Sunday, 31 May 2020

Art Train on the Tobu-Tojo Line

51092F of the Tobu 50090 series, "Ikebukuro-Kawagoe Art Train", travels on the Tojo line

Kawagoe is a historic city in Saitama Prefecture, about 40 kilometers northwest of Tokyo. There are many old houses, shops, and ex-local government offices along the streets in the downtown area. To get to Kawagoe from Tokyo, we can choose from three routes, namely the JR East-Kawagoe, Seibu-Shinjuku, or Tobu-Tojo lines. I recommend you take the Tobu-Tojo line, as it takes only 26 minutes from Ikebukuro terminal by "Kawagoe Express".

On February 12th, 2019, Tobu Railway launched a special poster train named "Ikebukuro-Kawagoe Art Train" on their Tojo line. The purpose of this poster train was to promote tourism to the sightseeing spots in Kawagoe City. Tobu offered one set of their 10-car train, 51092F of the EMU 50090 series, for the poster train. A young spirited Japanese-style painter, Koyano Yuuki, designed the bodies of the train. We can see many of Kawagoe's historic places, foods, and goods in the design. It's very colorful. Specifically, I like "Ai-tai (Love Bream)," which is a fortune imitating a red-colored sea bream in Hikawa Shrine. It's said that Ai-tai brings love to the person drawing the fortunes.

Incidentally, the EMU 50090 series was launched in 2008 as a sister train of the 50000 series. A total of six sets (60 cars) were built by Hitachi. One of the features of this train is its multi-purpose seat, which the conductor can change from long to cross seats using a remote control. It's similar to that of the Keio 5000 series.

Side view of the Ikebukuro-Kawagoe Art train

Official promotion movie, Ikebukuro-Kawagoe Art train, Introduction:
Official promotion movie, Ikebukuro-Kawagoe Art train, Artist:

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Aerial Tramway to the Mountain Castle

Matsuyama Castle Ropeway

Matsuyama is the largest city on Shikoku Island. The population now stands at 0.51 million. Matsuyama is famous for its sightseeing spot, namely Dogo hot springs, in the downtown area, but please don't forget one more. It's Matsuyama castle rising to the sky.

The castle was constructed on the summit of Mt. Shiroyama (131 meters above sea level) in 1603 by Kato Yoshiakira. The main tower was destroyed by fire after that, but reconstructed by Matsudaira Katsuyoshi in 1854. It was designated as an Important Cultural Property by the government in 1950. I visited this historical spot in the fall of 2013. It was a fine holiday, so that many families were visiting and enjoying it there. To visit this mountain castle, the nearest stop is Okaido on the Matsuyama city tram line of Iyo Railway. I recommend you go by a famous "Botchan-train" there. After getting off the tram, you should transfer to an aerial tramway, Matsuyama Castle Ropeway.

The aerial tramway was opened in 1955. Connecting Shinonomeguchi and Chojanagaru stations, the route length is 327 meters. The height difference between the highest and lowest points of the route is 62 meters. The maximum inclination of the route is 23.1 degrees. Currently, fifth generation gondolas are operated on the route. They were built by Osaka Sharyo in 2013. Each gondola can accommodate up to 47 passengers. The gondola is operated every 10 minutes with an operating speed of 3.6 meters per second. It takes about 3 minutes to go one way.

Matsuyama castle

Official information about Matsuyama Castle Ropeway (in Japanese):

Monday, 25 May 2020

2020 Spring on the Odakyu Line

EMU Odakyu 30000 series, Romance Car "EXE", comes out from the tunnel

Although, new coronavirus cases are steadily decreasing, the governor of Tokyo still announces that we should refrain from any nonessential and non-urgent outings just in case. Having said that, I regularly have to go to an eye doctor for a check-up. That recently happened.

On the way back home, I found two energetic maple trees on a pathway to Umegaoka station on the Odakyu line. They were next to each other, and the contrast of their colors was magnificent. One was light green, and the other was red. Specifically, the red colored maple tree in this season was quite rare to be called "spring maple". I was in luck.

After arriving at the station, I tried to take train photographs for a short while. It's my favorite spot because we can see a tunnel entrance of a double-double track line. What's coming out from the tunnel? Three minutes later, the EMU 30000 series, Romance Car "EXE", appeared on the express line. It filed past me at top speed. The shining gold colored body was very cool. I was in luck again. EXE is the first multipurpose Romance Car that was commissioned in 1996. 7 sets (70 cars) were built by Nippon Sharyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. One set of the train can be broken up into 6 and 4 car sections to enhance operational flexibility as a multipurpose Romance Car.

The energetic maple trees and the shining Romance Car, I could enjoy a happy spring moment.

Two kinds of maple trees are seen near Umegaoka station on the Odakyu line

Friday, 22 May 2020

EMU TX-3000 Series: New Model on the TX Line

82F of the EMU TX-3000 series travels on the Tsukuba Express line

On March 14th, the Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company launched their new commuter train, EMU TX-3000 series, on their Tsukuba Express (TX) line. The regional population along the TX line has been steadily increasing since it was opened in 2005, so that the introduction of the new trains will contribute to reducing congestion of the TX line. The company purchased 5 sets (30 cars) of the TX-3000 from Hitachi in the fiscal year 2019.

The TX-3000 is an AC-DC dual system train the same as the TX-2000 series. Its maximum speed is 130 kilometers per hour. It has gleaming aluminum double-skinned bodies with red and blue colored accents. The greatest feature of the TX-3000 is its odd-shaped front mask. It's a similar design with trains in the early 1970s, but more sophisticated thanks to improving molding and welding technologies. The granular LED lights on the front mask are also futuristic. In terms of the technical specifications, an SiC-VVVF (silicon carbide-variable frequency drive) inverter electric control system was employed. The new system comes with a maximum 13 percent improvement in its electric power consumption performance over the previous trains.

On May 31st, 2019, the company announced that the longer trains will be introduced for further reinforcement of the transportation capacity... from 6-cars to 8-cars. It's really good news for passengers, but the greatest issue is the target date. It will take 10 years from now for the extension of station platforms with the expansion of automatic platform gates. Can you speed it up?

82F of the EMU TX-3000 series leaves Kita-Senju station

Official promotion movie, EMU TX-3000 series, Assembly (in Japanese):
Official promotion movie, EMU TX-3000 series, Transportation (in Japanese):
Official promotion movie, EMU TX-3000 series, Test run (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

The 40th Anniversary of Direct Operation: Keio-Toei, Part2

EMU Keio 5000 series (5736F) is directly operated onto the Toei-Shinjuku line

Subsequent to my last post, I am going to continue to explain about the Keio-Toei direct operation that marked the 40th anniversary on March 16th of this year. This time it's the Keio story. Keio Electric Railway offers their 9000 and 5000 series trains for direct operation between the Keio and Toei-Shinjuku lines.

The 9000 series was launched in 2001 to replace the old EMU 6000 series. In the first stage, 8 sets of 8-car trains (64 cars) were built by Nippon Sharyo and Tokyu Sharyo. A new group named the EMU 9030 series was then commissioned in the second stage in 2006. 20 sets of 10-car trains (200 cars) were built by Nippon Sharyo. The 9030 series also belongs to the 9000 series group, but it is specialized for the Keio-Toei direct operation. The 9030 series has an IGBT-VVVF (Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor - variable frequency drive) inverter electric control system made by Hitachi.

On the other hand, the 5000 series debuted in 2017 as a high-end commuter train. 6 sets of 10-car trains (60 cars) were built by J-TREC in 2017 and 2020. 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 the "Keio Liner" train on the Keio line.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary, Keio currently displays a special memorial plate on the front of 9740F of the 9000 series.

A memorial plate is displayed on the front of the EMU Keio 9000 series (9740F)

Saturday, 16 May 2020

The 40th Anniversary of Direct Operation: Keio-Toei

Set 61 of the EMU Toei 10-300 series is directly operated onto the Keio line

On March 16th, 2020, Keio Electric Railway and the Transportation Bureau of Tokyo Metropolitan Government (Toei) marked their 40th anniversary of the direct operation between the Keio and Toei-Shinjuku lines.

The Keio line was opened between Sasazuka and Chofu stations in 1913; meanwhile, the Toei-Shinjuku line was inaugurated between Iwamotocho and Higashi-Ojima in 1978. These two lines were eventually connected at Shinjuku station, and the direct operation was commenced on March 16th, 1980. Among the two railways, I'm going to show you a Toei story today.

Toei currently offers their EMU 10-300 series trains for direct operation onto the Keio line. It was launched in 2005 replacing the old 10-000 series. There are several types of the 10-300 series. For example, the top photo is the fourth batch of the 10-300 series. It has two separate frontal lights on the lower part of its "face". Thick green and dark blue colored stripes are seen on the face. On the other hand, there are thin blue and green colored stripes on the lower part of their side bodies. Please refer to my previous posts, in which I introduced the other variations of the 10-300 series.

Toei currently displays special stickers celebrating the 40th anniversary on the side bodies of set 61 (61F) of the 10-300 series. According to Toei, it will be displayed until December 15th of this year. Please don't forget to take these memorial pictures before it's too late.

To be continued in my next post... a Keio story.

A memorial sticker is displayed on the EMU Toei 10-300 series

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

EMU Tobu 9000 Series: "Bimyo" Face Train

9104F of the EMU Tobu 9000 series travels on the Tojo line

I have already uploaded nearly 1,300 posts in this blog over a 9-year period. I thought that all the existing train models in the Tokyo metropolitan area had already been introduced to you here, but it was not true. I recently found that I haven't shown you some more models yet. The introduction of trains in the Tokyo metropolitan area is almost endless.

The EMU Tobu 9000 series is a Tojo line commuter train directly operated onto the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho and Fukutoshin lines. The first set (9101F) was launched in 1981. A total of 10 sets, 100 units were built until 1994 by Tokyu-sharyo, Alna-koki and Fuji Heavy Industries. The 9000 series is Tobu's first stainless-steel body train. Although only 10 sets were built, it has a lot of variations. For example, the early 7 sets have corrugations on the side bodies; meanwhile, the late 3 sets have flat bead-press stainless-steel bodies. The first 8 sets have an armature chopper electric control system; meanwhile, the late 2 sets have a VVVF inverter (variable frequency drive) electric control system. Trainspotters like me are happy to perceive this kind of fine difference among the trains.

Incidentally, do you like the face design of the 9000 series? I should say "bimyo" in Japanese. The original meaning of bimyo is delicate or subtle, but in slang, bimyo means "I don't really like it" or "It doesn't look so good". Japanese tend to leave things vague. For better or for worse, it's our culture.

9104F of the EMU Tobu 9000 series leaves Narimasu station on the Tojo line

Official information about vehicles on the Tobu lines (in Japanese) :

Sunday, 10 May 2020

2020 Sakura Season in Tokyo: Part 4

Set N5 of the EMU JR East E233-8000 series travels on the Nambu line

After uploading my previous post, I remembered that there is one more street lined with beautiful sakura (cherry) trees in Kunitachi City. It's Yagawa-dori (Yagawa Street) near JR East Yagawa station.

Yagawa is an area with a friendly atmosphere. It's densely packed with houses and apartments. There are many common shops and restaurants along the street. The width of Yagawa Street is narrower than that of prestigious University Street in the same city, but the cherry trees along Yagawa Street form a beautiful tunnel. Please look at the photo, and feel the herald of spring there.

Incidentally, Yagawa is a JR East Nambu line station. The Nambu line penetrates the western part of Tokyo Metropolis and the eastern part of Kanagawa Prefecture. The route is composed of the 45 kilometers-long main line and the 4 kilometers-long branch line. A brand new train, the EMU E233-8000 series, has been operated on the main line since 2014. A total of 35 sets, 210 units, were built by JR East Niitsu Factory; meanwhile, 1 set, 6 units, were built by Tokyu sharyo.

The specifications of the E233-8000 series are basically the same as the other E233 series being operated on the Chuo, JobanKeihin-Tohoku, Keiyo, SaikyoYokohama and Tokaido lines, but the E233-8000 series is a 6-car train made up of 4 motorcars and 2 trailers (4M2T). It has stainless bodies with yellow, orange and brown-colored stripes. Special logos for the Nambu line can be seen on the sides of the train.

"Cherry tunnel" near Yagawa station on the JR East Nambu line

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Memories of Bath Spa in 2011

DMU Great Western Railway Class 158 (Unit 158951 and others) stands at Bath Spa station

The governor of Tokyo announced that we should refrain from any nonessential and non-urgent outings because of new coronavirus infection risks. Changing the mood, I'm going to show you some old photographs, which I recently rediscovered on my hard disk.

As I posted before, I was stationed in Jakarta from 2006 to 2011. In June 2011, I took leave to prepare for my new position in Tokyo. I thought that a vacation would refresh my mind. My destination was the UK. On the third day of my vacation, I visited Bath in the southwest of England. Bath City is famous for its spa in the Roman era. It's twinned with Beppu City, which is also well known for its hot springs in Japan.

When I got off at Bath Spa station, I found a beautiful 3-car train standing at an opposite side of the track. What was that? It was a DMU Class 158 (Unit 158951 and others) of Great Western Railway. According to some local websites, Class 158 was built from 1989 to 1992 to replace old locomotive-hauled passenger trains. A total of 182 sets were built by British Rail Engineering Ltd. Derby Litchurch Lane Works. Different from standard DMUs in Japan, the bodies of Class 158 were bigger (23.21 meters long). The engine output was also larger (260 to 300 kW). The top speed was faster (145 kilometers per hour).

A beautiful big train and the Roman bath... I had a great day that day.

Platform of Bath Spa station

Monday, 4 May 2020

The Yamanote Line Update in 2020

EMU JR East E235 series arrives at Takanawa Gateway station on the Yamanote line   

The JR East Yamanote Line is famous for being Japan's busiest railway. 11-car trains are frequently operated all day long. It's looped through several sub-center areas of Tokyo. The route length is 34 kilometers and the train covers the entire route in about 60 minutes. What's new with this urban line?

Firstly, a new station named Takanawa Gateway was inaugurated on March 14th this year. It's the 30th station opened on the Yamanote line for the first time in 49 years. It was planned by famous architect Kuma Kengo, who also designed several railway stations such as Keio's Takao-sanguchi and JR East's Hoshakuji. Its open roof ceiling is expansive. There is a kiosk with an unmanned AI payment system named TOUCH TO GO in the station yard as I posted before.

Secondly, an old train, the EMU 231-500 series was totally replaced by the E235 series by January this year. The E235 series is a new model on the Yamanote line for the first time in 13 years. A total of 50 sets (550 units) are currently operated. Most of them were newly built by J-TREC Niitsu Factory, but 48 units (the Type SaHa E235-4600) were modified from the Type SaHa E231-4600 of the EMU E231 series. JR East plans that the EMU 235 series will also be introduced onto the Yokosuka line in autumn 2020.

It's mid-spring in Tokyo. Following the cherry, azalea flowers were fully bloomed. We can find them along the Yamanote line tracks as well. Seasons revolve.

Azalea blossoms are seen through train windows at Komagome station

Official promotion movie, the Yamanote line (Tokyo moving round):

Friday, 1 May 2020

2020 Sakura Season in Tokyo: Part 3

EMU JR East 205 series, "Musashino" (KuHa 205-5 and others)stands at Kunitachi station

Kunitachi is an education-oriented city in the western part of Tokyo Metropolis. There are many prestigious universities and private schools. According to media, it's one of the most popular cities for people to live in.

Kunitachi is also famous for its sakura (cherry) blossoms in the spring. Two streets, namely Daigaku-dori (University Street) and Sakura-dori (Cherry Street), are lined with 340 cherry trees. I visited Kunitachi last month as something came up in the area. After finishing my meeting, I passed through Daigaku-dori by a car to see the cherry blossoms. It was a clear afternoon, and I saw residents enjoying taking a walk in the neighborhood.

To visit these beautiful streets, the nearest railway station is Kunitachi on the JR East Chuo line. Taking this opportunity, I am going to introduce you to a rare train, "Musashino," which stops at Kunitachi station. Mushashino is operated between Hachioji (or Fuchu-hommachi) and Omiya via the Chuo, Musashino, and Tohoku main lines. Three southbound and four to five northbound Musashino trains are operated every day. It's convenient for passengers who take the Tohoku Shinkansen from Omiya station.

When I used the Musashino train last month, its operational vehicle was the EMU 205 series with the original stainless-steel bodies. Its head car, the KuHa 205-5, is probably the oldest commuter electric car being operated in Tokyo. It's built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries in 1985. I was very lucky to meet with and board this historical train that day.

Cherry blossoms in full bloom are seen near Kunitachi station