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

Monday, June 12, 2017

Turtle Rock on the Gomen-Nahari Line

Diesel rail-car Tosa-Kuroshio Type 9640 arrives at Tano Station on the Gomen-Nahari Line

Cape Muroto was known as a dangerous spot for sea voyage in the old days. It is located in the eastern part of Kochi Prefecture, about 700 km southwest of Tokyo. The geology of the cape is quite interesting. We can see the beautiful sandstone and shale beds, which was deposited in the deep sea about 16 million years ago. It, then, uplifted and emerged thousands of years ago. When I visited Cape Muroto last year, I found a unique rock in the form of a turtle. The disturbance of its geological beds was caused by submarine landslides soon after deposition of the beds.

To get to Cape Muroto, I took the Gomen-Nahari Line of Tosa-Kuroshio Railway, and got off at Nahari terminal. Subsequently, I used bus services from Nahari to Cape Muroto. It took a total of two hours and a half from Kochi, the main city of Kochi Prefecture, to Cape Muroto.

The Gomen-Nahari Line was opened in 2002. Connecting Gomen on the JR Shikoku Dosan Line and Nahari in the eastern part of the prefecture, the total length is 42.7km. The track is non-electrified, single and elevated. A lovely diesel rail-car, the 9640 series, is operated every half an hour during the daytime. So far, a total of 11 cars have been built by Fuji Heavy Industries and Niigata Transys. It has a 450 ps engine and its maximum speed is 110 km per hour.

I enjoyed the unique geology and the railway travel to Cape Muroto.

"Turtle Rock" at Cape Muroto, Kochi Prefecture

Friday, June 9, 2017

Two Kinds of the EMU 719 Series

EMU JR East 719-5000 series (for the 1,435 mm-wide gauge track)

There are two kinds of railway gauge sizes on the JR group lines. They are the 1,067 mm and the 1,435 mm-wide gauges. The 1,067 mm-wide gauge is the most common. It was originally introduced by the U.K. when the first railway route was constructed between Shimbashi and Yokohama in 1872. Most of the JR group lines are this size of gauge. On the other hand, the 1,435 mm-wide gauge is adopted by the Shinkansens and two so-called Mini-Shinkansens. Needless to say, they are suitable for high speed train operations. 

Most of the JR group train models are only for 1,435 mm tracks or 1,067 mm tracks, but there are exceptions. For instance, the EMU JR East 719 series is for both 1,067 and 1,435 mm-wide gauge tracks models. You can see two kinds of the 719 series at Fukushima Station in the Tohoku District. They are the 719-0 series (for the 1,067 mm-wide gauge Tohoku Main Line) and the 719-5000 series (for the 1,435 mm-wide gauge Oou Main Line, the Mini-Shinkansen). For your information, the 719 series was launched in 1989, and a total of 84 units have been built by Tokyu Sharyo and Nippon Sharyo.

On May 26th, 2016, JR East Sendai Office made a press release announcing that the EMU 719 series will be retired soon. It will be replaced by 4-car trains, named the E721-1000 series. The EMU 719 series is now an endangered species on the tracks.

EMU JR East 719-0 series (for the 1,067 mm-wide gauge track) stands at Fukushima Station

Official information about the EMU JR East 719 series (in Japanese):

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wedding Boat on the Keiyo Line

EMU JR East 209-500 series travels on the Keiyo Line

It is early summer in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Just before the glooming rainy season, I enjoyed strolling with my family at the weekend. Our destination was Urayasu in Chiba Prefecture, about 20 km east of Tokyo. Urayasu is famous for being the location of Tokyo Disneyland, but it is also known as a commuter city for Tokyo Metropolis.

Although Uraysu looks like a contemporary city now, it was a quiet fishing village until several decades ago. The traditions of the local people are still cherished in the city. One such tradition is the Wedding Boat. On the weekends of late May, new couples board the traditional boat and travel on Sakai River, which flows through the city. There are many local people on the both sides of the river celebrating the new couples. This event was revived seven years ago, and has become firmly re-established among local people.

To get to Urayasu, the JR East Keiyo Line was convenient. It took only 18 minutes from Tokyo to Shin-Urayasu by a rapid service train. We luckily came across the rare train, 209-500 series, which is only set on the Keiyo Line. As you may know, the same model is also operated on the Musashino Line, but the color of the body stripes is different from those of the Musashino Line.

Wedding Boat and the EMU 209-500 series, I saw a unique festival and a train on the Keiyo Line.

Wedding boat travels Sakai River near Shin-Urayasu Station

Saturday, June 3, 2017

EMU Shin-Keisei 8800 Series: New and Old Colors

EMU 8800 series (new color) travels on the Shin-Keisei Line

What made you like trains? For me, many answers that come to mind are..., because I love traveling, because I like cameras, because my father and grandfather worked for a railway company..., but, the prime reason is that I am excited with the coloring of trains! Once I see a beautifully colored train such as the Shinkansen E5 series or the Keikyu 2100 series, my heart beats faster. I am sure that you are no different.

Needless to say, coloring change of trains is also the greatest interest for me. I have been closely watching the trend of train colors in the Tokyo metropolitan area. For instance, Shin-Keisei Electric Railway is in the process of changing their train coloring from old corporate colors to new ones. Please look at the photos. The old colors are ivory and reddish brown; meanwhile new ones are white and pink. Although the train model is the same (EMU 8800 series), the new color design gives an impression totally different from that of the old one. The new design is certainly beautiful, but mere beauty does not wear well. To be honest, I prefer the old design, because it is simple and stylish for long-lasting usage. I hope that the original old design will be kept as long as possible.

For your information, the EMU Shin-Keisei 8800 series was launched in 1986. It is well known as the train with the then current technology, namely VVVF (Adjustable Voltage Adjustable Frequency) inverter control system..

EMU 8800 series (old color) travels on the Shin-Keisei Line

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Corn Poppy Field on the Joban Line

JR East E531 series arrives at Matsudo Station on the Joban Line

Late spring is the season for corn poppy blossoms. We can see the multi-colored flowers here and there in the Tokyo metropolitan area. I remember that I posted a photo of a corn poppy field on the Chichibu Railway in 2012 in this blog. 

This year, I headed east. My destination was the Edogawa River in Chiba Prefecture, some 20km from Tokyo. Along the riverside, we can see a vast corn poppy field there. It has been lovingly cared for and planted by local people. The blossoms are red, pink and white colored. Full blooming corn poppies were shaking with the wind in the sunshine. Many people were visiting to enjoy this late spring event. 

To get to this flower lover's paradise, JR East Joban Line is convenient. I got on the rapid service train from Ueno Terminal in the downtown area. After twenty minutes or so, I could reach Matsudo, the nearest station to the field. It was good to see the EMU E531 series, which is an AC-DC dual system train on the Joban Line. This train is composed of 10 cars in main sets, with 5 cars in sub sets. Usually, it is operated as a 15-car train (a main set + a sub set) on the line. The gleaming stainless steel body with a dark blue colored stripe is an outward characteristic of the E531 series.

Enjoying railways and visiting beautiful places on the weekend, that's what's keeping me going.

Corn poppy field near Matsudo Station on the JR East Joban Line 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

EMU Tokyo Metro 16000 Series: New Batch

The 4th batch train of the EMU Tokyo Metro 16000 series travels on the Odakyu-Tama Line

Although I often take the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, I have forgotten to update the topic of this subway route for nearly two years. I am going to report on it today. On September 16th, 2015, Tokyo Metro launched the fourth batch of their EMU, 16000 series, on the Chiyoda Line. This new batch of trains is a bit different from the previous ones. How and why is the new batch different?

Firstly, the new batch of trains has green and yellow colored stripes on the body, while the old batch has green and white colored ones. Secondly, a space is provided for wheelchairs in all new batch cars, while only 20% of the old batch cars have spaces for wheelchairs. Thirdly, the number of the LCD monitors above the passenger doors is increased. They are very informative for knowing the next station and operation status. Fourthly, the parallel and synchronous operations of the SIVs (static inverters or auxiliary power units) can be performed on the new batch cars, which means that only one SIV can be operated, if the power required is small. This world's first technology made it possible to reduce the electric consumption for air-conditioners, room lights, and so on.

For your information, the 16000 series debuted in 2010 to replace the deteriorated 6000 series. So far, a total of 33 sets, 330 cars of the 16000 series, have been built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Hitachi.

The 1st batch train of the EMU Tokyo Metro 16000 series travels on the Joban Line

Official information about the 4th batch trains of the EMU 16000 series (in Japanese):
Official information about the EMU Tokyo Metro 16000 series (in Japanese):

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

EMU 500 Series: Tobu New Limited Express Train

EMU Tobu 500 series, limited express train "Revaty", travels on the Nikko Line 

Tobu is the largest private railway company in the Tokyo metropolitan area. They operate 463 km of track. The routes extend from Tokyo to four surrounding prefectures, namely Saitama, Chiba, Tochigi and Gumma. To enhance convenience for transportation between these prefectures and Tokyo is Tobu's large business challenge. One of the solutions, which the company recently provided, is the following.

On April 21st, Tobu launched a new limited express train, the EMU 500 series. As you may know, Tobu already has two limited express models, namely the 100 series (Spacia) and the 200 series (Ryomo), at that time. Why did they launch the new model?

The new model, EMU 500 series, is a 3-car train and it is easy to couple and decouple each train set. As a result, Tobu has become a flexible train operation. For instance, one 6-car train, which is composed of two sets of the 500 series, is operated from Asakusa Terminal in Tokyo to Shimo-Imaichi junction. It is, then, decoupled into two 3-car trains. One set is directly operated to Tobu-Nikko, the famous World Heritage Site; meanwhile another set is also directly operated to the Kinugawa area, a reputable hot spring resort. It is quite convenient for passengers.

The nickname of the 500 series is "Revaty". It is a coined word, synthesized from variety and liberty. I am looking forward to riding on Revaty and traveling to Nikko in the near future.

EMU Tobu 500 series (left) and the 20000 series (right) at Kita-Kasukabe Station

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Late Spring on the Yamada Line

Diesel rail-car JR East KiHa 110 series travels on the Yamada Line in Morioka City

The "front line" of the Sakura (cherry blossoms) is going up north. After enjoying the 2017 Sakura season in Tokyo, I headed to the Tohoku District at the weekend to enjoy Sakura again with my family. Our destination was Morioka City in Iwate Prefecture, about 540 km north of Tokyo. Our friend lives there.

One of the Sakura viewing spots, to which our fiend took us, was Yonai Water Purifying Plant in the eastern part of Morioka City. It was a famous spot among the local people. In this season, more than 30 weeping-cherry trees bloom there and the plant site has a special opening for the public. We saw many visitors admiring the light pink-colored blossoms. It was a late coming of spring in the northern country.

The Yonai Water Purifying Plant is located in front of Kami-Yonai Station on the JR East Yamada Line. Currently, trains on the Yamada Line are operated only between Morioka and Kami-Yonai stations (9.9 km) in the western section. In other words, the section between Kami-Yonai and Kawauchi (51.6 km) has been interrupted by large-scale landslides since August 8th, 2016. The diesel rail-car, KiHa 110 series, is the sole model on the line. It is operated as a single car only once every two hours on average during the daytime. The track of the Yamada Line is single and un-electrified.

JR East continues to strive towards achieving post-disaster recovery. I hope the train operations are back to normal as soon as possible.

Full-blown weeping-cherry trees near Kami-Yonai Station on the Yamada Line

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The 999 Train on the Seibu Line

Set 20158 of the EMU Seibu 20000 series, Galaxy Express 999, travels on the Seibu Line

Galaxy Express 999 is a popular TV animation series created by Matsumoto Reiji. The series depicts the future world, where planets in the galactic system are connected to each other by the Galaxy Railway. In this future world set in 2221 AD, rich people have mechanical bodies; meanwhile poor people still have living flesh. The main character, Tetsuro, who is a poor boy, travels in the galactic system by Galaxy Express 999 train on the Galaxy Railway to look for free mechanical bodies with Maetel, who is a Princess of the Machine Empire.

Because Matsumoto Reiji lives in Nerima Ward on the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line, Seibu Railway has been operating a special poster train, Galaxy Express 999 (hereinafter referred to as the 999 train), starting from May, 2009. The first generation 999 train, namely set 3011 of the EMU 3000 series, was operated until December, 2014. The current 999 train, namely set 20158 of the EMU 20000 series, is the second generation one, which was launched on October 8th in 2016. It will be operated until the end of March, 2019.

The EMU Seibu 20000 series debuted in 2000 as a new generation commuter train following the EMU 6000 series. So far, a total of 18 sets, 144 units have been built by Hitachi. The standard cars have blue colored stripes on the aluminum bodies; while the 999 train has green colored bodies with Tetsuro and Maetel characters.

Although Maetel is a beautiful woman, her eyes, which are painted on the front of the 999 train, are a little scary for me.

Side view of the Galaxy Express 999 train 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Nagato-Yumoto: Historical Hot Spring on the Mine Line

Diesel rail-car, JR West KiHa 120 series, travels on the Mine Line

Nagato-Yumoto is a hot spring town in Nagato City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, about 1,100 km west of Tokyo. The first hot spring was found in 1427 by the chief priest of Taineiji Buddhist Temple. Its original spring source is still preserved with care by the temple. Nagato-Yumoto has been developing as a resort town since the 19th century, and it became popular after the opening of the Mine Line in 1924. I visited this traditional resort with my family last month.

The nearest station to the resort area is Nagato-Yumoto on the Mine Line. Connecting Asa on the Sanyo Main Line and Nagato-shi on the San-in Main Line, the operating length of the Mine Line is 46 km. The track is single and un-electrified. The train is operated every two hours on average.

JR West's diesel rail-car, the KiHa 120 series, is a sole fleet on the Mine Line. It is operated alone or with two cars. The 120 series is a small sized (16.3 meter-long) rail-car launched in 1991 to replace the old models, the 20, the 35, and the 45 series. So far, 89 units have been built by Niigata Tekkosho and JR West Goto Factory.

After getting off at Nagato-Yumoto Station, we visited the resort area. Plenty of Koinoboris (carp streamers) were flying above Otozure River. Children's Day was nearly upon us. The local people were praying for the healthy growth of children of the world by putting up the carp-shaped banners.

Koinoboris (carp streamers) fly above Otozure River near Nagato-Yumoto Station 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Mie: Another Access Route to the G7 City

DMU JR Central KiHa 75 series, Rapid train "Mie", stands at Nagoya Station

Shima is a resort city in Mie Prefecture, about 510 km west of Tokyo. It is a famous area for enjoying marine activities, with a beautiful archipelago and cultivation of pearls. Shima is also known as the host city for the 2016 G7 Summit. To get to this G7 city, the most common route is the Kintetsu Line. It takes two hours from Nagoya to Kashikojima, the center of the resort area, by a gorgeous limited express train, Shimakaze (Breeze in the Shima area). A leisure train, Tsudoi (gathering), is also popular among families with children.

What else? Please don't forget that JR Central also has an access route to the area. It is the rapid train, Mie, operated between Nagoya and Toba. It takes about two hours via the Kansai Main Line, the Ise Railway Line, the Kisei Main Line and the Sangu Line.

Mie is operated by DMU (diesel multiple unit), because the section between Kawarada and Toba is non-electrified. The vehicle is the JR Central's KiHa 75 series. It was launched in 1993 to replace the old DMU models in the Nagoya area. So far, a total of 40 sets, 80 units have been built by Nippon Sharyo.

Although it is a minor access route to the Shima area, I saw many passengers on the Mie rapid train, when I used it last year. It was probably because the Mie's fare is lower than that of Kintetsu limited express train. Specifically, young passengers prefer the Mie rapid train.

Side view of the DMU KiHa 75 series

Official information about the DMU KiHa 75 series (in Japanese):

Monday, May 1, 2017

Kochi: Gateway Station to the Historical City

DMU Tosa-Kuroshio Railway 2000 series stands at Kochi Station on the Dosan Line

Kochi Prefecture is situated in the southern part of Shikoku Island, about 600 to 800 km west of Tokyo. Its main city name is also Kochi. As of April this year, Kochi City has a population of 332,000. This city has grown as the castle city of the lords of Tosa Province, since the early 17th century. We can still see the beautiful castle tower in the center of the city as it was.

JR Shikoku's Kochi Station is the gateway to this historical main city. It was opened in 1924 by the ex-Japanese Government Railways. The current station was completed in 2008. It has four elevated non-electrified tracks of the Dosan Line with two platforms covered by a semi-cylindrical dome, called the Whale Dome. The station building was also opened in 2008 beneath the tracks and the platforms. Its interior is unified in white to be full of spaciousness.

When I visited Kochi Station one day in January of this year, I saw two kinds of trains standing at the tracks. They were the diesel rail-car 1000 series and the DMU 2000 series. The former was a local train; while the latter was a limited express Nampu (south wind). Nampu was for Okayama, the main city of Okayama Prefecture on the main island of Japan, via Seto-Ohashi Railway Bridge (13.1 km long suspension bridge on the Seto Inland Sea). The DMU 2000 series is owned by a local company, named Tosa-Kuroshio Railway. 

JR Shikoku Kochi Station

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Latest Model on the Shin-Keisei Line

EMU N800 series travels on the Shin-Keisei Line

Shin-Keisei (New-Keisei) is an affiliate firm of Keisei Electric Railway Company in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo. Currently, there are not enough opportunities for me to take this line, as I live in the western part of Tokyo Metropolis, so not all of the models of Shin-Keisei trains have been introduced in this blog yet. Nevertheless, I am going to show you one of these trains today.

The EMU N800 series is the latest model on the Shin-Keisei Line. It was launched in 2005 to replace the old model, the 800 series. So far, 3 sets, 18 units have been built by Nippon Sharyo. Don't you think it is similar to something? Yes, the N800 series is a sister model of the Keisei 3000 series. The train bodies and the technical specifications of the N800 series are the same as those of the 3000 series. What is the major difference between the N800 and the 3000 series? It is the color design. The maroon and white colored stripes of the M800 series are definitely my favorite. The colors are elegant and stylish, and the maroon color reminds me of the Hankyu trains in the Osaka area.

Currently, Shin-Keisei is in the process of changing their train coloring. The new design is a two-tone white and pink. They are certainly beautiful, but mere beauty does not wear well. I hope that the original coloring will be kept as long as possible. 

Set N818 of the EMU Shin-Keisei N800 series

Official information about the EMU Shin-Keisei N800 series (in Japanese):

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

2017 Sakura Season on the Tokaido Main Line

EMU E231 series arrives at Manazuru Station on the Tokaido Main Line

Sakura (cherry) blossoms die away so quickly. The 2017 Sakura blooming season has ended in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Following the urban cherry viewing spot on the Chuo Local Line, I am going to show you another spot in the countryside to keep in my mind.

Arai-joshi is a small local park in Manazuru Town, Kanagawa Prefecture, about 100 km southwest of Tokyo. We can see the early blooming weeping-cherry there, because the influx of the Kuroshio Warm Current has influenced the temperate climate of Manazuru Town. In early April, local people hold the Cherry Festival in the park. They leisurely enjoy eating, chatting, dancing, and singing with their families, friends, and neighbors. They also warmly welcome visitors from outside of the town.

To get to this cherry blossom viewing spot, I took the JR East Tokaido Main Line and got off at Manazuru Station. It takes about one and a half hours by rapid train from Tokyo Station. My return train was the E231 series, which had two double-decker Green Cars (the first class cars). Getting on the Green Cars, I could relax and return home. The extra cost of the Green Cars was 780 yen.

Why did I use the Green Cars? It was because I was rather drunk. I was enthusiastically welcomed by local people, who recommended glasses of sake (Japanese rice wine) to me. The train had just arrived at Tokyo Station when I woke up.

Full blown weeping-cherry tree, Arai-joshi Park near Manazuru Station

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Slope Car on a Golf Course

Slope car, 16V3 of the Type KSC-10MS, in Manna Country Club, Chiba Prefecture

I sometimes play golf with my friends or colleagues. It is a basically non-train spotting time, but as it happens, I found a railway-related facility last weekend.

Please look at the photos. It is a slope car operated on a golf course of Manna Country Club in Chiba Prefecture, about 50 km east of Tokyo. This course is located in a hilly area, so, the slope car is convenient to transport golfers and golf sticks between the club house and the starter house of the course. Crossing a surface public road and an underground expressway (the Metropolitan Inter-City Expressway), its route length is about 100 m. The track and the stations were constructed by Kaho Monorail Company in 2005.

The vehicle is a 2-car train consisting of a passenger car and a freight car. It is named 16V3 of the Type KSC-100MS, also built by Kaho Monorail Company in 2005. The passenger car can hold up to 10 golfers. It has soft seats and an air-conditioner. The golfers can enjoy a superb view of the Kujukuri Plain and the blue colored Pacific Ocean from the train windows. The freight car can transport two carts and many sets of golf sticks. It is a powerful transporter, isn't it?

The scenic golf course and the unique slope car... I could relax on a beautiful weekend. How was my score? Oh, please refrain from asking this question, as it has no connection with the subject of this railway blog.

Slope car, 16V3, stands at Club House Station in Manna Country Club

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wakashio: The Peninsula Express on the Sotobo Line

EMU JR East E257-500 series, limited express "Wakashio" travels on the Keiyo Line

Boso is a large peninsula in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo. It is situated between the Pacific Ocean and Tokyo Bay. Along with Izu, Boso Peninsula is a famous resort area for enjoying marine activities.

To get to this peninsula resort, there are three access routes. Firstly, you can take a highway bus operated via Trans-Tokyo Bay Highway. Passing through a submarine tunnel (9.6km) and a bridge (4.4km), it takes one hour to get from Tokyo to Kisarazu, a western gateway city to the peninsula. Secondly, you can take a JR East Uchibo Line train. The limited express Sazanami (ripples) is the representative train to the western side of the peninsula. It also takes one hour from Tokyo to Kisarazu going around the coast of the bay. Thirdly, you can take a JR East Sotobo Line train to the eastern side of the peninsula. The limited express, Wakashio (transitional tide between spring and neap tides), is the representative train. It is operated between Tokyo on the Keiyo Line and Awa-Kamogawa on the Sotobo Line.

Currently, the main carrier of Wakashio limited express trains is the EMU E257-500 series. It was launched in 2004, replacing the old trains the EMU 183 and 189 series. The blue, white and yellow, three-toned body is very vivid. The blue stands for the ocean, the white stands for the beach and the yellow stands for the canola flowers in Chiba Prefecture. It is operated as a 5-car or a 10-car train depending on each time zone.

Limited express train, "Wakashio", arrives at Awa-Kamogawa Station on the Sotobo Line 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Kachikachi-yama Ropeway: Access to the Heavens

Gondola number 2, Tanuki (Racoon), Kachikachi-yama Ropeway

Kachikachi-yama is a reputable sightseeing spot in Fuji-Kawaguchiko Town, Yamanashi Prefecture, about 110 km west of Tokyo. The altitude of the summit is 1,075 meters above sea level. This mountain is famous among travelers for being a superb viewing spot, so I recently visited it with my family. 

To get to the summit, Kachikachi-yama Ropeway is convenient. It is an aerial tramway opened in 1959 and operated by Fuji Kyuko Company. Connecting Kawaguchi-kohan and Tenjosan-Fujimidai stations, its route length is 460 m. The height difference between the two stations is 219 m. Its maximum inclination is 34.07 degrees. It takes 3 minutes to go one way. The operation interval is 5 to 10 minutes.

The current gondolas, namely number 1, Usagi (rabbit), and number 2, Tanuki (Raccoon), are 3rd generation gondolas, built by Osaka Sharyo Kogyo in 2015. The mascots of Usagi and Tanuki on the roof of the gondolas are lovely. Each gondola can hold up to 36 passengers. To operate the gondolas, a 75 kW (100HP) traction motor is installed at Tenjosan-Fujimidai station yard.

The view from Kachikachi-yama was fantastic. It was a gorgeous spot to enjoy both views of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi. The following picture is a view of Lake Kawaguchi and its surrounding mountains. Unfortunately, I couldn't take a good picture of Mt. Fuji, because it was back lit. Please enjoy the view of Mt. Fuji on the official website of Kachikachi-yama Ropeway.

Kachikachi-yama Ropeway... it is an access route to the heavens.

A view of Lake Kawaguchi from Kachikachi-yama

Official information about Kachikachi-yama Ropeway: