Sunday, August 20, 2017

EMU 13000 Series: New Model on the Hibiya Line

EMU Tokyo Metro 13000 series arrives at Nishi-Arai Station on the Tobu Line

I am posting a topic on the Subway Hibiya Line for the first time in four years. What has become of this busy commuter line?

On March 25th this year, Tokyo Metro, an operator of the subway lines, launched a new model, the EMU 13000 series, on the Hibiya Line. The introduction of the new model was for the first time, indeed, in 29 years. What was the difference between the old 03 series and the new 13000 series?

The largest difference is the size of the train bodies. The old 03 series has short 18 m-long bodies; while the new 13000 series has long 20 m-bodies. The Hibiya Line is an old route opened in 1961. There were many tight curves just below street intersections. The introduction of the large sized trains had been blocked for a long time, but there was no fighting against the trend of the times. Tokyo Metro has eventually removed the obstacles beside the tracks on the tight curves, and enabled the 20 m-long body trains to operate on the line. According to Tokyo Metro, 44 sets of the 13000 series will be built, and will replace the 03 series by 2020.

In the meantime, the trains on the Hibiya Line are directly operated onto the Tobu Line, which is also one of the transportation arteries in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Tobu has also recently introduced the new model. I am going to report it soon.

To be continued.

Side view of the EMU Tokyo Metro 13000 series

Official information about the EMU Tokyo Metro 13000 series:
http://www.tokyometro.jp/susumetro/en/newhibiyaline/

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Access to the Place of Ascetic Training

Mt. Shosha Ropeway in Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture

Shosha-zan (Mt. Shosha) is a small mountain (371 m above sea level), where a rich natural environment remains. It is located in Himeji City of Hyogo Prefecture about 650 km west of Tokyo. Engyo-ji temple is in the center of the mountain. Along with Enryaku-ji temple on Hiei-zan (Mt. Hiei) in Kyoto Prefecture, Engyo-ji is known as a place of ascetic training for Buddhists.

Engyo-ji was opened in 966 by Shoku, who was a Buddhist monk. Among the many beautiful halls in the temple precinct, I like Jikido best. It is a wooden, full two-story structure originally opened in 1194. The current building was supposed to be re-constructed in Muromachi period (1336-1573). It is designated National Important Cultural Property of Japan.

To visit this holy place, please take aerial tramway Mt. Shosha Ropeway. Connecting Sanroku and Sanjou stations, its operating length is 781 meters. The height difference between the two stations is 211 meters. Its operating speed is 5 meters per second and it takes 4 minutes to get to Sanjou Station. The operating interval is 15 minutes on average.

Mt. Shosha Ropeway was opened in 1958 by the Transportation Bureau of Himeji City. The current two gondolas, which were built by Anzen-sakudo Company, were launched in 1992 as the third generation of gondolas. The riding capacity is 71 passengers in each one. The passengers can enjoy a beautiful view of Himeji City.

Mt. Shosha Ropeway... an access to the place of ascetic training.

Jikido hall in Engyo-ji temple near Sanjou Station on the Mt. Shosha Ropeway

Official information about Mt. Shosha Ropeway (in Japanese):

Monday, August 14, 2017

Two-faced Diesel Rail-car on the Bantan Line

Diesel rail-car Class KiHa 41 of the JR West KiHa 40 series arrives at Takeda Station

When I visited Takeda Castle Ruins last month, I came across a rare diesel rail-car, which had two kinds of "faces", at Takeda Station on the JR West Bantan Line. What was it?

It was the Class KiHa 41 diesel rail-car. The KiHa 41 was originally built as a single cab car namely the Class KiHa 47. It was, then, renovated as a double-cab diesel rail-car, and renamed the Class KiHa 41. The rounded face on one side is the original one; while the flat face on the other side is attached as a renovation. Thanks to the double-cab, the Class 41 is able to be operated in two directions as a single-car train. I like this rare two-faced diesel rail-car as a rail-fan. You also probably feel that way.

In the meantime, the JR West Bantan Line also has two faces. The section between Himeji and Teramae is electrified and is a typical urban commuter line. The EMU 103-3500 series is operated every half an hour on average. On the other hand, the section between Teramae and Wadayama is un-electrified and a typical local line. The Class KiHa 41 or the KiHa 40 series diesel rail-car is operated every hour on average. It is similar with the JR East Hachiko Line, which also has an electrified urban commuter section and a local un-electrified section.

Two-faced diesel rail-car and the two-faced route, we can derive great pleasure from the Bantan Line.

Diesel rail-car Class KiHa 41 of the JR West KiHa 40 series stands at Teramae Station

Friday, August 11, 2017

Japanese Machu Picchu on the Bantan Line

Unit number 2007 of the diesel rail-car JR West 40 series, "Sky Castle"

Takeda Castle Ruins is located in Hyogo Prefecture about 700 km west of Tokyo. It had been an obscure historic spot for a long time, but the situation drastically changed in 2006. The ruins was nominated as one of Japan's Top 100 Castles by Japan Castle Foundation. Since then, visitors to Takeda Castle Ruins have been rapidly increasing.

Takeda Castle was originally built by Yamana Sozen in 1431. It is located at the top of Mt. Kojo. We can see many impregnable stone walls on the steep mountain slopes. The current stone walls were constructed in the 16th century. Because of its scenery, the name of the castle ruins was generalized to "Japanese Machu Picchu (famous remains of the Inca Empire in Peru)" by the media as time went by. In fact, the castle ruins covered by autumn fog look like Machu Picchu.

To visit this ruins, the nearest station is Takeda on the JR West Bantan Line. The Bantan Line is a local route connecting Himeji on the Sanyo Shinkansen and Wadayama on the San-in Main Line. Its operating length is 65.7 km. The track is single and partly electrified. Takeda is located on the mid-point of the un-electrified section.

Diesel rail-cars, the KiHa 40 series, are the main rolling stock on the Bantan Line. A special poster train, "Sky Castle" is operated to promote tourism to Takeda Castle Ruins. Sky Castle train is unit number 2007 of the KiHa 40 series. It has the images of the castle ruins on its body.

Takeda Castle Ruins near Takeda Station on the JR West Bantan Line

Official information about Sky Castle train (in Japanese):

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Thomas Land Train on the Fujikyu Line

EMU Fujikyu 5000 series, Thomas Land Train, passes through Tokaichiba Station

Thomas Land is an outdoor theme park operated by Fujikyu Railway Company in Yamanashi Prefecture. It constitutes a part of Fujikyu Highland Resort, which was originally opened as a large skating rink in the early 1960's. As you noticed, Thomas is named after a British TV series, "Thomas and Friends". It is very popular among Japanese kids. Catching onto the popularity of this TV series, Fujikyu opened Thomas Land in 1998.

To visit Thomas Land, the nearest station is Fujikyu Highland on the Fujikyu Line. If you visit there with small children, I recommend you ride a special train, named "Thomas Land Train" from Otsuki Terminal. Thomas Land Train is a poster train with Thomas and his friends' characters on the bodies. The interior of the Thomas Land Train is also fantastic. For instance, there is an imitation cabin just behind the real cabin, so that kids can feel what it's like to drive the train in the cabin.

The vehicle, which goes into service as Thomas Land Train, is the EMU 5000 series. It was originally built by Nippon Sharyo in 1975. Its specification is rather old at this distance of time, but the 5000 series has some advanced equipment of those days, for example, a speed-reducing brake system as a measure against a steep falling gradient.

For your information, you are not required to pay any extra charge to ride Thomas Land Train. You can ride it with only a standard ticket. It will be valuable information for travelers.

An imitation cabin is equipped for children inside Thomas Land Train

Official information about Thomas Land Train (in Japanese):

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Unique Spot on the Yamanote Line, Part 2

Underpass between Tamachi and Shinagawa stations on the JR East Yamanote Line

Following the only railway crossing between Komagome and Tabata stations, I am going to show you the other unique spot on the JR East Yamanote Line today.

Please look at the picture. It is a railway underpass between Tamachi and Shinagawa stations. It looks to be a railway underpass like any other, but it has only a slight amount of head clearance. Its height limitation is 1.5 meters. Only sedans can narrowly pass through this underpass. Adults have to duck their heads to get through there. The length of the underpass is about 230 meters. It passes through not only the Yamanote Line, but also the other lines, namely the Keihin-Tohoku Line, the Tokaido Main Line, the Yokosuka Line and the Tokaido Shinkansen. The inside of the underpass is dark even during the daytime. 

I wonder why it is so narrow. It was probably originated from the topography. The railway between Tamachi and Shinagawa stations was originally located on the sea. In other words, the track was constructed on reclaimed land more than 100 years ago. The height above sea level was almost zero so that the underpass must have been constructed above sea level to prevent the risk of flooding. It was impossible to pump out water from the underpass at that time.

I found a signboard set at the entrance that said this underpass was planned to be cleaned soon. I am looking forward to seeing the reborn underpass soon.

Inside the underpass

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Unique Locomotive in Hachioji Station Yard

Diesel locomotive Class JR Freight HD300 stands at Hachioji Station Yard

I have recently visited Hachioji City in Tokyo Metropolis, as something came up. After finishing my meeting, I came across a unique locomotive at Hachioji Station on the way back home. Please look at the picture. It is a hybrid locomotive, Class HD300, owned by JR Freight (hereafter JRF). I saw this high-tech locomotive for the first time in a while. The last time I saw it was when I visited JRF Sumidagawa Freight Station three years ago to join the 2014 Sumidagawa Station Freight Festival.

The Class HD300 is a switcher locomotive working in station yards. It was launched in 2011, and a winner of the 2012 Laurel Prize awarded by Japan Rail Fan Club. A total of 26 units have been built so far by Toshiba. They currently belong to JRF Tokyo, Niiza, Koshigaya and Sumidagawa freight stations, JR East Hachioji Station and so on. The HD300 has dual electric power sources, namely a diesel generator and lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. Permanent magnet synchronous motors (PMSM) with VVVF inverter (variable frequency drive) electric control system are on-board.

The HD300 is a quiet, eco-friendly and state-of-the-art locomotive, but its design is not my cup of tea to be honest. It looks like LEGO, a toy. The other or more serious problem must be its manufacturing cost. Unfortunately, JRF stopped to additionally introduce this unique locomotive in 2017, probably because of its high manufacturing cost. The Class HD300 locomotive would be no longer built.

Side view of the Class HD300

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Iris Garden on the Tobu Noda Line

EMU Tobu 10030 series travels on the Noda Line

From early June to mid-July, the Tokyo metropolitan area has a hot and humid rainy season, called Tsuyu. It is a gloomy period for Tokyoites before midsummer, but it is a pleasure to see some kinds of beautiful flowers which only bloom in this season. Along with hydrangeas, irises are typically seen during the rainy season in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The large colorful blossoms are gorgeous, but elegant as well. It is said that the practice of viewing iris flowers began to spread throughout Japan in the 13th century by flower-loving Samurais.

Last month, I visited the famous iris garden, called Someya Iris Garden, in Saitama City. The nearest station was Nanasato on the Tobu Noda Line, but it was a bit far from the station (about 4 km). The garden was a 60 minute walk from the station. Although it was inconvenient to get to, but I saw many flower lovers there. 

In the meantime, the Noda line is a circular route in the eastern half of the Tokyo metropolitan area, connecting Omiya and Funabashi. The route length is 62.7 km. The track is mostly double and the gauge size is 1,067 mm. Along with the 8000 and the 60000 series, the EMU 10030 series is operated on the Noda Line. It was originally operated on the other Tobu lines and has been moved to the Noda Line since 2013. It has stainless steel bodies with blue and light green colored stripes after moving to the Noda Line.

Someya Iris Garden near Nanasato  Station on the Tobu Noda Line

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Toyama Port Line: Another Tram Route in Toyama City

Toyama Light Rail Company TRL0600 series, "Portram", travels on the Toyama Port Line

Tram routes in Japan have been abolished one after another due to heavy traffic jams. However, there is an exception. Toyama city, which is located about 390 km northwest of Tokyo, recognizes the merits of a tram system. This local city has been creating a tram network as a main urban transportation system from the point of view of environmental protection and a barrier-free concept.

The Toyama-ko Line (Toyama Port Line) is a typical tram route in Toyama City. It had been operated as a standard railway by JR West. It was, then, succeeded by Toyama Light Railway Company, and renovated as a tram route in 2006. Connecting Toyama-eki-kita (Toyama Station North) and Iwasehama, its total operating length is 7.6 km. The track is single and electrified. The electric system is 600 V DC overhead.

The main fleet of the Toyama Port Line is the TRL0600 series. It is a low-floor type articulated vehicle. So far, a total of 7 sets, 14 units have been built by Niigata Transys. One of the features of this model is that each set shows a different body color. It is very colorful backed by the urban scenery.

For your information, the Toyama Port Line will be connected with the other tram route, named City Tram Line at JR West Toyama Station in 2020. Once the construction is completed, the trams are directly operated between the above two lines. It will be more and more convenient for passengers.

Toyama Light Rail Company TRL0600 series, "Portram", stands at Iwasehama Station

Official information about the Toyama Light Rail TRL0600 series, "Portram" (in Japanese):
Official information about the Toyama Port Line (in Japanese):

Monday, July 24, 2017

Road to the Resort Island

Diesel rail-car JR West Class KiHa 47 of the KiHa 40 series stands at Shimonoseki Station

Tsunoshima is a small island offshore in the Sea of Japan in Yamaguchi Prefecture, about 1,100 km west of Tokyo. It is famous its white beach with emerald green water. The delicious sea food also attracts holidaymakers. What made Tsunoshima Island famous is Tsunoshima-ohashi Bridge. Connecting Honshu (the main island of Japan) and Tsunoshima Island, whose length is 1,780 m. It was opened in 2000 as a free prefectural road. Amagase Park, which is located at the Honshu side of the bridge entrance, is a notable photogenic spot. 

To get to this resort island, I took the JR West Sanin Line from Shimonoseki, and headed to Kottoi Station. It took about 70 minutes by local train. I, then, changed there for the bus bound for Tsunoshima Island. My vehicle on the Sanin Line was a diesel rail-car, Class KiHa 47 of the KiHa 40 series. The body color was vermilion, which is the so-called "metropolitan color". The KiHa 40 series is a standard diesel rail-car for local lines. It was launched in 1977 by Japanese National Railways (JNR). JNR was Japan's largest railway network at that time, so, the KiHa 40 series was soon introduced to local lines all over Japan such as Hokkaido, Honshu and Kyushu Island. After JNR was split into seven railway companies in 1987, the KiHa 40 series has started retirement. For instance, the last KiHa 40 series rolling stock in the Tokyo metropolitan area disappeared in March this year. 

I enjoyed the beautiful resort island and the nostalgic diesel rail-car in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Tsunoshima-ohashi bridge near Kottoi Station on the JR West Sanin Line

Friday, July 21, 2017

New Relaxing Train on the Seibu Railway Network

EMU Seibu 40000 series passes through Tsunashima Station on the Tokyu-Toyoko Line

Japan has a problem that urban commuter trains are always crowded in the rush hour. On the other hand, it will soon be another problem that a number of urban commuters decrease due to the decreasing birthrate and population. It is a dilemma for the railway companies. What should they do?

For the former problem, the urban railway companies are continuously conducting enhancement of transportation capacity, such as constructions of double-double tracks and introductions of the longer trains. On the other hand, for the latter problem, many companies have started to operate special commuter trains with reserved seats to improve the quality of passenger service.

Please look at the picture. It is Seibu's new EMU, the 40000 series, launched on March 25th this year. This new model is operated as a commuter train with reserved seats between Tokorozawa on the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line and Toyosu on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line on weekdays. It is also operated as a sightseeing train between Seibu-Chichibu on the Seibu-Chichibu Line and Motomachi-Chukagai on the Minato-Mirai Line on weekends.

One of the features of the 40000 series is its multi-purpose seat, which the conductor can change from long seats to cross seats using a remote control. Needless to say, the 40000 series is used as a cross seat train, when it is operated as a reserved seat train, named the "S-train". It is similar with those of "Keikyu Wing" and "Tobu TJ Liner".

S-train... it is a new relaxing train on the Seibu railway network.

EMU Seibu 40000 series leaves Tsunashima Station on the Tokyu-Toyoko Line

Official information about S-train (in Japanese): https://www.seiburailway.jp/express/s-train/

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

EMU 415 Series: Inter-island Commuter Train

EMU JR Kyushu 415 series arrives at Shimonoseki Station

As I posted before, Shimonoseki is known as the westernmost city of Honshu Island (the main island), about 1,100 km west of Tokyo. It is very close to Kita-Kyushu City on Kyushu Island across the Kanmon Straits via Kanmon Railway Tunnel, so that Shimonoseki functions as a gateway city to Kyushu Island.

If you visit JR West Shimonoseki Station, you can see not only JR West's rolling stock, but also trains from JR Kyushu lines. For instance, the EMU 415 series is the representative commuter train from Kyushu Island. The 415 series was launched in 1971 by Japanese National Railways (hereafter JNR). It is an AC (alternate current)-DC (direct current) dual electric system train built by Tokyu Sharyo, Nippon Sharyo and so on. Currently, JR Kyushu has a total of 40 sets, 160 units of the 415 series. This model is operated as a DC train on the section between Shimonoseki and Moji stations via Kanmon Railway Tunnel; while it is used as an AC train on the tracks on Kyushu Island.

The outer design of the 415 series is the same as that of the JR West 115 series on the Sanyo Main Line. It is JNR's standard commuter train with a so-called "Tokai-type" face. Tokai is named after the Tokaido Line. As the name suggests, the first Tokai-type train had been operated on the Tokaido Line since 1958.

The EMU JR Kyushu 415 series... it is an inter-island commuter train with a traditional Tokai-type face.

Night view of Shimonoseki City near Shimonoseki Station

Saturday, July 15, 2017

EXE-alpha: Renovated Romance Car on the Odakyu Line

EMU Odakyu 30000 series, Romance Car EXE-alpha, passes through Kyodo Station

On March 1st, Odakyu Electric Railway Company launched a renovated Romance Car, EXE-alpha, set numbers 30251 (6-car train) and 30051 (4-car train) of the EMU 30000 series on their tracks. 

The EMU 30000 series, EXE, is the first multipurpose Romance Car on the Odakyu Line. EXE stands for "Excellent Express". It was commissioned in 1996 to replace the old model, the 3100 series, named NSE. Since one set of the train is composed of ten twenty-meter cars (a total length of 200 meters), it has a greatly increased passenger capacity. One set can be broken up into six and four car sections to enhance operational flexibility as a multipurpose Romance Car. Different from the other traditional Romance Car models, such as the 7000 (LSE) and the 50000 (VSE) series, the 30000 series (EXE) doesn't have an upstairs cockpit. 

After 21 years of its operation, the 30000 series, EXE, has been reborn as EXE-alpha. Where are those different? Firstly, the body color was changed from bronze to silver. Some rail-fans may favor it, as a silver medal is superior to a bronze medal. Secondly, the interior was upgraded. For instance, a luggage space was equipped in some cars. It is good news for inbound foreign passengers. Thirdly, the travelling apparatus was changed. For example, the electric control system was replaced from IGBT-VVVF (insulated gate bipolar transistor-variable frequency drive) to SiC-VVVF (silicon carbide-variable frequency drive) inverter system to reduce the electric power consumption.

EXE-alpha provides passengers with extra hospitality.

EMU Odakyu 30000 series, Romance Car EXE (original)

Official information about EXE-alpha, the EMU Odakyu 30000 series (in Japanese):

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Unique Spot on the Yamanote Line

A railway crossing between Komagome and Tabata stations on the Yamanote Line

The JR East Yamanote Line is well known as Japan's busiest railway. Eleven-car trains, namely EMU E231-500 and E235 series, are operated every 2 minutes 30 seconds in the morning, every 4 minutes during the daytime and every 3 minutes in the evening of weekdays. Even on Sunday and national holidays, the trains are operated every 3 minutes 20 seconds on average.

The route length of the Yamanote Line is 34 km. It is looped through several downtown areas of Tokyo, such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro and Shinagawa. The track is double and its gauge size is 1,067 mm. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. Each train runs in the same direction throughout the day; clockwise or counterclockwise. The train covers the entire route in about 60 minutes. There are 29 stations and most of them are interchange stations to the subway, private railways and/or other JR lines. 

The track of the Yamanote Line is generally elevated or three-dimensionally crossed with the other railways or roads; however, there is a railway crossing between Komagome and Tabata stations. Please look at the picture. It looks to be a railway crossing like any other, but actually, it is the only railway crossing on the Yamanote Line. I visited this unique spot last weekend, and took pictures. Different from the other sections on the line, it is a residential neighborhood, a rare sight. I never dreamed of there being such a quiet area on the busy Yamanote Line.

EMU JR East E231-500 series passes through a railway crossing on the Yamanote Line

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Fujisan View Express on the Fujikyu Line

EMU Fujikyu 8500 series, Fujisan View Express, passes through Higashikatsura Station

The number of foreign tourists visiting Japan has been increasing. According to the Japan National Tourist Organization, the aggregate number of inbound tourists in 2016 totaled 24 million, which was a record-breaking increase by as much as 24 % on a year-to-year basis.

One of the popular spots for foreign sightseers is Mt. Fuji., which is located between Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures. Needless to say, Mt. Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan. It is 3,776 meters above sea level. This stratovolcano has erupted several times, so that the shape of Mt. Fuji is beautifully well balanced in right and left directions.

If you plan to visit this reputable mountain, I recommend you take Fujikyu Railway from Otsuki on the JR East Chuo Main Line. Fujikyu is a local railway company in Yamanashi Prefecture. Connecting Otsuki and Kawaguchi-ko (Lake Kawaguchi), its operating length is 23.6 km.

On April 23rd, 2016, Fujikyu launched a new sightseeing train, "Fijisan View Express" using a new model, the EMU 8500 series. The 8500 series is the ex-JR Central 371 series, "Asagiri (morning fog)", which had been operated on the Gotemba Line and the Odakyu Line until 2014. After its retirement, the 8500 series was moved to Fujikyu Railway, and completely renovated. Although it was decreased from 7 to 3 cars, the 8500 series has a special lounge car, in which you can enjoy superb views and delicious sweets.

Fujisan View Express, it is the new flagship express train on the Fujikyu Line.

EMU Fujikyu 8500 series, Fujisan View Express, passes through Tokaichiba Station

Official information about Fujisan View Express (in Japanese):

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Hydrangea Garden on the Sotobo Line

Set C438 of the EMU JR East 209 series travels on the Sotobo Line

The season of hydrangea flowers in downtown Tokyo has almost ended, but still continues in suburban areas. Mobara, which is located about 75 km east of Tokyo, is one such area. Hatttori-noen (Hattori Farm) is one of the famous hydrangea gardens in Mobara City, Chiba Prefecture.

Hattori Farm looks like just an ordinary farmer's house standing in front of a small hill, but once you enter the gate, you will see a marvelous view. There is a carpet of hydrangeas blooming on the slope of the hill. They are purple, blue, pink and white colored. The sizes of the flowers look larger than those in the other gardens. I saw plenty of holidaymakers who seemed to come from not only the city but also outside the prefecture like me.

The nearest station to Hattori Farm is Mobara on the JR East Sotobo Line. Mobara is a large station as it is the central station of the city. Each day, 25 limited express trains, Wakashio, stop at this station. It takes 54 minutes from Tokyo Station. It is quite convenient, but I used a local train this time as I had enough time.

The local train operated on the Sotobo Line is the EMU 209-2000 and the 209-2100 series. Both models were launched in 2009 on the Sotobo Line. The 209-2000 series has pneumatic passenger doors; meanwhile the 209-2100 series has electric passenger doors. They are composed of 6-car and 4-car trains with 4 and 2 motorcars.

Hydrangea garden in Hattori Farm near Mobara Station on the JR East Sotobo Line

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Last Steel Body Commuter Train on the Keisei Line

EMU Keisei 3400 series arrives at Yachiyodai Station on the Keisei Main Line

In present-day Japan, most new trains have stainless steel or aluminum bodies. They are resistant to corrosion, meaning that the bodies do not need to be painted, and they have cost merits, as well as a high maintenance efficiency.

The shining stainless steel body is very beautiful in the sunlight. I still remember visiting Eifuku-cho Rail Yard with my grandpa in my childhood and seeing the brand spanking new train, the Keio 3000 series, shining brilliantly in my eyes. That was my first experience to meet with a stainless steel body train. Since then, stainless steel body trains have been my favorite. Having said that, there are too many stainless steel body trains in Tokyo today. They are no longer rare. Rail-fans feelings for trains somchietimes change; they are fickle people, including me, so fully painted steel body trains have now become more cool and nostalgic.

I was recently fascinated or spellbound by the EMU Keisei 3400 series, which is a fully painted steel body train. With its light gray colored body and blue and red stripes, it is beautiful under the sunlight. The 3400 series was launched in 1993 using the demolished traveling apparatus of the Keisei AE series. Its clean and beautiful body hasn't faded despite 24 years having passed by. Its major assignment is to transport commuters from the eastern suburbs to the city center of Tokyo.

The EMU 3400 series, it is the last steel body trains on the Keisei Line.

EMU Keisei 3400 series passes through Senju-ohashi Station on the Keisei Main Line

Friday, June 30, 2017

Hydrangea Season on the Kawagoe Line

EMU JR East E233-7000 series arrives at Nishi-Omiya Station on the Kawagoe Line

On June 7th, the Japan Meteorological Agency announced that this year's rainy season had begun in Tokyo. From early June to mid-July, the Tokyo metropolitan area has a hot and humid rainy season called Tsuyu. Although it is a gloomy period before midsummer, it is a pleasure for me to see beautiful hydrangea flowers. There are many famous places with hydrangea blossoms in the Tokyo metropolitan area. I visited Saitama City in Saitama Prefecture with my family this year.

Nishi Ward is located in the northwestern part of Saitama City, about 40 km northwest of Tokyo. This neighborhood has recently become a residential area, but it has a long history as a rich agricultural area, where various crops including rice and vegetables are being produced. Nishi Ward also has a historical shrine, Sashiogi-Hikawa Jinja, which dates at least back to 796. In this season, we can see fully blown hydrangeas in the garden of the shrine. More than 1,500 hydrangeas are planted there. Especially, I like to view the large blue colored flowers in the garden.

The nearest station to the garden was Sashiogi on the JR East Kawagoe Line. It took about 45 minutes from Shinjuku, a sub-center of Tokyo, by a rapid service train. A green colored striped train, the EMU E233-7000 series, was our vehicle. The E233-7000 series was launched in 2013 to replace the old 205 series. Along with the Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transport 70-000 series, the E233-7000 series transports 730,000 passengers every day.

Hydrangeas are in full bloom in the garden of Sashiogi-Hikawa Shrine near Nishi-Omiya Station

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Dancing Girl on the Sunzu Line

EMU JR East 185 series, limited express "Odoriko" travels on the Sunzu Line

On April 8th, a media outlet stated that the EMU 185 series will be retired from the JR East lines within a few years. This retirement will cause JR East to make train transfers one after another. Firstly, the 185 series will be replaced by the EMU E257 series, which is currently operated on the Chuo Main Line as limited expresses Azusa and Kaiji. Secondly, the EMU 257 series will be replaced by a new limited express model, the EMU 353 series, which will debut soon.

What is the EMU 185 series? It is a limited express model developed by ex-Japanese National Railways (JNR), and went into service as a limited express "Odoriko" in 1981. Since then, the 185 series has been transporting millions of holidaymakers from Tokyo to Izu, a reputable resort peninsula. "Odoriko" is operated on the two routes. One is between Tokyo and Izukyu-Shimoda via the JR East Tokaido Main Line and the Izukyu Line. The other one is between Tokyo and Shuzenji via the JR East Tokaido Main Line and the Sunzu Line of Izu-Hakone Railway.

For your information, the name of the limited express "Odoriko" means "a dancing girl" in Japanese. Why is the name of this limited express train so strange? It's because the name comes from the famous novel, "Izu no Odoriko (The Dancing Girl of Izu)" by Japanese author Kawabata Yasunari (1899 - 1972). He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, as the first Japanese author to receive the award.

EMU 185 series, limited express "Odoriko", travels on the Sunzu Line backed by Mt. Fuji

Saturday, June 24, 2017

California Poppy Field on the Chichibu Railway

7507F of the EMU Chichibu Railway 7500 series arrives at Nagatoro Station (April, 2015)

Hanabishi-sou (California poppy) is a flowering plant native to the United States and Mexico. It is known as the official state flower of California in the United States. California poppy was introduced to Japan more than 100 years ago for ornamental purposes. Its yellow-colored blossoms are very vivid in the early summer gardens and fields.

One of the famous spots for admiring this beautiful flower is Nagatoro Hana-no-sato (Nagatoro Flower Village), about 100 km northwest of Tokyo. In a total area of 10,000 square meters, one million California poppies are planted. They bloom during the daytime, and close on rainy days and evenings. 

To visit this flower village, the nearest station is Nagatoro on the Chichibu Railway. EMU 7500 series is the main fleet on the line. The 7500 series was moved from the Tokyu lines, and launched in 2010. Its former name was the EMU 8090 series. Currently, a total of 7 sets, 21 cars are operated as local trains. Different from its Tokyu days, the 7500 series has green colored stripes. Really, it looks good in them.

In the meantime, the 7500 series has two kinds of "faces". One has front lights on the green colored stripe (i.e. 7507F); while the other one has front lights under the green colored stripe (i.e. 7501F). Rail-fans like me enjoy the subtle differences in each train. That kind of thing doesn't matter to non-rail-fans, but it makes rail-fans happy. Rail-fans are indeed simple forms of life.

Carifornia poppy field near Nagatoro Station (June, 2017)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Newcomer on the Shonan Monorail Line

5613F of the EMU Shonan Monorail 5000 series arrives at Shonan-Machiya Station

It is slightly old news, but Shonan Monorail Company launched a new set of the EMU 5000 series, set number 5613 (hereafter 5613F), for their Enoshima Line on May 28th, 2016. As a result, the old train 551F of the EMU 500 series was retired from the track, which means that all of the 500 series trains have now disappeared from the Enoshima Line.

The newcomer, 5613F, which has pink colored stripes on its bodies, is the 7th set of the 5000 series. The other colors of the stripes on the 5000 series are red for 5601F, blue for 5603F, green for 5605F, yellow for 5607F, purple for 5609F, and black for 5611F. Because of its color, the nickname of 5613F is Pink Ribbon. As you may know, Pink Ribbon is the international campaign for breast cancer awareness, so 5613F has an emblem of the Pink Ribbon Campaign on its bodies to support this campaign.

The EMU Shonan Monorail 5000 series is the only model operated on the Enoshima Line. It was launched in 2004 to replace old models, such as the 400 series. One set of the train is composed of three cars with six induction motors (55 kW x 6). Its body length is 13 meters, and the riding capacity is 228 passengers per set. All sets of the 5000 series have been built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, as they have technologies of the suspended monorail system.

Set number 5613 of the EMU Shonan Monorail 5000 series travels on the Enoshima Line

Official information about the EMU Shonan Monorail 5000 series (in Japanese):
 http://www.shonan-monorail.co.jp/fun/monorail5000.html
Official information about Shonan Monorail: http://kamakura-enoshima-monorail.jp/
Monorail lines of Japan (in Japanese): http://www.shonan-monorail.co.jp/fun/

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Crossing Rainbow Bridge on Foot

EMU Yurikamome 7300 series approaches the Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge is a suspension bridge crossing Tokyo Bay between Shibaura Pier and the Odaiba Waterfront Subcenter. It was opened in 1993 as a 798-m long double-decked suspension bridge. You can drive across Rainbow Bridge using the expressway on the 2nd floor or the ordinary road on the 1st floor. You can also cross the bridge by taking the Yurikamome AGT (automated guide way transit) Line on the 1st floor... and one more... you can cross the bridge on foot!

At the weekend, I visited Odaiba Waterfront Subcenter and walked across Rainbow Bridge for the first time. The nearest station to the bridge is JR East Tamachi Station. I got off the train, and started walking toward the southeast. It took about twenty minutes to get to the entrance building of the bridge. Taking an elevator, I could easily to get to the bridge girder, which is 52 m high. The sidewalk is located on the 1st floor parallel to the ordinary road and the Yurikamome Line.

The view from the girder was fantastic. Specifically, the view of Daiba Park was interesting for me. Daiba Park is an artificial island, which was originally constructed as a fort and batteries in 1853. It was then modified to a public park in 1928. We can still see the beautiful square island surrounded by greenery from the girder backed by skyscrapers of the subcenter area.

Crossing Rainbow Bridge on foot... it is a definitely unique experience.

View of Daiba Park from the Rainbow Bridge

Thursday, June 15, 2017

EMU 700 Series: Leading Train on the Ohmi Railway

EMU Ohmi Railway 700 series stands at Hikone station yard

Ohmi is a local private railway company in Shiga Prefecture. Its eastern terminal is Maibara, about 450 km west of Tokyo. Maibara is well known as a key junction station of transportation, as four railways, namely the Tokaido Shinkansen, the Tokaido Main Line, the Hokuriku Main Line, and the Ohmi Railway trains run into this station.

Ohmi operates 59.5 km of track. The routes extend westward from Maibara to three terminals in the prefecture. They are Kibukawa on the Main Line, Ohmi-Hachiman on the Manyo-akane Line, and Taga-taisha-mae on the Taga Line. The track is single and electrified. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. 

Because this local company belongs to the Seibu Group, its rolling stock has been provided by Seibu Railway. The EMU 700 series is no exception. It is the ex-Seibu 401 series, which was retired from the Seibu Line in 1997. After moving to Ohmi Railway, it was totally renovated and debuted as the EMU Ohmi 700 series on June 13th, 1998.

The 700 series is a two-car train (Mc + Mc') with streamlined bodies. Only one set (MoHa 701 + MoHa 1701) is operated on the line. Its large front windows are my favorite, since we can enjoy frontal views from the comfortable cross seats. Its specifications are rather old, but the 700 series is still maintained in good condition. The electric control system is classic rheostatic.

The EMU 700 series is the leading train on the Ohmi Railway.

EMU Ohmi Railway 700 series arrives at Hikone-guchi Station