the winter season.

One day this winter, I visited Lake Ashinoko in Hakone with my family. It was sunset time. The air was transparent and the stars had just started twinkling. There were no visitors by the lake except us. There were no noises beside the sound of the breeze. I found that the winter scene in Hakone had another seduction.

To get to Lake Ashinoko, we took the Hakone Tozan Railway from Odawara Station. Transferring from the railway to the funicular at Gora Station, we then took the aerial tramway from Sounzan to Togendai, the Ashinoko lakeside station. One of my favorite vehicles on the Hakone Tozan Railway is the classic electric car, the MoHa 1 series. This model was originally launched in 1919 and remodeled in 1950. The MoHa 1 series still retains its classic design with a large rounded light on top of the face. A total of 6 units were remodeled by Kisha Kaisha, and 4 units (103, 104, 106 and 107) are still operated.

The beautiful sunset and the old climbing electric car... I fully enjoyed the winter scene of Hakone Mountain.

Sunset view of Lake Ashino-ko in Hakone Mountain

Friday, 12 January 2018

Countdown to the Last Run: E351 Super-Azusa

EMU JR East E351 series, limited express "Super-Azusa", passes through Takao Station

On December 23rd, 2017, JR East launched a new express train, the EMU E353 series, on their Chuo Main Line. The E353 series was started to operate as a limited express train "Super-Azusa", for the time being, but it will be also operated as "Azusa" in the near future. The introduction of the new model will cause JR East to make train transfers one after another. Firstly, the EMU E257 series, which is commissioned as "Azusa", will be moved to the Tokaido Main Line as a limited express "Odoriko". Secondly, the E351 series, which is commissioned as "Super-Azusa", will soon be retired from the track.

The EMU E351 series is the representative express train on the eastern half of the Chuo Main Line. It was specially developed in 1993 for passing through tight curves in mountain ranges at a high speed. Just before entering the curves, the train automatically tilts its body to mitigate the centrifugal force, so that it is called a "pendulum train" with a computer-controlled tilting mechanism. Thanks to this device, the 351 series has greatly reduced the travel time on the line. I like to see the E351 series traveling fast on curved tracks in the beautiful mountain ranges by tilting its bodies. A total of 10 sets (8-car and 4-car trains), and 60 units were built by Hitachi and Nippon Sharyo.

According to JR East, the last run of the E351 series will be in March, 2018. Panta rhei (All things are in a state of flux).

EMU JR East E351 series, limited express "Super-Azusa", arrives at Ootsuki Station

Official information about the EMU JR East E351 series by Nippon Sharyo (in Japanese):

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Traditional Garden and Ex-Hand-car Train in Shibamata

Replica of the hand-car is exhibited in Yoji Yamada Museum in Shibamata

I sometimes enjoy strolling with my family. It is a basically non-train spotting time, but as it happens, I found a railway-related exhibition in Shibamata last autumn.

Shibamata is one of the traditional areas in the eastern part of Tokyo. The area maintains the feel of the good old days in Tokyo. Firstly, we visited ex-Yamamoto House and Garden, which has a traditional Japanese style house and garden laid out about one hundred years ago. Specifically, the garden with a mound, a waterfall and a pond is my favorite. Drinking a cup of green tea in the old house,we admired the beautiful garden.

We then moved to Yoji Yamada Museum. It is a memorial museum for "Otoko-wa-Tsuraiyo (It's tough being a man)", the comic film series that was a big hit under the directorship of Yoji Yamada. The exhibits are the studio set and materials used in the movie. In the museum, I found a replica of a hand-car on the ex-Taishaku Hand-car Railway. This railway was opened in 1899 between Kanamachi and Shibamata stations (1.2 km). The gauge size was 610 mm. Operators pushed the car from behind. The hand-car was a lovely six-seater, but pushing the hand-car must have been hard work especially on rainy days and/or in a hot and humid summer season.

The track of the Taishaku Hand-car Railway was changed to a wider gauge and electrified in 1913 as part of the Keisei Electric Railway of today.

Garden of ex-Yamamoto House in Shibamata

Saturday, 6 January 2018

EMU E353 Series: New "Super-Azusa" on the Chuo Line

EMU JR East E353 series stands at Shinjuku Station on the Chuo Main Line

On December 23rd, 2017, JR East launched a new express train model, EMU E353 series, on their Chuo Main Line. The E353 series was started to commission as a limited express train, "Super-Azusa", between Shinjuku and Matsumoto stations.

As I posted before, Super-Azusa is the representative train on the eastern half of the Chuo Main Line. It debuted in 1993 using the specially developed model, EMU E351 series, for passing through tight curves in mountain ranges at a high speed. Just before entering the tight curves, the train automatically tilts its body to mitigate the centrifugal force. So, it's called a "pendulum train" with a computer-controlled tilting mechanism. Thanks to this device, the E351 series, Super-Azusa, has greatly reduced the travel time on the line.

24 years have already passed since then. The E351 series has become older. Eventually, the E353 series has been introduced to replace the E351 series. What are the differences between the E353 and the E351 series? Firstly, the E353 series is composed of an 8-car regular train and a 4-car auxiliary train; whereas the E351 series consists of a 9-car and a 3-car train. Secondly, a new technology, namely an air suspension type tilting system, is applied to the E353 series instead of a pendulum type tilting system on the E351 series. Furthermore, the E353 series has air cleaners. Power outlets are equipped under the seats of the E353 series.

The maximum operating speed of the E353 series is 130 km/hour on the 1,067 mm-wide track.

Close up of the KuMoHa E353-4

Official information about the EMU JR East E353 series (in Japanese):

Friday, 5 January 2018

Shining Fish and Shining Train on the Keisei Line

EMU Keisei 3500 series arrives at Shibamata Station on the Kanamachi Line

Goldfish viewing is one of the Japanese traditional cultures. It was started by feudal lords in the 16th century, when goldfish started to be imported to Japan. About one hundred years later, the rearing of goldfish was started by samurais as their side job in the city of Edo (present day Tokyo). Today, many fish farms are still doing this traditional business in Tokyo, specifically in Katsushika and Edogawa wards.

If you would like to see the goldfish in Tokyo, I recommend you visit Katsushika Ward Goldfish Exhibition, which is located next to Mizumoto Park. You can enjoy a total of 24 kinds of goldfish there including rare Edo-style species such as Edo-madder and Edo-nishiki in the display ponds. They were beautifully shining in the sunlight, when I visited there.

To get to this unique goldfish exhibition, the nearest railway station is Kanamachi on the Keisei-Kanamachi Line. As I posted before, the Keisei-Kanamachi Line is a short local route between Keisei-Takasago and Kanamachi. There are only 3 stations over a total operating length of 2.5 km. The EMU 3500 series is the main fleet on the route, after retirement of the classic model, namely the 3300 series. The 3500 series was launched in 1972 to increase the commuter transportation capacity. A total of 24 sets, 96 units were built by Tokyu Sharyo, Nippon Sharyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Its shining stainless-steel bodies with corrugations are my favorite.

The Shining fish and the shining train, I enjoyed two beautiful shining specialties on the Keisei-Kanamashi Line.

Goldfish in Katsushika Ward Goldfish Exhibition

Official information about the trains on the Keisei Line (in Japanese):

Monday, 1 January 2018

Keio's High-end Commuter Train: Part 2

Set 5732 of the EMU Keio new 5000 series stands at Meidaimae Station

Happy New Year! The year 2018 has begun. At the opening of New Year, I am going to continue to introduce the features of the new high-end commuter train.

As I posted before, the EMU Keio new 5000 series shows one of the future trends for urban commuter trains. Please look at the underfloor equipment of the 5000 series. You would find a group of pink colored boxes there. What is it? It is a high-performance accumulator resembling that of the JR East's accumulator train such as the EV-E301 series on the Karasuyama Line. This accumulator supplies electric power to the vehicle, so that the 5000 series can travel under its own power, even if a power failure occurs. The power of the accumulator is supplied from the overhead wire and the regenerative electric power at braking. The 5000 series has two sets of 680 V-15.2 kWh accumulators on car number 5.

What else catches your eyes on the 5000 series? You would find a free Wi-Fi system. You would find a power outlet under your seat in the cross seat mode. The 5000 series has special deodorant and antibacterial air cleaners. Furthermore, the color of illuminating LED lights is changed according to the operation mode of the train. It is a functional white color in the long seat mode operation; whereas it becomes an incandescent lamp-color for relaxing in the cross seat operation. The 5000 series has fine attributes, doesn't it?

Keio Electric Railway plans to introduce a total of 5 sets, 50 units, of the 5000 series by March, 2018.

Accumulators of the EMU Keio 5000 series