Saturday, July 23, 2016

Iris Festival on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line

EMU Seibu 2000 series arrives at Higashi-Murayama Station on the Seibi-Shinjuku Line

Along with hydrangeas, irises are typically seen during the rainy season in Tokyo. Large colorful blossoms, specifically, the bluish purple-colored "Edo-murasaki" is my favorite. It is gorgeous, but elegant as well.

I visited Higashi-Murayama City in the western suburb of Tokyo Metropolis with my family last month to see full blown irises. Our destination was Kitayama Park, where the 2016 Iris Festival was being held. The irises were of course good, but the festival event was also attractive. We saw a welcome dance performed by local children, who wore traditional masks and danced in front of the visitors. It was very entertaining.

To get to Kitayama Park, we got on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line train and got off at Higashi-Murayama Station. Our vehicle was the EMU 2000 series. The 2000 series was launched in 1977 to reinforce Seibu Railway's transportation capacity. There were two types of the 2000 series on the Seibu lines. One was the old 2000 series and the other was the new 2000 (2000N) series. Our vehicle was the former. 

A total of 102 units of the old 2000 series had been built by Seibu-Tokorozawa Factory for three years. The technical specification of the 2000 series is rather old, but it still keeps its position as the main fleet of the line. The 2000 series is indeed a strongly build train. I slept well on the train, as the sound of its DC motors was very comfortable, like a lullaby for me.

Welcome dancing is performed by local children at the site of Iris Festival

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

EMU 701 Series in the Akita Area

EMU JR East 701 series stands at Akita station yard

On what occasion do you feel "I came far away from home" while traveling? You may feel like that, when you hear strange local dialect, or when you eat strange local food. In my case, I felt like that when I saw a strange local train while traveling.

Last month, I visited Akita City, as something came up. Akita is far from Tokyo. It takes about four hours by the Shinkansen train. After my long travel, I saw a strange local train at Akita Station, when I got off the Shinkansen train. What was it? It was a commuter train, EMU JR East 701 series. Its pink and purple-colored stripes made me feel "I came far way from home".

The EMU 701 series is an alternate current (AC) commuter train, which we can't see in the Tokyo metropolitan area. As you may know, most of the trains in Tokyo are operated by direct current (DC) electric systems; so, AC commuter trains are strangers to me.

The 701 series was launched in 1993 to replace old coaches in Tohoku District. It has 20,000 V AC and 50 Hz electric systems. There are two kinds of gauge sizes... one for the 1,067 mm gauge track and another one for the 1,435 mm. The 701 series in the Akita area has pink and purple-colored stripes, while the Sendai and Morioka areas' ones have other colored stripes.

Strange local trains always make me excited while traveling.

EMU JR East 701 series stands at Akita Station on the Oou Line

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Top View from the Skytree

EMU Tobu 200 and 10030 series are seen from Tembo Galleria of Tokyo Skytree

I recently visited Tokyo Skytree with my family for the first time. What is Skytree? It is a TV and radio broadcasting tower located in front of Tokyo Skytree Station on the Tobu Line. At 634 meters high, Skytree is known as the world's tallest freestanding broadcasting tower. Tobu Railway group started construction of this new tower in 2008, and completed it in 2011 just after the 3.11 giant earthquake in the eastern part of Japan.

Since it was opened in 2012, Skytree has become a reputable sightseeing spot in Tokyo, but it is always crowded with sightseers. I had been hesitant to visit there. It was not a place I wanted to go out of my way to visit. So why did I change my mind recently? It was simply because it is hot and humid every day. I just needed to escape from the recent intense heat, but I didn't expect much there.

After my visit, I have totally changed my opinion. The view from Tembo Galleria, an observation deck located 450 meters above ground level, was excellent. I could see the Tobu trains running beneath my feet including the EMU 200 series, a limited express train, and the EMU 10030 series, a commuter train. Those trains looked like miniatures on a model railway. I could also see the large Hikifune Station on the elevated tracks, numerous small buildings surrounding the station, and two large rivers meandering between the forest of buildings ... it was fantastic! 

Tokyo Skytree... it is worth visiting at least once.

Top view from Tembo Galleria (450 m above ground level) of Tokyo Skytree