Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Four Years Since Then

EMU JR East 205-3100 series travels on the Senseki Line (January, 2012)
Four years have passed since the 3.11 giant earthquake hit the Tohoku District of Japan.

Fortunately, there were no victims of train passengers because of the quake. The railways were saved by earthquake resistant constructions and the earthquake warning system. But, some routes are still suspended due to the damage caused by the tsunami disaster.

I visited the disaster area in January, 2012, 8 months after the earthquake. I saw that most of the trains were being operated normally at Sendai Station, but the JR East Senseki line was fully-destroyed by the giant tsunami in the section between Takagi-machi and Yamoto stations. So, passengers had to use the bus services provided by JR East. The Senseki Line is one of the main commuting arteries along in the Sendai area. Connecting Aoba-dori, the city center of Sendai, and Ishinomaki, the second largest city in Miyagi Prefecture; the total length of the route is 52 km.

On January 29th this year, JR East made a press release announcing that restoration of the Senseki Line will be completed by May 30th. The new track was constructed on the inland hill around the tsunami disaster area.

As the saying goes, "out of disaster springs fortune." I believe that people in the Tohoku District will recover from the devastating casualties, because they have good patience and a strong social bond. The recovery has advanced steadily; however, we still have a lot to do.
 EMU JR East 205-3100 series arrives at Nigatake Station on the Senseki Line (January, 2012)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Opening of the Ueno-Tokyo Line

EMU JR East E657 series (left) and the E233-3000 series (right) travel on the Ueno-Tokyo Line

I was asked a question from one of my blog readers regarding the opening of the Ueno-Tokyo Line. In answer to his question...

Along with the Hokuriku Shinkansen, the opening of the Ueno-Tokyo Line was big news, when a new timetable started on the JR lines on March 14th. What is the Ueno-Tokyo Line? It is JR East's fourth double track between Ueno and Tokyo stations. Its length is only 3.6 km, but the form of train operation has drastically changed in the Tokyo metropolitan area after the opening of it.

Curently, most trains on the Tokaido Main Line are directly operated onto the northern routes such as the Takasaki, Utsunomiya and Joban lines via the Ueno-Tokyo Line. So, we can embark on the Joban Line limited express train (the E657 series), Hitachi and Tokiwa from Shinagawa Station on the Tokaido Main Line. It looks convenient for passengers.

Please wait a moment. The Ueno-Tokyo Line is not all good. For instance, one of my colleagues complains that it became difficult to get a seat on the train to travel home in Yokohama City on the Tokaido Main Line. Before the new timetable started, he could easily secure a seat from Tokyo Terminal, as it was a starting station of the Tokaido Main Line; however, it has become difficult, since the origin of the trains has changed to the northern routes, after the new timetable started.

Commuters in the Tokyo metropolitan area have mixed feelings about the Ueno-Tokyo Line.

EMU Izukyu 2100 series (left) and the JR East E657 (right) series stand at Tokyo Station

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Train to the Hot Spot on the Sakurajima Line

Special poster train, the EMU JR West 201 series stands at Universal City Station

When I visited Osaka with my family last year, our main purpose was to see a new attraction in an amusement park, Universal Studios Japan (USJ). Along with Tokyo Disney Resort, USJ is a famous amusement park in Japan. It was opened in 2001 as the fourth theme park of Universal Parks & Resorts. It had been popular among tourists; however, subsequent to the late 2000's, the number of visitors decreased sharply.

On July 15th, 2014, USJ opened a new attraction to the public as a revival measure... "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter". Needless to say, this attraction was taken from the famous fantasy novels called the Harry Potter series. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has authentic-looking reproductions of the world of Harry Potter. I don't want to talk anymore about the attraction itself as you should just wait until you see it.

In the meantime, to visit USJ, please get off at Universal City Station on the JR West Sakurajima Line. It takes about 10 minutes from Osaka Station. Special poster trains, the EMU 201 series, are operated at intervals of 8 to 15 minutes. When I took the train last December, it was very crowded, like rush hour, even on a cold winter weekday. The only consolation was that we could use Suica and Pasmo (prepaid IC cards for railway passengers) of the Tokyo metropolitan area on this crowded line in Osaka.

The Sakurajima Line... it was a train to the hot spot in Osaka City.

"The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" in USJ near Universal City Station on the Sakurajima Line