Monday, 29 November 2021

Late-Autumn on the Joban Line

Set K421 of the EMU JR East E531 series arrives at Matsudo station

It's feeling like late autumn more and more. I enjoyed walking with my family on the weekend. Our destination this time was Matsudo City in Chiba Prefecture, about 20 kilometers northeast of Tokyo. Along the riverside, we saw a "silver wave" in the field. It was the best season to view an awful lot of rabbit ears of silver grass. They changed color from green to silver, and they will then turn gold from exposure to the sun. The breeze blowing against them also created an autumn sound.

To get to this beautiful riverside, the nearest railway station is Matsudo on the JR East Joban line. We took the Joban line from Ueno terminal. Our vehicle was the EMU JR East E531 series, which was launched in 2005. The E531 series is an AC-DC dual system train with a maximum speed of 130 kilometers per hour. 460 cars in total were built by Tokyu Sharyo and the others. It's composed of 10 cars in the main sets, with 5 cars in the subsets. Two double-decker Green Cars (the first-class cars), namely Class SaRo E530 and E531, are incorporated in the main set. The gleaming stainless-steel body with dark blue-colored stripes is an outward characteristic of the E531 series.

For your information, some of the Joban line trains share the Ueno-Tokyo line track with the Tokaido line trains, carrying out the direct operation to Shinagawa Station in the southern part of Tokyo. The train operation routes in Tokyo are indeed complicated.

Silver grass field near Matsudo station on the JR East Joban line

Official information about the JR East E531 series (in Japanese):

Friday, 26 November 2021

Simulated Travel to Indonesia: Part 2

Set TB-7 (Indonesia color) of the EMU 8000 series travels on the Izukyu line

Following the outline report of the chartered train event on the Izukyu line, I'm going to be more specific about this chartered train today.

The train, which we chartered from Izukyu Railway, was set TB-7 of the EMU 8000 series. The 8000 series was originally commissioned in 1969 on the Tokyu-Toyoko line. The 8000 series became the big force on the Tokyu lines, but it was then replaced by the new models step by step. The final set was eventually retired from the track in 2008. After retirement from Tokyu, 24 cars were moved to Indonesia; meanwhile, 45 cars were transferred to Izukyu to spend a new life.

Set TB-7 of the 8000 series is a 3-car train on the Izukyu line. Its technical specification is rather old, but it's still one of the leading players on the line. Set TB-7 has stainless-steel bodies without any coloring. We chartered this train, and temporarily changed its front color design to that of the Indonesian Railway namely red and yellow. It was beautiful under the autumn sunshine.

When I was in high school, I used the 8000 series on the Tokyu-Toyoko line every day to go to school. I then ran into the 8000 series again in Jakarta, Indonesia, when I was stationed there 14 years ago. The local railway operator in Jakarta was pursuing the modernization of the trains, and introduced the second-hand 8000 series from Tokyu at that time. I'm probably inseparable from the 8000 series.

EMU Izukyu 8000 series (left) and EMU JR East E257-2000 series (right)

Official website, Izukyu Railway:
Official photogallery, Izukyu Railway:

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Simulated Travel to Indonesia Taking the Izukyu Line

EMU 8000 series with the Indonesian Railway logo (left) & color design (right)

Because of the COVID-19 calamity, I can't go abroad this year anymore. I love Indonesian railways as I lived in Jakarta, Indonesia until 2011, but it's going to take some time before I can visit there again. What should I do?

The answer is a simulated travel to Indonesia in Japan. On November 14th, Indonesian railway lovers in Japan gathered in Izukogen railyard of Izukyu Railway. Chartering a train on the Izukyu line, we enjoyed a special travel for pretending to go to Indonesia. Why Izukyu? In Indonesia, there are a lot of secondhand trains from Japan. The EMU Tokyu 8000 series is one of them. After retirement from Tokyu, several sets of the 8000 series were transferred to Indonesia; meanwhile, the other sets were moved to the Izukyu line. We temporally changed the color design of the Izukyu 8000 series to that of Indonesian Railway, and chartered it.

Firstly, we held a photo session at Izukogen railyard in front of the 8000 series in Indonesian style. We then got on the chartered train, and made a round trip to Izukyu-Shimoda station. While on board, we enjoyed a bottle of Indonesian brand beer namely "Bintang (star)". We also took photos together, had lunch together and had a dream-like moment together. Speaking with kindred minds was fun and time flew by. The simulated travel was indeed a great success. I'm truly grateful to the organizer "KLB", the coordinator "Pakuan Ekspres" and all the staff of Izukyu Railway.

To be continued...

Indonesian brand beer, "Bintang (star)"

Official information about the rollingstock of Izukyu Railway:
Official website, "Omoshiro-stationmaster", Izukyu Railway (in Japanese):

Friday, 19 November 2021

Hinotori at a Glance

EMU Kintetsu 80000 series, limited express "Hinotori", stands at Nagoya station

After enjoying autumn in Nara, we started our homeward journey. Taking the Kintetsu Osaka line, we went to Nagoya by the Meihan Limited Express train. This train travels between Osaka (Namba) and Nagoya via Nara Prefecture with a maximum speed of 130 kilometers per hour. It's of course much slower than that of JR Central's Tokaido Shinkansen, but is more luxurious and inexpensive. Our vehicle was the EMU 21000 series, "Urban Liner".

When we arrived at Nagoya station, I found a new Meihan Limited Express model, the EMU 80000 series, Hinotori, on the adjacent track. Hinotori means "a firebird or phoenix" in Japanese. The 80000 series was commissioned in March, 2020. 11 sets (8-car and 6-car trains) in total were built by Kinki-sharyo. Its streamlined shining bodies are very vivid and definitely my favorite. The interior of the 80000 series is gorgeous. For instance, all seats in the premium car have back shells, so, you don't need to worry about disturbing a passenger sitting behind you. With regard to the technical specifications, the premium car has an active suspension system, which is a special device to minimize the lateral swinging movement of the train.

The EMU Kintetsu 80000 series, Hinotori, was elected as the 2021 Blue Ribbon Prize train. The Blue Ribbon Prize is an annual award presented by the Japan Railfan Club (JRC) since 1958, awarded to the best train that launched in the previous year. I also voted for the 80000 series as a member of JRC.

Side view of the EMU Kintetsu 80000 series

Hinotori, Kintetsu's official website:
Official detailed description about Hinotori (in Japanese):

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Cosmos Field in the Ancient City

EMU Kintetsu 1233 series stands at Kashihara-jingu-mae station

After staying in Nara City, we moved to Kashihara City, about 30 kilometers south of Nara. Along with Nara, Kashihara is known as Japan's ancient capital named Fujiwara-kyo. The period of Fujiwara-kyo was from 694 to 710. It was after Asuka-kyo (592-694) and before Heijo-kyo namely Nara (710-784). Fujiwara-kyo was a 5 kilometers square grid-patterned city, which had an estimated population of 20,000. Today, the imperial palace ruins are only seen, but I could feel the existence of a vast ancient capital city there. The site of the former city center is now a vast cosmos field. It was filled with a carpet of cosmos flowers when we visited. They were magenta, pink and white-colored, and were shaking with the wind in the sunshine. We saw that many people were visiting to enjoy this autumn field.

To get to this ancient capital, the gateway station is Kashihara-jingu-mae on the Kintetsu-Kashihara line. Our vehicle was the EMU Kintetsu 1233 series. It's a standard commuter train composed of a motorcar and a trailer (1M1T). It was commissioned in 1989. 15 sets in total were built by Kinki-sharyo. The 1233 series belongs to the 1230 series group trains. Different from the original 1230 series, the 1233 series has a new type of bogies named KD-96B (M) and KD-96C (T) developed by Kinki-sharyo. These bogies have a shorter wheelbase to manage curve tracks. Technical specifications of the Kintetsu trains vary depending on the train, so, it's hard to understand even for trainspotters like me.

Fujiwara-kyo ancient capital is now a vast cosmos field 

Official information about the EMU Kintetsu 1230 series (in Japanese):

Sunday, 14 November 2021

The City of Deer in 2021

Kyoto Municipal Subway 10 series (left), Hanshin 1000 series (right) at Nara station

Nara is the city of deer. One of the attractions is to be close to wild deer in the downtown area such as Nara Park. Deer in Nara have been protected as a messenger of God since the 8th century, and were designated as a Natural Treasure of the State in 1957. There are about 1,200 deer in the city. The number of deer has obviously been increasing. We came across a deer family even in a residential area this time. Tourists are allowed to feed deer, but be aware that wild deer can attack you especially in rut. For your information, feeding deer other than Shika-senbei is prohibited in Nara Park. Shika-senbei is a cracker sold at shops for tourists to feed deer in the park.

To meet with the wild deer, the nearest railway station is Nara on the Kintetsu line. We can see many kinds of trains from major cities in the Kansai District at this station. They are not only Kintetsu's trains but also other operators' ones. For example, we came across Hanshin Railway's train. It was the EMU 1000 series directly operated from Kobe City via the Hanshin-Namba line. It's an 8 or 2-car train commissioned in 2009. We also came across Kyoto Municipal Subway's train. It was the EMU 10 series directly operated from Kyoto City via the subway Karasuma line. It's a 6-car train commissioned in 1981.

The wild deer and various kinds of trains... I fully enjoyed Nara City.

Wild deer in Nara City

Official information, the EMU Hanshin 1000 series (in Japanese):
Official information, the EMU Kyoto Municipal Subway 10 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Revisit to the Ancient Capital

Kintetsu limited express train bound for Nara stands at Kyoto station

It's late-Autumn in Japan. The maximum daytime temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius in the main island, so, it's the best season for traveling. I visited Nara with my family for the first time in three years. Nara is the city where Japan's capital was located from 710 to 784. We fully enjoyed the autumn of this ancient capital.

To get to Nara, we took the Kintetsu line from Kyoto station. Our vehicle was the EMU 22000 series commissioned in 1992. It's the major model of the Kintetsu limited express fleet for the standard gauge (1,435 mm-wide gauge) track. Its egg-shaped frontal mask is cute and definitely my favorite. The 22000 series won the good design award from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 1993. Renovation of the bodies was then started in 2015. The body color was changed from a single color of orange to two-tone orange and white. The stripe was also changed from ultramarine to a gold color. Regarding the interior, seat cushions were replaced by the softer ones. Toilets were also replaced by new ones. Luggage racks were provided anew.

After arriving at Nara station, we firstly visited Todaiji-temple to see the Great Buddha, which is 15 meters high, and known as the largest gold and bronze Buddha in the world. It was originally completed in 752, and major repairs were conducted in the 12th and 16th centuries after civil wars and natural disasters. To my delight, visitors are allowed to take its photograph... it's very kind.

To be continued...

The Great Buddha of Todai-ji temple in Nara City

Types of Limited Express Trains, Kintetsu official website:
Official information about the EMU Kintetsu 22000 series (in Japanese):

Sunday, 7 November 2021

The 30th Anniversary of the EMU Tobu 200 Series

Set 205 of the EMU Tobu 200 series, "the 1800 series revival color"

On February 1st, 2021, Tobu Railway celebrated the 30th anniversary of the EMU 200 series operations. In commemoration of the anniversary, the company launched one set of special revival color train on the Isesaki and Kiryu lines. It's set 205 of the 200 series.

Set 205 was originally launched in 1992. It had white-colored steel bodies with red and black-colored stripes. On August 7th of this year, its body color was changed to a vivid red with white stripes. This color design was taken from the former "Ryomo" limited express train namely EMU 1800 series, which was retired from the track in 2018.

Incidentally, the 200 series belongs to the Tobu limited express train fleet. It's operated between Tokyo Metropolis and the northern Kanto District as a limited express train "Ryomo". The 200 series debuted in 1991 to replace the old train, the EMU 1800 series. 10 sets in total were built by Tokyu Sharyo and Alna Sharyo from 1990 to 1998. One set is composed of six cars.

What do you foresee in the future of the 200 series? I expect that all the 200 series will be replaced by the new model, EMU 500 series, in the near future. The number of the 500 series for Ryomo limited express trains has been increasing since 2017. On the other hand, two sets of the 200 series were scrapped for these two years. Nobody can stop the transition to the next generation regardless of whether you like it or not.

EMU Tobu 200 series, "standard color", travels on the Nikko line

Official information about the EMU Tobu 200 series, limited express "Ryomo":
Official information about the revival colored train (in Japanese):

Friday, 5 November 2021

Hakone Ropeway: Update

Hakone Ropeway

After getting off the Hakone Tozan Cable Car, I stopped by Sounzan station on the Hakone Ropeway after a long absence. Hakone Ropeway is a gondola lift opened in 1959. Connecting Sounzan and Togendai, its total operating length is 4.05 kilometers. The height difference between the lowest and the highest points is 303 meters. The route is currently divided into two sections, so, the passengers have to change the cabin at the intermediate Owakudani station. The operating system of Hakone Ropeway is "Funitel", which has two arms attached to two parallel overhead cables, providing more stability in high winds. Hakone Ropeway is officially recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records as the busiest aerial lift, since two million passengers per year are on board.

What's new with Hakone Ropeway? The company plans to replace the gondolas. The new gondolas will be TARIS built by CWA in Switzerland. TARIS is larger than that of the present gondola. It also has a wider door; thus, passengers can ride on or off safely and easily. Although it's delayed further than the first plan probably because of the COVID-19 calamity, I hope that the new gondolas will be commissioned soon.

Now is the time when we are getting deeper into autumn in the Hakone Mountains. I then visited Shissei-kaen (Botanical Garden of Wetlands) located in the northern part of Hakone. The forest and mountain around the Shissei-kaen glowed red, yellow and brown. It made a nice contrast with the blue sky.

Autumn colors in Shissei-kaen

Official website, Hakone Ropeway:

Monday, 1 November 2021

New Model on the Hakone Tozan Cable Car Line

Funicular set 01 (Ke11 and 21) travels on the Hakone Cable Car line

The state of emergency caused by the new corona virus has been lifted. I tasted a sense of freedom, and visited Hakone Cable Car line for the first time in nine years. What's new with this famous funicular railway?

I found the 5th generation new cable cars named set 01 and 02 on the track. They were launched in March last year to replace the 4th generation ones namely set HT1 and HT2. Just like the 4th generation model, the new model is also a 2-car train to transport flocking sightseers. Thanks to the mass transit vehicles, one train can accommodate 250 passengers. These new cars were built by Keio Juki and Von Roll Holding AG in Switzerland. The motor output for the operation is 230 kW. What's the major difference between the 4th generation retired model and the 5th generation new one? The answer is the layout of passenger seats. The retired model has cross seats; meanwhile, the new model has long seats. It's probably to reduce in-vehicle overcrowding.

For your information, the Hakone Cable Car line was opened in 1921, so, this is the 100th anniversary. Connecting Gora and Sounzan, the route length is 1,273 meters. The track gauge size is 983 mm. The height difference is 209 meters and the maximum inclination is 18.3 degrees. It takes 10 minutes from Gora to Sounzan station. One of the features of this funicular is 4 intermediate stations, which are not only for sightseers but also for local residents.

Funicular set 02 (Ke12 and 22) travels on the Hakone Cable Car line

Official website, Features of Hakone Tozan Cable Car:
Official information, the rolling stock of Hakone Tozan Cable Car (in Japanese):