Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Wrap Advertising Tram: Which is for what?

 Wrap advertising electric car 8808 of the Toei 8800 series

Do you often see wrap advertising trains in your country? In Japan, we often see flashy advertisements specifically on tram bodies in urban areas. Let's look at two examples on the Arakawa line of the Transportation Bureau, Tokyo Metropolitan Government (Toei).

The first example is seen on the side body of the 8800 series streetcar. You can see a yellow-colored polka-dot poster with cute mascot characters. The advertiser is a private university named Kagawa Nutrition University. It's a famous university for nutritional research established in 1961. As I posted before, Japan's population has entered into a decreasing phase. Universities can't keep their arms crossed in this situation. They are in competition to attract high school students, and have to improve their value. Otherwise, excellent students will select other universities. Kagawa Nutrition University is no exception. The wrapping advertising streetcar might be their last resort.

The second example is seen on the body of the 8900 series. You can see flashy vertical stripes of green, black and orange colors. The advertiser is a group of "rakugoka". Rakugo is a traditional Japanese comic storytelling. A rakugoka (a rakugo story teller) plays various people by himself (herself). This group plays rakugo on the tram of the Arakawa line once a month. The passengers can enjoy rakugo while boarding the tram. It'll be a relaxing time, and a wonderful memory for them. The fee is about 16 US dollars.

I hope you'll see a part of Japanese society from these wrap advertising trains.

Wrap advertising electric car 8908 of the Toei 8900 series

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Trans-peninsula Railways: Update, Part 3

Diesel railcar KiHa 40-2 (left) and 40-1 (right) of the Kominato KiHa 40 series

After enjoying Isumi Railway, I visited another railway constituting the trans-peninsula railways of Boso Peninsula. It's Kominato Railway.

To start, let's quickly review Kominato Railway. It's a local private company established in 1925. Connecting Goi and Kazusa-Nakano, there are 18 stations over a total operating length of 39.1 kilometers. The route was opened in 1928. The track is single and non-electrified. This railway forms the western half of the trans-peninsula railways.

Let's get down to the main topic. I'm going to show you Kominato's new diesel railcar, the KiHa 40 series. You might already know this, but the KiHa 40 series was originally developed by Japanese National Railways (JNR) in the 1970s. Kominato recently purchased five secondhand cars of the KiHa 40 series from JR East to replace the decrepit KiHa 200 series. Needless to say, JR East is one of the succeeding companies of JNR. Currently, two cars of those, namely KiHa 40-1 and 40-2, are operated on the line, but the remaining three cars are still under maintenance.

Let's see the details about KiHa 40-1 and 40-2. They were built by Niigata Tekko in 1979. Their original names were KiHa 40-2001 and 40-2006 respectively. After being operated in the northern part of Japan, these two cars were transferred to Kominato Railway in 2020, and started commercial operations in 2021. KiHa 40-1 has JR East's Tadami line-colored body (green-colored body); meanwhile, KiHa 40-2 has Kominato's original-colored body (orange-colored body). They were very beautiful under the spring afternoon sunlight.

Diesel railcar KiHa 40 series travels on the Kominato Railway line

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Trans-peninsula Railways: Update, Part 2

Diesel railcar Isumi KiHa 20-1303 stands at Ootaki station, Isumi Railway

Let me continue where I left off my last post.

Ootaki is a small town where Isumi Railway's headquarter is located. It has prospered as a castle town of Ootaki-jo (Ootaki Castle) since the 16th century. The current population is about 10,000. You can see a retro townscape with refurbished old shops and restaurants here and there. I took a noodle lunch with tempura at one of the popular restaurants on the main street. As you know, tempura is seafood or vegetables that have been covered in batter and fried in oil. That was absolutely delicious!

Let's get down to the main topic. I'm going to show you the other diesel railcar of Isumi Railway. It's "KiHa 20-1303" of the Isumi KiHa 20 series. This railcar was built by Niigata Transys in 2015. It has the same technical specifications as the Isumi 300 series. If so, what's the difference between KiHa 20-1303 and the 300 series? The answer is the outer design. KiHa 20-1303 has a special classic outer shape, which is similar to the Isumi 350 series (not the 300 series). On the other hand, its color design is the same as Japanese National Railways' (JNR's) diesel railcar named the KiHa 20 series. In short, KiHa 20-1303 is mixed with the Isumi 300's technical specifications, Isumi 350's outer shape and JNR KiHa 20 series' color design. For your information, the railcar's name, "KiHa 20-1303", is taken from JNR's diesel railcar of the same name. That's a little confusing, but I hope you understand.

To be continued...

Frozen in time of Ootaki Town near Ootaki station, Isumi Railway

Monday, 21 March 2022

Trans-peninsula Railways: Update

Diesel railcar 301 of the Isumi 300 series arrives at Ootaki station

It's getting warmer and warmer in Tokyo. The spread of COVID-19 is gradually lessening. A nice sunny day tempted me out into the countryside. My destination was Boso peninsula in Chiba Prefecture, some 80 kilometers east of Tokyo. I visited Isumi Railway for the first time in four years.

To start, let's quickly review Isumi Railway. It's a local company on Boso peninsula. Connecting Ohara and Kazusa-Nakano, there are 14 stations over a total operating length of 26.8 kilometers. The route is single track and non-electrified. Along with adjacent Kominato Railway, Isumi Railway constitutes the trans-peninsula railways.

Returning to the main topic, I'm going to show you Isumi's main vehicle named the 300 series. It's an 18 meter-long diesel railcar commissioned in 2012. Introduction of the 300 series was to replace the decrepit 200' series. Two cars in total were built by Niigata Transys. It has a 330ps/2100rpm diesel engine with a liquid transmission. To my joy, the 300 series has comfortable cross seats and a clean toilet. Specifically, cross seats are good for tourists to get a taste of vacation. Material of the seats' surface is made of blue-colored moquette resembling old trains of the ex-Japanese National Railways. It's very nostalgic for longtime rail-fans like me.

Incidentally, I was surprised that the train was crowded with many passengers even during the daytime on a weekday. Not only local people, but also a number of young tourists were on board. The spring travel season will start soon.

To be continued...

Diesel railcar Isumi 300 (left) and 350 (right) series (September 2018)

Official information about the rolling stock of Isumi Railway (in Japanese):

Friday, 18 March 2022

Nostalgic Train on the Keisei Line

Set 3688 (3688F) of the EMU Keisei 3600 series travels on the Keisei line

One day in August last year, I got off at Konodai station on the Keisei line to enjoy riverside walking. It was a hot and humid day, but the breeze across the river was very soothing. On my way back home, I came across a rare train at the station. It was similar to the old Tokyu trains such as the EMU 8000 series, but the position of the frontal lights was slightly different. What was that?

The answer is set 3688 (3688F) of the EMU Keisei 3600 series with a revival-colored design. The 3600 series is Keisei's old commuter train launched in 1982. 9 sets, 54 cars in total, were built by Tokyu Sharyo and Nippon Sharyo. Currently, only 2 sets, 10 cars (6-car x 1 set and 4-car x 1 set) are operated on the line. It originally had a field chopper electric control system; but 3688F was modified to a VVVF (variable frequency drive) electric control system in 1999.

The design of the 3600 series is just rustic, as I posted before. Furthermore, only 3688F has a special nostalgic design with a red-colored stripe on the bodies, so, it looks exactly like a typical commuter train in the 1980's. I don't know how long 3688F's current life will continue from now, but hope it will be cherished and operated on the line as long as possible.

I enjoyed both the comfortable riverside walking and the classic rare train on the same day. That summer day served me a double purpose.

Set 3688 (3688F) stands at Konodai station on the Keisei line 

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

EMU 3020 Series: The Latest Model on the Tokyu Lines

EMU Tokyu 3020 series arrives at Tamagawa station

On January, 27th, Tokyu Railways announced that the Sotetsu-Tokyu connecting line will be completed in March, 2023.

Let's quickly review the Sotetsu-Tokyu connecting line project. Tokyu is a major private railway company in the Tokyo metropolitan area. They have a clear strategy for enhancement of competitiveness... restructuring of the railway network. Take for instance, the Meguro line. It used to be part of a local route connecting Meguro and Kamata under the name of Mekama line, but the operation totally changed in 2000. The Mekama line was split into two routes, namely the Meguro and the Tamagawa lines at Tamagawa station. All trains on the Meguro line began to operate directly onto the Tokyu-Toyoko, Tokyo Metro-Namboku and Toei-Mita lines. It has boosted the convenience for passengers. Tokyu's next move is an extension of their line network toward further south. It's a construction of the Sotetsu-Tokyu connecting line. When the new line is completed, the Tokyu trains will be directly operated onto the Sotetsu line from Hiyoshi station.

For the above project, Tokyu prepares several kinds of trains. The latest model of those is the EMU 3020 series launched in 2019. It's a sister model of the 2020 series on the Den-en-toshi line and the 6020 series on the Oimachi line. The crescent-shaped accent strikes passengers' eyes. The large cowcatcher integrated with the face also stands out conspicuously. The 3020 series has white and blue-colored stripes.

Tokyu is preparing for the direct operation onto the Sotetsu lines sufficiently enough in advance.

EMU Tokyu 3020 series arrives at Shinmaruko station

Sunday, 13 March 2022

"B-class Gourmet" on the Yurakucho Line

Set 75 of the EMU Tokyo Metro 10000 series arrives at Shintomicho station

"B-kyu gourmet (B-class gourmet)" is a Japanese-made English phrase widely used in this country. It means "a person who likes inexpensive but tasty local food" or "inexpensive but tasty local food" itself.

For example, "monjayaki" is a "B-class gourmet (inexpensive but tasty local food)" in Tokyo. Simply put, monjayaki is a savoury pancake with various fillings. It's like okonomiyaki, but uses more soup than okonomiyaki. Monjayaki is made with a flour and water batter. In addition to flour, ingredients like dashi soup stock, Worcestershire sauce, cabbage, leek, shrimp and sliced squid are added.

If you go to eat monjayaki, please take the subway Yurakucho line and get off at Tsukishima station. You will easily find "Tsukishima monja street" in front of the station. There are a number of monjayaki restaurants on the street. I recently visited there with my family, and tasted monjayaki heartily.

On my way back home, I stopped by Shintomicho station for taking pictures of the Yurakucho line trains. As I posted before, Shintomicho is a precious underground station for rail-fans, because we can get a whole train including bogies in the frame there. The station consists of separated platforms. There are no pillars between the eastbound and westbound tracks. Thanks to the special structure of Shintomicho station, I could easily shoot the EMU Tokyo Metro 10000 series and other trains in a very short time.

The B-class gourmet followed by the subway train photography... Rail-fans always get a bonus, whenever they go out by train.

Monjayaki is a famous "B-class gourmet" in Tokyo   

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Kiki and Lala: Poster Train on the Tokyo Monorail Line

10041F of the EMU Tokyo Monorail 10000 series, "Kiki & Lala Monorail"

Airline companies continue facing difficulties due to the COVID-19 calamity in Japan. Accordingly, urban railway companies, which have airport access routes, are also in a tough situation. Tokyo Monorail is no exception. This company owns a monorail line between the Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) and Hamamatsucho in the downtown area. The number of passengers decreased by half after the calamity. As a result, 20% of the daytime trains have been suspended since March last year.

Even though it's in a difficult condition, Tokyo Monorail continues improving the quality of transportation to attract passengers. On October 22nd last year, the company started the renovation project of Hamamatsucho terminal. This old terminal was opened just before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics... 58 years ago. It's a large-scale renovation work, and will be completed in August, 2029.

Concerning the scrupulous passenger services, a special poster train, "Kiki & Lala Monorail", was launched on September 14th last year. It's set number 10041 (10041F) of the EMU 10000 series with Kiki and Lala decorations. Kiki and Lala are Sanrio's popular mascot characters along with Hello Kitty. Kiki and Lala are siblings called Little Twin Stars. We can see the world of fairy tale both on the bodies and interiors of the train. They are very cute and amuse passengers. The only drawback is that it's not easy to get beautiful images by cameras, since these characters were in pale and pastel colors.

Tokyo Monorail is going through trying times, but will survive with aggressive investment and passenger services.

Interior of "Kiki & Lala Monorail"

Official information about "Kiki & Lala Monorail" (in Japanese):
Official live camera, Tokyo Monorail:

Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Signs of Spring on the Odakyu Line

EMU Odakyu 30000 series, Romance Car "EXE-alpha"

It's March already. How quickly time flies! It's no use crying over spilt milk, so, I visited a plum grove in the neighborhood to find signs of spring. My destination was Hanegi Park on the Odakyu line. It's famous for the plum grove blooming in the early spring. When I visited there, white, pink and red-colored plums were half in bloom.

I found a beautiful green-colored bird sucking nectar of plum flowers on a tree. It must be a white-eye. I tried to take his (or her) pictures. Am I a bird watcher? No, I'm not. I like birds, but I have no patience. Trains are on time, but birds don't have timetables, so, I can't keep up with them. Joking aside, I could achieve my objective, taking a photo of a white-eye as seen in the picture below. I was fortunate.

To visit Hanegi Park, the nearest station is Umegaoka (Plum Hill) on the Odakyu line. On my way back home, I came across a limited express train, "Romance Car EXE-alpha" (EMU Odakyu 30000 series) passing through the station. EXE-alpha is a renovated train of EXE (Excellent Express). EXE was originally launched in 1996. After 21 years of its operation, Odakyu started renovation of EXE in 2017. The body color was changed from bronze (EXE) to silver (EXE-alpha). Currently, 10 of 14 sets are EXE-alpha. It was beautifully shining under the spring sunlight.

The gorgeous bird, "white-eye" and the shining Romance Car, "EXE-alpha". I could feel the signs of spring on the Odakyu line.

A white-eye sucks nectar of plum flowers

Official information about Odakyu Romance Cars:
Official information about EXE-alpha (in Japanese):

Saturday, 5 March 2022

Shinsen: Unique Station between Tunnels

A night scene of Shibuya tunnel, the Keio-Inokashira line

Following Yotsuya station on the JR East Chuo line, I'm going to show you the other unique railway station in Tokyo.

Shinsen is the first stop from Shibuya terminal by the Keio-Inokashira line. Even though it's next to the busy subcenter, the area around Shinsen station is incredibly calm due to its unique topography. Shinsen is located in a deeply dissected valley of a volcanic ash plateau. There is no space to construct large buildings, so, we can see only a quiet residential neighborhood in the vicinity of the station. A discreet station entrance is situated between two tunnels. The distance between the tunnels is only 15 meters.

Shinsen means "a spring of God", but my impression of this station belied its name. It was a scary station of my childhood, as it was dark even in the daytime. The last car of the train bound for Shibuya stopped in the tunnel. The passenger doors on the last car were not open, because the platform of this station was shorter than the train at that time.

Even now, I often fidget when I stand on the platform of Shinsen station. In the evening, the tunnel has a mystical glow by illuminations. I feel as if it's a gate to a different world. A monster might shoot out of the tunnel. Sorry, this is not a horror blog. Shinsen was designated as one of "the 100 Popular Stations in Kanto District" by the Ministry of Transport in 2000.

Shinsen station and Shibuya tunnel during the daytime, the Keio-Inokashira line

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Tokyo Sakura Tram... Wait, What?

 Electric car Toei 7706 with "Tokyo Sakura Tram" logo

"Kira-kira name (glittering name)" is a buzzword widely used in Japan. I'm not a native speaker of English, but I'd say it's similar to "bizarre name" in English. Kira-kira names are often seen in new babies' names. They are Cocoa, Honey, Lovely... and so on... mostly taken from English words.

In the railway industry, a well-known kira-kira name is "Tobu Urban Park line", as I posted before. I'm going to show you the other example today... "Tokyo Sakura Tram (Tokyo Cherry Tram)". On April 28th, 2017, the Transportation Bureau of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government gave a nickname of their tram route, "Arakawa line", to "Tokyo Sakura Tram". Wait, what? I'm not very fond of this nickname to be honest, because... (1) "tram" is not a common word in Japan. I wonder why some Japanese are eager to use English words in their daily life. (2) The local place-name "Arakawa" disappeared from the route name. It's inconvenient for passengers. (3) Sakura (cherry) is not a representative flower on the line. The Arakawa line is famous for roses. Local volunteers have been planting roses by the side of the track, and maintaining them since 2003. We should prize local people's feelings over everything else.

The metropolitan government makes excuses for example... There are many cherry trees on the line. The new name, "Tokyo Sakura Tram", was decided by popular voting. The new name will be friendly for inbound tourists... and so on. They're not altogether false, but I feel like something is wrong.

Electric car Toei 7026 and a rose garden (May, 2015)

Official information about Tokyo Sakura Tram (Toei Arakawa line):