Thursday, April 24, 2014

Passing through Rainbow Bridge by Yurikamome Train

EMU Yurikamome 7000 series passes through Rainbow Bridge
The Port of Tokyo Connector Bridge, also known as Rainbow Bridge, is a suspension bridge crossing Tokyo Bay between Shibaura Pier and the Odaiba Waterfront Subcenter. It was opened in 1993 as a 798m long double-decked suspension bridge.

You can drive through Rainbow Bridge using the expressway or the ordinary road; but I recommend you take the Yurikamome Line to enjoy the beautiful view in the bay area. Yurikamome is an AGT (automated guide way transit) line, which was opened in 1995 between Shimbashi in downtown Tokyo and Ariake in the Waterfront Subcenter. The current operating length is 14.7km. The vehicle is a small-sized train with rubber-tires instead of steel bogies.

If you get on the Yurikamome train from Shimbashi Terminal, please secure the "rail fan's seat" in the front of the train. Yurikamome train is operated automatically without a driver; therefore, the passengers can enjoy the view ahead while sitting on the rail fan's seat. You will, then, find a spiral track after leaving Shibaura-futo Station. It is an approach line to Rainbow Bridge to reduce the slope angle of the track. Finally, a beautiful suspension bridge will unfold before your eyes.

Your only regret might be that the view from the bridge beam is not fantastic, since the track on the beam is covered by a metal net. The cars on the parallel road may also obstruct your field of vision. Even so, passing through Rainbow Bridge by Yurikakome train is a cost effective attraction for tourists.

View of Rainbow Bridge from Yurikamome train on the spiral track

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Seibu Blue: Train and Management

EMU Seibu 20000 series arrives at Ekoda Station on the Ikebukuro Line
The management of Seibu Railway is probably feeling blue. Currently, they are far from enjoying a good relationship with the foreign investment fund, who is s major shareholder.

Seibu Railway had been known for being managed by members of a single family. When a scandal involved the company breaking a Security and
Exchange Law in the early 2000s, Seibu was delisted from the stock exchange in Tokyo. The company has, since then, been trying to dedicate themselves to modernizing the management style. The foreign investment fund was supposed to have been a "deus ex machina" after the crisis, but the difference of management style between Western countries and Japan was obvious. Japanese management tends to think that railway companies should promote public benefit rather than be profit-oriented; meanwhile the foreign fund tends to think the investor's position.

Although the management feels blue, the blue colored train, the EMU 20000 series of Seibu Railway, enjoys vigorous health. The 20000 series is one of Seibu's major rolling stock. It debuted in 2000 as a new generation commuter train following the 6000 series. The light body is made of aluminum. 135kW/h induction motors with an IGBT-VVVF invertor control and regenerative brake systems are equipped on the train. A total of 18 sets, 144 units, have been manufactured so far by Hitachi.

Seibu Blue will continue... both the train and the management.
EMU Seibu 20000 series (right) and the 9000 series (left)
More information about the EMU Seibu 20000 series (in Japanese):

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Flower Mountain on the Mooka Railway

Diesel railcar, Mooka Type 14 arrives at Kita-Mooka Station on the Mooka Line
Spring is in full bloom in the Tokyo metropolitan area. My next destination was "Hana-no-yama (Flower Mountain) in Ibaraki Prefecture, some 100km north of Tokyo.

Hana-no-yama is a kind of so-called "Satoyama". It is woodland near a populated area. Satoyama is protected from the ravages of nature, but cultivated by local people to some extent, so, a particular kind of ecosystem is created. For instance, a hill adjacent to a paddy is a typical Satoyama. We can see unique fauna and flora there.

In Hana-no-yama, we can see beautiful blossoms in spring including cherry, peach, Thunberg's meadowsweet, and forsythia. The field is filled with blossoming colorful plants. It is a paradise-like hill.

To visit this beautiful spot, take the Mooka Railway and get off at Motegi Terminal. Connecting Shimodate and Motegi, the line length is 41.9 kilometers. The whole route is an un-electrified single track. A diesel rail car, Type Mooka 14 is the main fleet on the line. This rail car was launched in 2002 to replace old cars of Type 63. A total of nine units have been manufactured by Fuji Heavy Industries and Nippon Sharyo. The Type 14 rail car has a checkered body. A red colored stripe with a white dashed line is added in the lower half of the body. It is quite unique and my favorite.

Hana-no-yama and the Type 14 rail car... the Mooka Railway is a colorful route in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

View of Hana-no-yama (flower mountain) near Motegi Station on the Mooka Line