Sunday, 29 April 2018

Higashiyama Culture on the Keihan Line

EMU Keihan 8000 series stands at Demachiyanagi station on the Ohtoh line

Higashiyama is located in the eastern part of Kyoto. This area consists of a flat land along the river Kamo and its adjacent mountains. Higashiyama is famous for its culture named Higashiyama culture, which originates from the 15th century. Higashiyama culture has a spiritual aspect. It is totally different from the aureate Kitayama culture spread in the northern part of Kyoto in the 14th century. For instance, it is the beauty we find in imperfection. It is an awareness of the transience of things. A rustic look is also important. We can see those aspects in architectures, gardens, arts, Noh drama and tea ceremonies in the Higashiyama area. Jisho-ji temple is the representative spot to see Higashiyama culture. You can see Ginkaku, a Kannon hall, and a garden made by Zeami in the precinct. They are simple but very beautiful. 

To get to Jisho-ji temple, the nearest station is Demachiyanagi on the Keihan-Ohtoh line. It is an underground route penetrating from south to north in the eastern part of Kyoto. The flagship train on the Ohtoh line is the EMU 8000 series launched in 1989. Different from the standard trains on the line, the 8000 series has vivid two-tone colored aluminum bodies with cross seats. A total of 10 sets, 80 cars were built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. One premium car is sandwiched in the center of an 8-car train. The premium car has gorgeous wide reclining seats, which are very popular among tourists traveling from Osaka.

Ginkaku pavilion of Jisho-ji temple near Demachiyanagi station on the Ohtoh line

Official information about Keihan Premium Car:
official information about the EMU Keihan 8000 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Rare Train on the Musashino Line

Set MU2 of the EMU JR East E231 series stands at Tokyo Station on the Musashino line

It is fun for me to perceive a fine difference between urban commuter trains like any other. Once I come across a rare train on the way to my office or somewhere on business, it makes me happy even if it is a packed train during rush hours. It's a perk of being a trainspotter like me. Trainspotters are easy-going people, aren't they?

I recently luckily came across set MU2 of the EMU E231 series on the JR East Musashino line. It was transferred from the Sobu line on September 19th last year. Set MU2 was originally a 10-car train with yellow-colored stripes but was decreased to an 8-car train with orange, brown and white-colored stripes.

Why was set MU2 transferred from the Sobu line? It is a slightly complicated story. In 2015, JR East launched a new commuter train model, EMU E235 series, on the Yamanote line. The introduction of the new model caused JR East to make train transfers one after another. Firstly, 15 sets of EMU E231-500 series on the Yamanote line were transferred to the Sobu line. Secondly, three sets of E231 series on the Sobu line including Set MU2 were transferred to the Musashino line.

This volkerwanderung still continues for the time being. Finally, ten sets of the EMU 205 series on the Musashino line will be transferred to Jakarta, Indonesia by the year 2020 to spend a second life after retirement from the tracks in Japan.

Side view of set MU2 of the EMU JR East E231 series

Monday, 23 April 2018

Fresh Green and Special Poster Train in Chichibu City

7505F of the EMU 7500 series travels on the Chichibu Railway line

The sakura (cherry) blooming season passed very quickly in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It is a fresh green season now. I recently visited Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture to enjoy spring with my family.

Mitsumine is a mountainous area in Chichibu City. It takes about two hours and a half from Tokyo by train. The most popular spot in the area is Mitsumine shrine, which is a famous Shinto shrine located on the summit of Mt. Mitsumine (1,102 meters above sea level). On the way to the shrine, I could see beautiful fresh green from the bus window. It covered slopes of mountains along Arakawa River. They were light green colored and mixed with dark green colored coniferous trees. The contrast between the green forests and the blue sky was exquisite.

The gateway station to Mitsumine shrine is Mitsumine-guchi, which is the westernmost terminal of Chichibu Railway line. This local company operates trains from Hanyu on the Tobu-Isesaki Line to Mitsumine-guchi (71.7 kilometers). One of the famous trains on the line is 7505F of the EMU 7500 series (ex-Tokyu 8090 series). It is a poster train for promoting tourism to famous Shinto shrines on the line including Mitsumine shrine. The standard color design of the 7500 series is just green stripes with a yellow accent. In contrast, we can see many "gods" on the bodies of this poster train. Needless to say, 7505F stands out conspicuously among the group of the 7500 series.

Spring is in full swing in the Chichibu area.

Fresh green is seen near Mitsumine-guchi Station on the Chichibu Railway line

Friday, 20 April 2018

Classic Streetcar in Kochi City

Electric car Tosaden Kotsu 202 of the 200 series travels on the Sambashi Line

Kochi is the main city of Kochi Prefecture on Shikoku Island. It has grown as the castle city of the lords of Tosa Province since the early 17th century. Currently, Kochi has a population of 332,000, which is a mid-sized city in Japan.

To my joy, Kochi has a superior tram network operated by Tosaden Kotsu. They have three routes in the city. The total line length is 25.3km, which is the second largest tram network in Japan. The eclectic system is 600 V DC overhead. The gauge size is 1,067 mm.

One of my favorite streetcars is the 200 series, which was commissioned in 1950. A total of 21 units were built by Hitachi, Teikoku Sharyo and Tosaden's own factory. Although more than 60 years have passed since it debuted, 14 units are still operated as leading electric cars. They have 11 m-long short steel bodies with two 38 kW DC motors. They are old nose suspension drive cars.

The 200 series is a sister car of the Toei 6000 series, which was operated in Tokyo Metropolis from 1947 to 2001. There are only minor differences between the two models such as the positions of the front lights.

I like the 200 series, specifically car number 201 and 202. They have large air-conditioner boxes and a bow collector on the roof. These air conditioner boxes were installed later. The large central window on the front mask was also different from the original design.

Electric car Tosaden Kotsu 202 of the 200 series stands at Kochi-ekimae Stop

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

2018 Sakura Season in Yokohama: The Keikyu Line

EMU Keikyu 2100 series passes through Byobugaura station

Yokohama is located southwest of Tokyo and is the main city of Kanagawa prefecture. It is the second largest city in Japan in terms of population after Tokyo. As of the year 2017, this city has an estimated population of 3.7 million. Along with Tokyo, Yokohama has many places famous for sakura (cherry) blossoms. Today, I am going to show you one of those spots in the western part of Yokohama.

Yokohama shizen-kansatsu no mori (Forest of Yokohama Nature Observation) is a large nature protection area. You can observe many precious birds there. In this season, my favorite one is Japanese nightingale, because the male beautifully sings "hoh-hokekyo" in the forest. It is so gorgeous that I often look for him, but it is very difficult to find out and shoot his photo. Instead of moving around Japanese nightingales, sakura trees are photogenic. We can see the fully bloomed sakura trees on the slope of mountains. They have light pink-colored blossoms, which show a vivid contrast with the blue sky.

To get to this precious urban forest, the nearest station is Kanazawa-Hakkei on the Keikyu line. It takes 36 minutes from Shinagawa, a subcenter of Tokyo, by rapid-express train. You can enjoy a pleasant journey boarding on Keikyu's flagship model named EMU 2100 series. It is an express train with rotating cross seats. A total of 10 sets were built by Tokyu Sharyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

Sakura blossoms on the Keikyu line are definitely my cup of tea.

Fully bloomed sakura (cherry) trees in Forest of Yokohama Nature Observation

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Good-bye to Crayon Shinchan Train

51059F of the EMU Tobu 50050 series, Crayon Shinchan Train

The operation of Crayon Shinchan Train had been terminated during my absence taking the Tobu line. It disappeared from the track before I knew it. On August 31st, 2017, Tobu Railway conducted the last run of their special poster train named Crayon Shinchan train on their Isesaki and Nikko lines. The color design of those poster trains returned to the standard one in order. 

What is Crayon Shinchan? It is a popular TV animation series created by Usui Yoshito. The main character, Crayon Shinchan, also known as Shinchan, is a 5-year-old boy, who goes to kindergarten. The series depicts the everyday life of Shinchan with his parents, a baby sister, friends, kindergarten teachers and so on. Kasukabe City in Saitama Prefecture is the stage of this famous animation. Kasukabe is located on the Tobu-Isesaki line.

Starting from November 3rd, 2016, Tobu Railway had been operating special poster trains with a Crayon Shinchan design. They were set 51055F, 51056F, 51057F, 51058F and 51059F of the EMU 50050 series. Each 10-car train set was beautifully decorated with Crayon Shinchan characters on a yellow (51055F), blue (51056F), red (51057F), orange (51058F) and green (51059F) colored background. Tobu trains were directly operated onto the Tokyo Metro-Hanzomon line and the Tokyu-Denentoshi line; therefore, people in Tokyo Metropolis and Kanagawa Prefecture also enjoyed these unique trains in their areas.

Arigato (thank you) and sayonara (good-bye), Crayon Shinchan Train. You were the star on the Tobu line.

51056F of the EMU Tobu 50050 series, Crayon Shinchan Train

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

2018 Sakura Season in Tokyo: The Toei-Shinjuku Line

EMU Toei 10-300 series arrives at Funabori Station on the Shinjuku Line

Sakura (cherry) blossom season in the Tokyo metropolitan area is almost over. Having endless sorrow at parting with the 2018 sakura season, I am going to continue to show you some more of this year's sakura scenes in Tokyo.

The Toei-Shinjuku line is one of 13 subway lines in Tokyo. It was opened in 1978 as Tokyo's 10th subway route. Connecting Shinjuku, a subcenter of Tokyo and Motoyawata, an interchange station with the JR East Sobu Line, the total operating length is 23.5 km. The Shinjuku line is operated by the Transportation Bureau of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Most trains are directly operated onto the Keio line so that you can see both Toei and Keio trains on the line. 

The Shinjuku line penetrates the downtown areas such as Ichigaya and Kudanshita; while the route is also located in residential areas in the eastern part of Tokyo such as Koto and Edogawa wards. Along with Kudanshita in the downtown area, Higashi-Ojima is another place famous for its sakura blossoms. It is called "Komatsugawa Senbon-zakura", which means "one thousand sakura trees in the Komatsugawa area". As its name suggests, there are 1,102 sakura trees on the bank of the river Arakawa according to the Edogawa Ward Office. In early April, local people spread mats and enjoy parties under the fully bloomed sakura trees. They welcome the herald of spring after the cold winter. It is indeed a precious time for local people.

Spring is in full bloom on the Toei-Shinjuku line.

Komatsugawa Sembon-zakura near Higashi-Ojima Station on the Toei-Shinjuku Line

Official information about the trains on the Toei-Shinjuku Line (in Japanese):

Saturday, 7 April 2018

"Keio Liner" Begins Service

EMU 5000 series, Keio Liner, stands at Shinjuku terminal

On February 22nd, Keio Electric Railway Company began commercial operation of Keio Liner, which is Keio's first reserved seat train, on their Keio and Sagamihara Line. Keio Liner leaves Shinjuku terminal, and heads to Keio-Hachioji on the Keio Line and Hashimoto on the Sagamihara Line. The number of operations is 5 for Keio-Hachioji and another 5 for Hashimoto every day. The departure time at Shinjuku is between 8 and 12 pm on weekdays; while it leaves between 5 and 9.20 pm on weekends and national holidays. Keio Liner bound for Keio-Hachioji and bound for Hashimoto is operated alternately. The fee for seat reservation is 400 yen.

Keio Liner has a similar concept with those of Keikyu Wing, Tobu TJ Liner, Seibu S-train and JR East's so-called Commuter Liner. They are for long distance passengers to secure their seats to go back home. Japanese businessmen and businesswomen are very busy. They sometimes need something as a treat for themselves, but their journeys home are hard, because commuter trains in Tokyo are packed. That is a background to these urban reserved seat trains appearing.

The train model for Keio Liner is the EMU 5000 series launched in 2017. A total of five sets, 50 cars, were built by J-trec. This model has multi-purpose seats, which the conductor can change from long seats to cross seats using a remote control system. The cross seat mode is applied, when it is operated as Keio Liner train.

Keio Liner is a new relaxing train in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Interior of the EMU 5000 series, Keio Liner

Official information about Keio Liner (in Japanese):
Official movie about Keio Liner:

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Odakyu Romance Car Cake

Romance Car Cake is sold by a cake shop, Fugetsudo, near Seijo-gakuenmae Station

As I posted last time, construction of the double-double track (DDT) was eventually completed between Yoyogi-Uehara and Noborito stations (11.7 km) on the Odakyu Line. It took indeed 54 years after making its basic plan.

In commemoration of the DDT completion, many events are held on the Odakyu Line. For instance, one of the cake shops near Seijo-gakuenmae Station, named Fugetsudo, markets "Romance Car Cake" for an only limited time. It is strawberry shortcake with a Romance Car plate. The plate is made of sugar and chocolate. The design was taken from the Odakyu Romance Car, EMU 50000 series. I think it is well-made. Specifically, the streamline feature of the 50000 series was captured well. The taste of the Romance Car Cake is also good. The strawberry is sweet. On the other hand, the cream has moderate sweetness. I fully enjoyed this special cake with my family in the last weekend.

In the meantime, the EMU 50000 series, called VSE (Vault Super Express), is the representative model of the Odakyu Romance Car fleet. It was launched in 2005 as a 10-car train with articulated bogies. A total of two sets, 20 units were built by Nippon Sharyo. As you may know, the cockpit is upstairs, so that passengers can enjoy a front view through the wide front windows. VSE achieves a high level of popularity among tourists to Hakone, a mountain resort in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Congratulations on Odakyu's DDT completion!

EMU Odakyu 50000 series, Romance Car "VSE"

Official information about Odakyu Romance Car:
Official information about the EMU 50000 series, Romance Car "VSE" (in Japanese):

Monday, 2 April 2018

2018 Sakura Season in Tokyo: The Odakyu Line

EMU Odakyu 3000 series arrives at new platform (B1F) of Shimokitazawa Station

As I posted last time, the Meteorological Agency of Japan declared that the sakura (cherry) started blooming in Tokyo on March 17th. Following to the Takaido area on the Keio-Inokashira Line, I visited the Seijo-gakuenmae area on the Odakyu Line to admire local sakura blossoms.

Tokoji temple is a famous sakura spot near Seijo-gakuenmae Station. There are many large sakura trees in the garden. In this season, these trees have pink and white-colored blossoms, so that local people flock to the temple. I am also one of those people. When I visited there after sunset, the full blossomed sakura trees were beautifully lit up by the LED lights backed by an ultramarine colored sky and a half moon. The night view of sakura blossoms was special.

In the meantime, when the sakara blossoms opened in Tokyo, the double-double track (DDT) construction on the Odakyu Line was completed. A new timetable was started that very day. The new DDT section is between Yoyogi-Uehara and Noborito stations. The total length of the DDT section is only 11.7 km, but the construction was quite a difficult task, since it was a densely populated area. It took indeed more than a half century after making a basic plan. 

The final construction section was around Shimokitawaza Station. A new platform for local and semi-express trains was opened in the first basement (B1F), while the existing platform in the second basement (B2F) was changed to become for express and rapid express trains.

Spring on the Odakyu Line is in full bloom.

Night view of Tokoji-temple Garden near Seijo-gakuenmae Station on the Odakyu Line