As the year draws to a close let’s take a look at some of Japan’s outstanding train designs in 2019. Japan Institute of Design Promotion have selected two beautiful railway vehicles for this year’s Good Design Awards: the Sotetsu 12000 series and Hiroshima Electric Railway’s “Green Mover Apex”, along with Seibu’s Laview express train for a Gold Award.[Read more…]
Tokyo Metro have announced that the new station building and platform for the Ginza Line at Shibuya Station will open for business on January 3rd 2020. First opened in 1938, the Ginza Line Shibuya Station is a busy transportation hub with around 220,000 passengers per day in 2018. Work to relocate the station building has been ongoing since 2009 and is just one part of the ongoing redevelopment projects in and around the Shibuya Station complex. In this case, the Ginza Line stop’s new location should make transfers easier with the other multiple rail lines that make use of the Shibuya Station complex.[Read more…]
Imagine taking a trip through some of Kyushu’s most beautiful scenery in an old fashioned steam train. A plume of smoke flows from the engine as the train runs through the forested countryside and the haunting pipe of the steam whistle echoes through the Kuma River valley.[Read more…]
JR East recently introduced a new sightseeing train, called “Kairi”, that runs along the coastline of Niigata and Yamagata prefectures. The Kairi runs between Niigata Station and Sakata Station on the Hakushin and Uetsu Main lines taking in views along the way of the Echigo and Shonai plains, the Sea of Japan, and the sacred Three Mountains of Dewa. The scenic beauty and culinary bounty of this region is expressed in the name Kairi (海里) whose two characters mean “sea” and “country village”.[Read more…]
To celebrate the opening of a new museum in Arashiyama, Kyoto, the Keifuku Randen Line is currently running a special “Museum Train” which is decorated both inside and out with images from some of Japan’s most famous paintings.[Read more…]
The end of October, 2019 will see the retirement of the railcars currently running on the monorail service at Ueno Zoo. The big question is, will the Ueno Zoo Monorail run again?
The Ueno Zoo Monorail (properly called Ueno Kensui-sen or Ueno Suspension Line) connects the east and west sides of the Ueno Zoo, and has been running since December 1957. It is of some historical significance as it was the very first monorail to run in Japan. At the time it must have seemed quite futuristic, but today the colorful railcars provide an attractive 90 second alternative to walking the ten minute route between the two halves of the zoological gardens. An added advantage of the monorail’s elevated route is the pleasant view it presents over the western garden’s Shinobazu Pond. [Read more…]
Earlier this year JR East unveiled the Class E956 experimental train which has been given the futuristic name: “Alfa-X”. This prototype ten-car bullet train is currently being used to test the latest cutting-edge rail technology with the aim of developing a next-generation bullet train that is much faster than current models while ensuring passenger safety and comfort. The name Alfa-X stands for “Advanced Labs for Frontline Activity in rail eXperimentation”.
Safety features on the Alfa-X include new dampers to ensure stability in the event of an earthquake, with air brakes on the roof and magnetic breaking devices on the undercarriage to enable a swift and safe deceleration. New vibration control devices are fitted to all carriages to ensure a smooth ride and the design of the undercarriage also reduces the accumulation of snow and ice in winter. Two types of pantograph (the rooftop devices that collect power from overhead wires) are also being tested for noise reduction.
However, the most distinctive feature of the new train is its nose. Currently the longest nose on a shinkansen is the 15 meter nose of E5 series trains. Alfa-X actually has two noses: a 16 meter long nose on car number 1 and a 22 meter long nose on car number 10. Both noses are being tested for their effects on pressure and noise levels when passing through tunnels. The longer noses should significantly reduce wind resistance and so also improve energy efficiency.
JR East plans to introduce a new shinkansen train for passengers by spring of 2031. The Hokkaido Shinkansen Line will be extended as far as Sapporo by 2030, so the new train will enable a swift and comfortable direct service between Tokyo and Sapporo. The current maximum speed of shinkansen trains is 320km/h. The aim is to have a new train that runs at a regular speed of 360kms per hour with a top speed of 400km/h.
Testing of the Alfa-X began in May this year between the Sendai and Shin-Aomori stations in northern Tohoku and will continue every week until March 2022.
Article by Michael Lambe. Photos by Contrail/pixta (1,4). All rights reserved.
The Fuji Excursion (called Fuji Kaiyu in Japanese) is a new limited express service that runs directly between JR Shinjuku Station in Tokyo and Kawaguchiko Station in Yamanashi Prefecture. Rail travelers using this service can travel directly from Tokyo to Mount Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes resort area in under two hours. Previously passengers traveling between these two destinations had to change trains on the way at Otsuki Station. The Fuji Excursion is jointly operated by JR East and the Fuji Kyuko railway company.
The Fuji Excursion is a three-car E353 series train which runs on the JR Chuo Line between Shinjuku Station and Otsuki Station and then runs on the private Fujikyuko Line. Between Shinjuku and Otsuki the Fuji Excursion is coupled with a Kaiji limited express train. At Otsuki Station the two trains separate and the Fuji Excursion continues its journey to Kawaguchiko.
There are eight stations on this route:
Shinjuku > Tachikawa > Hachioji > Otsuki > Tsuru-bunkadaigaku-mae > Mt. Fuji > Fujikyu Highland > Kawaguchiko
Travel time for the full journey is just 1 hour and 52 minutes. The full fare between Shinjuku and Kawaguchiko is 4,060 yen and between Shinjuku and Mt. Fuji it is 3,940 yen. Although the Japan Rail Pass covers the section between Shinjuku and Otsuki stations, the Fujikyuko Line is a private railway line so Japan Rail Pass holders will have to pay a separate fee for that section of the journey.
There are two round-trip services each day and tickets are available at JR East ticket offices one month prior to the date of travel. Here is the current schedule:
|Westbound Services||Shinjuku||Mt. Fuji||Kawaguchiko|
|Fuji Excursion 1||8.30||10.14||10.22|
|Fuji Excursion 3||9.30||11.14||11.22|
|Eastbound Services||Kawaguchiko||Mt. Fuji||Shinjuku|
|Fuji Excursion 16||15.05||15.13||16.58|
|Fuji Excursion 20||17.38||17.46||19.27|
Kawaguchiko Station serves the Lake Kawaguchi area. Located at the base of Mount Fuji this is a very popular resort location with stunning views of Japan’s highest mountain. Facilities around the lake include parks, hotels, museums, and hot spring spas. Pleasure boat cruises, windsurfing, hiking, and camping are among the area’s popular activities.
Travelers interested in climbing Mount Fuji can access the mountain’s Yoshida climbing trail by taking a bus from either Kawaguchiko Station or Mt. Fuji Station (also called Fujisan Station). The bus will take you as far as the Fuji-Subaru Line 5th Station where you can begin your climb. The climbing season for this trail is from July 1st to September 10th. For more information on climbing Mount Fuji please visit the official Mt. Fuji Climbing website.
Article by Michael Lambe. Photos courtesy of Fuji Kyuko Co.Ltd. All rights reserved.
From Spring of this year, passengers using JR West lines have been able to make online reservations for their tickets. Online reservations are now possible for basic fare tickets, Limited Express tickets, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen, many sightseeing trains, and several JR West Rail Passes. Bookings for reserved seat tickets can also be made up to one month before your trip.[Read more…]