Saturday, 18 November 2017

Autumn Scenery in Yamanashi Prefecture

EMU JR Central 373 series, limited express "Fujikawa", travels on the MInobu Line

It is late autumn in Japan. We can see beautiful autumn leaves here and there in the Tokyo metropolitan area. One day, I visited Yamanashi Prefecture with my family. Our destination was Kai-Ueno on the JR Central Minobu Line, which is located about 150 km west of Tokyo via Kofu on the JR East Chuo Main Line.

After getting off at Kai-Ueno Station, we started strolling in the countryside. We saw many ears of reed rustling in the wind. They were very beautiful backed by the autumn-colored mountains. The rice field has already changed to a gold color, and it was time of the harvest, so rice reaping machines were making a roaring sound. When we walked along the Minobu Line track in the rice field, a train passed by us. It was a 3-car train, the limited express Fujikawa, the EMU JR Central 373 series. It was shining beautifully in the autumn sunlight. The contrast between the silver-colored stainless-steel bodies and the blue sky was also fantastic. 

The Minobu Line penetrates the mountainous area along Fuji River in the central part of Japan. Connecting Kofu in Yamanashi Prefecture and Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture, the total operating length is 88.4 km. The whole route is electrified. The section between Fuji and Fujinomiya is a double track, and the other interval is a single track. The track gauge is 1067 mm, and the electric system is 1,500V DC overhead. The EMU 373 and 313 series are main fleets on the Minobu Line.

Autumn scenery near Kai-Ueno Station on the Minobu Line

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The New 5000 Series: Keio's High-end Commuter Train

EMU Keio 5000 series passes through Hachiman-yama Station

Commuter trains in the Tokyo metropolitan area are terribly crowded during rush hour. The railway companies have been enforcing a transport capacity by increasing the number of trains and providing longer trains. They have also been constructing double-double tracks as drastic measures.

Do they have to continue these efforts forever? No, they don't. The railway companies have to change their strategies in the near future. Why? Because Japan is facing a declining of birth rate and an aging population. In other words, the railway companies have to prepare for the decreasing number of passengers in the future. Each company should survive as a chosen railway line for passengers to use. What is their next strategy? Quality will be more important than quantity. Let's look at an example.

On September 29th, Keio Electric Railway launched a new commuter train, the EMU 5000 series, on their track. This model has multi-purpose seats, which the conductor can change from long seats to cross seats using a remote control system. Currently, the 5000 series is only used as a standard commuter train with the long seat mode; however, it will be also operated as a reserved seat train with a cross seat mode from next March. This state-of-art system is similar to that of the Seibu 40000 series, S-Train. Needless to say, the width and the quality of the seats are much higher than those of previous models.

The new Keio 5000 series is the next generation high-end commuter train.

Passenger seats of the EMU Keio 5000 series (long seat state)

Official information about the EMU Keio 5000 series (in Japanese):

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Japanese Machu Picchu on the Bantan Line: Part 2

DMU JR West KiHa 189 series, limited express Hamakaze, travels on the Bantan Line

Following my previous post, I am going to show you Japanese Machu Picchu a little bit more.

Japanese Machu Picchu, namely Takeda Castle Ruins, is located at the top of Mt. Kojo. The stone walls of the castle were constructed with various forms of stones on the steep mountain slopes. There are many gaps between the stones, if you look closely. Why? According to a volunteer guide on the site, these gaps are intentionally made in preparation for an earthquake. In other words, these gaps function as a base isolation structure. As you may know, the stone walls would be easily destroyed by shaking with seismic vibrations, if they were too brittle. I admired the wisdom of the ancestors.

To visit Japanese Machu Picchu from the Osaka area, a limited express train, Hamakaze (beach wind) is convenient. Hamakaze is a 3-car diesel train operated with the DMU JR West KiHa 189 series. The silver colored stainless-steel bodies with red and white stripes are dashingly handsome. The KiHa 189 series was launched in 2010 to replace the old limited express model, KiHa 181 series. A total of 7 sets, 21 cars, have been built by Niigata Transys. Each car has two units of Komatsu's 450 ps diesel engines. The hydraulic system is adopted for transmitting engine power to the driving wheels of the vehicle. The maximum speed is 130 km per hour. 

Hamakaze links Osaka with Takeda, a gateway station to the Japanese Machu Picchu on the Bantan Line, in two hours.

Takeda Castle Ruins near Takeda Station on the Bantan Line

Official information about the DMU JR West KiHa 189 series (in Japanese):