Friday, August 22, 2014

Photogenic Bridge and SL Train

Special train, SL Ginga (C58 239 + DMU KiHa 141 series) passes through Glasses Bridge
 
One of the photogenic spots in Toono City is a railway bridge called Glasses Bridge, spanning the Miyamori River. Since the bridge looks like a pair of glasses, local people call it Glasses Bridge. Its formal name is Miyamori-gawa Railway Bridge.

The Glasses Bridge was constructed in 1915 by Iwate Light Railway (present JR East Kamaishi Line). It attains a height of 20 m and its length is 107 m. It is similar to another glasses bridge, which is preserved as a national important cultural property, in Gumma Prefecture; but, Miyamori-gawa Railway Bridge is still being used as a railway bridge in active service. I like this bridge, as it is not only an arched bridge but also the girder is beautifully curved.

When we visited this spot, many families and rail fans were waiting for a train. What was coming? It was a special train, "SL Ginga". SL Ginga (Milky Way) is a passenger train pulled by steam locomotive (SL), C58 239. It is operated only on weekends of vacation seasons. The leading SL was manufactured in 1940 by Kawasaki Sharyo. It was once retired in 1973, but came back onto the track in March this year after a careful inspection and maintenance.

The following 4-cars are not passenger coaches, but DMUs, KiHa 141 series. It is because the power of the SL is not strong enough to climb a steep track in the Kitakami Mountains. The blue colored bodies with the Milky Way design are my favorite.

 
DMU KiHa 141 series (Milky Way color)
 
More information about SL Ginga (in Japanese): http://www.jr-morioka.com/sl/

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Night View of Toono Station

Diesel railcars, JR East KiHa 100 series arrives at Toono Station on the Kamaishi Line
 
After stopping at Morioka City, we headed to Toono (or frequently designated as "Tono" in English), a small city in the central part of Iwate Prefecture. Toono is surrounded by the Kitakami Mountains and it is well known as a region of legends and folklores. It became famous after Yanagida Kunio, an ethnologist, wrote a book called, "Toono Monogatari (The legends of Toono)" in 1910.

In fact, there are numerous legends and folklores in this region. "Kappa" and "zashiki warashi" are depicted in many legends. Kappa is an imaginary animal shaped like a child but with a dish of water on its head. It lives on either land or in water. On the other hand, zashiki warashi is a spirit believed to protect houses. Even now, there are some inns, where zashiki warashi is known to appear in the middle of the night. Do you believe in it?

To visit this mysterious city, we took the JR East Kamaishi Line and got off at Toono Station. The Kamaishi Line is a local route connecting Ichinoseki on the Tohoku Main line and Kamaishi stations. The total operating length is 90.2 km. The whole route is single and non-electrified. Trains are operated every two hours on average.

When we arrived at Toono Station, it was already dark and rainy... it was so quiet. We checked into a hotel located on the second floor of the small two-storied station building... it was very convenient and cozy.

To be continued...

 
Night view of Toono Station on the JR East Kamaishi Line

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mid-summer Trip to Iwate Prefecture

EMU JR East Shinkansen E5 series, super express "Hayabusa (falcon)", stands at Morioka Station
 
It's "obon" week again in Japan. Obon is a Buddhist festival to recognize ancestral spirits. The souls of the dead are believed to return to their families during the festival. It's an occasion for people to visit their relatives' graves to pray and make offerings of food and flowers. So, many people take holidays, and go back to their hometowns. My hometown is Tokyo, but I also took a summer vacation and went to the north with my family. This year's destination was Iwate Prefecture, some 500km north of Tokyo.

To visit Iwate, the Tohoku Shinkansen train is convenient. The newest model EMU JR East E5 series, a super express train "Hayabusa (Falcon)" is very comfortable with a maximum speed of 320km/h (199MPH). A total of 28 sets, 280 units, are operated on the line. It is a major fleet of the Tohoku Shinkansen trains, currently.

After arriving at Morioka, the main city of Iwate Prefecture, I met with my old friend and visited Morioka Handi-works Square together. The handi-works square is a reputable sightseeing spot for visitors to experience making local crafts and meals including pottery art, woodworking, dyeing, making toys, and cooking. I tried to cook local noodles, "Reimen" as I was hungry. Reimen is a Moriokan's "soul-food", which is cold noodles topped with egg, water melon and cucumber. It's a very special feeling to eat my self-cooked meal.

To be continued...

 
 I cook local noodles, "Reimen" at Morioka Handi-works Square near Morioka Station
 
More information about the Tohoku Shinkansen: