Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hinoyama Ropeway: Access to the Superb Scenery

Hinoyama Ropeway

Hinoyama (Fire Mountain) is a small mountain in Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, about 1,100 km west of Tokyo. The altitude of the summit is 268.2 meters above sea level. The name, Hinoyama, came from the medieval fire signal station, not from a volcano. Currently, Hinoyama is known as a public park with beautiful flowers and scenery of the Kanmon Straits. I visited this superb spot last month with my family.

To get to the summit, Hinoyama Ropeway is convenient. It is an aerial tramway, which opened in 1958. Connecting Dannoura and Hinoyama stations, its route length is 438.96 meters. The height difference between the two stations is 165 meters. Its maximum inclination is 29.1 degrees. The gondola is operated every 20 minutes with an operating speed of 3.0 meters. It takes 4 minutes to go one way. The current gondolas, namely number 1 (Manju) and number 2 (Kanju), were built by Osaka Sharyo in 1978. Each gondola can hold up to 31 passengers.

The view from the summit was fantastic. It was a gorgeous spot to enjoy both views of the Kanmon Straits and Kanmon Bridge between Honshu (the main island of Japan) and Kyushu Island. The distant view of Mojiko Retro Heimat (height: 127 meters) in the urban area on Kyushu Island was also my favorite.

Although we visited Hinoyama during the daytime, the night view is also very beautiful, according to the Shimonoseki Tourism and Convention Association. We are going to visit there after sunset next time.

View of Kanmon Bridge and Mojiko Retro Heimat from Hinoyama Mountain

Monday, May 22, 2017

8568F: Tobu Revival Colored Train

8568F of the Tobu 8000 series travels on the Kameido Line

The Tobu-Kameido Line is a branch route of the Isesaki Line. It looks like a local line in the urban area. Connecting Kameido on the JR East Sobu Line and Hikifune on the Tobu Isesaki Line, there are five stations on the 3.4 km route. The track is double and electrified. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. Its gauge size is 1,067 mm.

Two-car trains (Mc + Tc) of the EMU 8000 series travel slowly on the Kameido Line. The train threads its way through shopping streets, densely built-up residential areas, and small factories. Its operating interval is every 7 to 8 minutes during rush hour and every 10 minutes during the daytime. The standard color of the 8000 series is white with a blue stripe.

On February 16th of this year, Tobu launched a new special colored train, 8568F (unit number 8568 and 8668) of the EMU 8000 series on the Kameido Line. It has a dark green colored body with a white stripe. Its color design is a revival of the test paint in the 1950s. For your information, 8568F was originally built in 1974 by Tokyu Sharyo and currently belongs to Kasukabe Rail Yard. It is also operated on the Daishi Line depending on the day. 

Along with 8577F (unit numbers 8577 and 8588), which is also a revival colored train with the orange and yellow colored design of the 1950s, 8568F has become a new star among the local kids and rail-fans.

8568F of the Tobu 8000 series arrives at Omurai Station on the Kameido Line

Friday, May 19, 2017

Shimonoseki: Key Junction City for Transportation

EMU JR West 115 series arrives at Shimonoseki Station on the Sanyo Main Line

Shimonoseki is the largest city of Yamaguchi Prefecture, about 1,100 km west of Tokyo. It is known as the westernmost city of Honshu Island (the main island). Currently, Shimonoseki has a population of 280,000.

Shimonoseki is also known as the key junction city for transportation. It is very close to Kita-Kyushu City on Kyushu Island across the Kanmon Straits. There are three tunnels and one bridge between the two cities, which are for the Sanyo Shinkansen (tunnel), the Sanyo Main Line (tunnel), the National Route 2 (tunnel), and the Kanmon Expressway (suspension bridge). As a result of these strong transportation ties, Shimonoseki and Kita-Kyushu cities form one greater urban area (the Kanmon Metropolitan area), which has a population of 1.3 million. If you want to access the urban scenery of this area, I recommend that you visit Kaikyo Yume Tower, which is a landmark of Shimonoseki City.

In the meantime, JR West's Shimonoseki functions as the gateway station to Honshu Island. Currently, most of the long distance passengers travelling between Honshu and Kyushu Island take the Sanyo Shinkansen via Shin-Shimonoseki (New Shimonoseki) station; however, Shimonoseki station is still crowded with local people traveling between the two islands.

The EMU JR West 115 series is the main fleet on the Sanyo Main Line. It is a standard commuter train with a dark yellow-colored body. When I visited Shimonoseki last month, I came across a rare renovated car, KuMoHa 114-1106, which had a unique flat face.

Night view of Kaikyo Yume Tower (153m) near Shimonoseki Station