Friday, 28 August 2020

Rengeshouma Community on the Mitake Tozan Railway

Mitake Tozan Railway   

The hot summer continues in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The maximum daytime temperature easily hits 30 degrees Celsius every day. The only thing we can do is escape the city center and go somewhere cool on the weekend. I recently visited Mt. Mitake (929 meters above sea level) with my family for the first time in five years. Not only is it cool, but it's also famous for the unique Rengeshouma community. Rengeshouma is a perennial and indigenous plant in Japan. It grows in wet forests and has graceful purple-tinged white flowers in late summer. Its spherical buds are also unique and gorgeous. 

To visit the Rengeshouma community, Mitake Tozan Railway is convenient. It's a funicular route opened in 1935. Along with Takao Tozan Railway, Mitake Tozan Railway is a Keio Group company. Connecting Takimoto (407.6 meters above sea level) and Mitakesan (831.0 meters above sea level), its route length is 1,107 meters. The height difference between the two stations is 423.6 meters. The gauge size is 1,049 millimeters. The maximum inclination of the route is 25 degrees.

Two vehicles are operated on the line. One car is the red-colored Mitake, while the other one is the green-colored Musashi (old names for Tokyo and Saitama Prefectures). Each car is 12-meters long and can accommodate 115 passengers. The seating capacity is 34 seats. The operating interval of the funicular is every 15 to 30 minutes depending on the congestion situation. The travel time between Takimoto and Mitakesan stations is 6 minutes.


Official information about Mitake Tozan Railway:
Official information about Mitake Tozan Railway (in Japanese) including promotion movies:

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Local Train in the Aomori Area

Set N6 of the EMU JR East 701 series arrives at Shin-Aomori station on the Ou main line    

On the way back from Hakkoda Mountain during my summer vacation, I came across a local train, the EMU JR East 701 series, at Shin-Aomori station on the Ou main line. I took several photos of it as a memory of my trip.

The EMU JR East 701 series is a standard commuter train in Tohoku District. It was launched in 1993 to replace the old commuter EMUs and the passenger coaches pulled by locomotives. Different from the trains in the Tokyo metropolitan area, the 701 series is an AC (alternate current) train. It has 20,000 V AC and 50 Hz electric systems. As you know, most of the trains in the Tokyo metropolitan area are operated by direct current (DC) electric systems. The AC trains always make me feel "I have come pretty far from home".

The body color of the 701 series varies by area. It has pink and purple colored stripes in the Aomori and Akita areas, while the other areas' ones have a number of other colors. This color variation is joyful for rail fans like me. Strange colored local trains always make me excited while traveling. With regard to the specification, the 701 series has a high level of efficiency. Specifically, the recently-built group has a brand new system, such as IGBT-VVVF electric control and regenerative braking. The greatest contribution of launching this train was to speed up travel time and provide air-conditioners.

The EMU 701 series has built a new generation in Tohoku District.

Set N6 of the EMU JR East 701 series stands at Shin-Aomori station on the Ou main line    

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Shonan-daira: Scenic Place on the Tokaido Main Line

EMU E233-3000 series travels on the Tokaido main line

Shonan-daira is a scenic place in Hiratsuka City, about 60 kilometers southwest of Tokyo. It's just a low hill at an elevation of 181 meters above sea level, but visitors can enjoy gorgeous views of the vast Kanto Plain and Sagami Bay from the summit. It's popular among young couples to enjoy the night view, while older people admire the cherry blossoms in spring.

I visited Shonan-daira in April, but my purpose of visit was neither the night view nor the cherry blossoms. I wanted to take photos of JR Central's Tokaido Shinkansen trains. The straight line track of the Tokaido Shinkansen is located about 1.5 kilometers north of Shonan-daira, so I expected to shoot the side view of a long Shinkansen train traveling at its top speed. I climbed up the hill on foot being soaked in sweat. Just after arriving at the summit, the Shinkansen train appeared. I could realize the 400-meters long train traveling at 285 kilometers per hour.

On the way back home, I also enjoyed taking photos of the Tokaido main line trains. The main fleet on the route is the EMU E233-3000 series launched in 2008. Currently, the E233-3000 series is widely operated in the Tokyo metropolitan area. My favorite is double-decker Green Cars (the first class cars) in the central part of the train. Once you pay an extra fee, a comfortable reclining seat is provided for you. I recommend it for long distance journeys over 100 kilometers. It costs 800 yen on holidays.

View from Shonan-daira: JR Central N700A series travels on the Tokaido Shinkansen

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Gondola Lift to Nikko-Shirane Mountain

Nikko-Shiranesan Ropeway

It's very hot this mid-summer in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The maximum daytime temperature is often over 35 degrees Celsius. I evacuated from the urban "heat island", and visited the cool mountain in Gumma Prefecture with my family last weekend. Our destination was Nikko-Shirane Mountain, which is located about 160 kilometers north of Tokyo. It's a stratovolcano in Nikko National Park. Its main peak named Okushirane is an andesite lava dome, 2,578 meters above sea level. 

Nikko-Shiranesan Ropeway is a convenient access to this high mountain. It's a single rope automatic circulation type gondola lift. Connecting Sanroku (foot of the mountain) and Sancho (summit) stations, its route length is 2,493 meters. The height difference between the two stations is 602 meters. Its maximum inclination is 38.97 degrees. There are 22 struts on the route. Nikko-Shiranesan Ropeway is owned by Nippon Paper Development Company. The route was constructed by Nippon Cable in 1999. The gondolas were built by CWA in Switzerland. They are operated counterclockwise with a speed of 5 meters per second. It takes about 15 minutes to go one way. Each gondola can accommodate up to 8 passengers.

Sancho station is located about 2,000 meters above sea level. After getting off at the station, we enjoyed the forest walking. Okushirane main peak was often seen from the footpath. The temperature was about 20 degrees Celsius, which was 15 degrees cooler than that of Tokyo. It's very comfortable and refreshing.

There were many pleasures in Nikko-Shirane Mountain.

View of Okushirane Peak from Sancho station, Nikko-Shiranesan Ropeway

Official information about Nikko-Shiranesan Ropeway (in Japanese):

Sunday, 16 August 2020

2020 Summer in Yokohama: Nippon Maru Memorial Park

EMU Keikyu 1000 series travels on the Keikyu main line

Along with Yokohama Cosmo World, Nippon Maru Memorial Park is another popular sightseeing spot in the Minato-mirai area of Yokohama City, some 30 kilometers southwest of Tokyo. Visitors can see Japan's historical training sailing ship named Nippon Maru there. She is permanently docked, and open to the public as a museum ship. Nippon Maru was built by Kawasaki Shipbuilding Corporation in 1930. She was operated by the Tokyo Institute for Maritime Training to train officers for Japan's merchant marine, and replaced in 1984 by her successor, also named Nippon Maru. I enjoyed a vessel tour of this beautiful sailing ship. 

On the way back home from Yokohama, I took train photos from behind the cockpit of the Keikyu train. One of the targets is the EMU 1000 series. The 1000 series was launched in 2001. 78 sets (8-cars, 6-cars and 4-cars), 472 cars, were built by Tokyu Sharyo, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and J-TREC. The bodies of the early 120 cars are made of aluminum, while the late 352 cars have stainless-steel bodies. As for the technical specifications, there are many varieties. For example, the first group has GTO devices for its VVVF inverter electric control system. The second group has IGBT devices, while SiC devices are used on the third group with the development of semiconductor technology. It's fun for me to perceive the fine difference among the Keikyu trains as a trainspotter.

I enjoyed both the old marine and the new land vehicles in Yokohama City on the weekend.

Nippon Maru Memorial Park near Yokohama station on the Keikyu main line

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Aerial Tramway to Hakkoda Mountain

Hakkoda Ropeway in Aomori Prefecture

Hakkoda Mountain is a generic name of 10 peaks located in the northern part of Towada-Hachimantai National Park in Aomori Prefecture. It's an active volcano with a large caldera. Its main peak named Oodake is 1,584 meters above sea level. Visitors can see unique alpine plants in summer, while it's known for frost-covered trees which can be seen in winter. I recently visited this beautiful mountain with my family during the short summer vacation.

Hakkoda Ropeway is a convenient access to this beautiful mountain. It's four cables - cross type aerial tramway. Connecting Sanroku (Foot of the mountain) and Sancho-koen (Summit park) stations, its route length is 2,459.7 meters. Sancho-koen station is located 1,314 meters above sea level. The height difference between the two stations is 649.5 meters. Its maximum inclination is 25.72 degrees. The route was constructed by Nippon Cable in 1968. To operate the aerial tramway, two 150 kW DC main motors and a 124 kW/1,800 rpm backup diesel engine are installed at the Sancho-koen station.

The gondolas, namely number 1 and 2, were the third generation ones built by CWA in Switzerland in 2003. Each gondola can accommodate up to 100 passengers. The gondola is operated every 15 minutes (or 20 minutes) with an operating speed of 5 meters per second. It takes about 10 minutes to go one way.

After arriving at Sancho-koen station, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery. The problem at the office seemed so petty when I looked down on the world from the mountain.

The summer scenery of Hakkoda Mountain

Official information about Hakkoda Ropeway (including promotion movies):

Monday, 10 August 2020

Blue Ocean on the Uchibo Line

EMU JR East 209-2100 series

The Japan Meteorological Agency made an announcement that this year's rainy season ended on August 1st in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Although it was 11 days later than normal years, this year's mid-summer has finally begun. I want to visit beach resorts to escape the urban "heat island", but all beaches in the Tokyo metropolitan area are closed this summer. Needless to say, it's because of new coronavirus infection risks. There is nothing I can do, so I'm going to show you a beautiful beach photo taken this winter.

Wadaura is a beautiful sandy beach on the Pacific coast in Minami-Boso City, Chiba Prefecture. It's well-known for its highly transparent and calm sea. To get to this resort, JR East's Uchibo line train is convenient. It takes about two hours from Chiba terminal by a local train. The vehicle is the EMU 209-2000 or 209-2100 series, and 68 sets (6-car and 4-car sets), 324 cars, are operated on the line. The difference between the 209-2000 and the 209-2100 series is simple. The 209-2000 series has a pneumatic door engine system, while the 209-2100 series is equipped with an electric door engine system.

Incidentally, JR East recently announced that a new model, EMU E131 series, will be launched on the Uchibo line soon. The first set was completed by J-TREC Niigata factory last month and transported to the Makuhari rail yard in Chiba Prefecture. I'm going to introduce the new model as soon as I come across it.

Wadaura beach near Wadaura station on the JR East Uchibo line

Official information about the new model, EMU E131 series (in Japanese):

Friday, 7 August 2020

2020 Summer in Yokohama: Cosmo Clock 21

Set H027 of the EMU JR East E233-6000 series travels on the Yokohama line

I recently visited Yokohama City with my family. Our destination was Yokohama Cosmo World, which is a famous amusement park in the Minato-mirai area. Waiting for the sunset, we enjoyed Cosmo Clock 21 in the park. What's Cosmo Clock 21? It's Japan's fourth largest ferris wheel that is 112.5 meters in height. The wheel is illuminated by numerous beautiful bright LED lights. Riding Cosmo Clock 21, we enjoyed a spectacular view of the Yokohama port area.

To get to this large ferris wheel, we took the JR East Yokohama line, and got off at Sakuragicho station. As I posted before, the Yokohama line is one of the major commuter lines in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It was opened in 1908 to transport silk from the midland area to Yokohama Port. Connecting Higashi-Kanagawa and Hachiouji, the route length is 42.6 kilometers.

All the commuter trains on the Yokohama line are operated with green colored 8-car trains of the EMU E233-6000 series. JR East purchased 28 sets, 224 units, of the E233-6000 series from J-TREC. All units belong to Kamakura Rail Yard in Kanagawa Prefecture. The specification of the E233-6000 series is mostly the same as the other E233 series trains such as the E233-7000 series on the Saikyo line and the E233-8000 series on the Nambu line. They are equipped with induction motors with a IGBT-VVVF inverter (Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor-variable frequency drive) control system. LED lights are widely used for interior illumination to reduce the electric consumption.

Japan's fourth largest ferris wheel, "Cosmo Clock 21"

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Rare Train on the Chiba Newtown Railway

9808F of the EMU Chiba Newtown Railway 9800 series travels on the Keikyu line

After introducing the EMU Hokuso 7300 series train in my recent post, I found that I haven't shown you its sister train yet. The introduction of trains in the Tokyo metropolitan area is indeed endless. Today, I am going to show you the EMU Chiba Newtown Railway (hereafter CNR) 9800 series for the first time in my blog.

The CNR 9800 series is a sister train of the Keisei 3700 series, the Hokuso 7300 and 7800 series. These "sister trains" have basically the same technical specifications and body structures. Only one set (9808F) of the 9800 series is operated on the line. It was originally Keisei 3738F of the 3700 series, and leased to CNR in 2017. 9808F has a yellow and a light blue stripe. I'm very happy whenever I come across this rare train on the line, as I like this coloring design.

Incidentally, CNR is a Keisei Group company. It owns a double-track between Komuro and Imba-Nihon-Idai stations (12.5 kilometers) in the Chiba Newtown area. This track was originally constructed and owned by the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (present Urban Renaissance Agency), but transferred to Keisei Electric Railway in 2004. CNR currently owns three kinds of train models, namely the EMU 9100 series, the 9200 series and the 9800 series. All trains on the line are operated by adjacent Hokuso Railway Company, and directly operated onto the Keisei, Toei-Asakusa, Keikyu and other lines. It's a bit of a complicated system due to the complicated operating history.

9808F of the EMU Chiba Newtown Railway 9800 series passes through Kojiya station

Saturday, 1 August 2020

2020 Summer in Yokohama: Saphir Odoriko

EMU JR East E261 series, "Saphir Odoriko" arrives at Yokohama station

The governor of Tokyo announced that Tokyoites should refrain from any nonessential and non-urgent outings during the 4-day weekend in July because of new coronavirus infection risks. I reluctantly agreed to that. Instead, I'm going to show you the photos taken before the 4-day weekend.

Last month, I visited Yokohama City in Kanagawa Prefecture to meet with my old friend. On my way back home, I came across JR East's new limited express train, Saphir Odoriko, at Yokohama station. As I introduced before, Saphir Odoriko, the EMU E261 series, was launched in March 2020 to replace an old limited express train, Super-view Odoriko, the EMU 251 series. 

What are the differences between Saphir Odoriko and Super-view Odoriko? In short, the older Super-view Odoriko emphasizes the view from the train; meanwhile, the newer Saphir Odoriko train emphasizes the interior comfort and luxury. For instance, sloping tiers of seats are equipped in the front of Super-view Odoriko train to provide passengers with a gorgeous front view. All cars of Super-view Odoriko train were high-deckers, and had large side windows. On the other hand, Saphir Odoriko train has a luxurious Premium Green Car (first-class car) and a dining car.

I like enjoying views from Super-view Odoriko train and also relaxing in a gorgeous cabin of Saphir Odoriko train. The scenic view might be more important if I travel alone; meanwhile, a gorgeous cabin will be valuable if I travel with my family or friends. I'm in a dilemma.

EMU JR East E261 series, "Saphir Odoriko" stands at Yokohama station