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Canard's "Trains of Japan" Thread
#1
I'm in Japan right now, riding my brains out on trains for a couple of weeks.  I thought I'd share a couple of photos so far:

   
A Tokyo Monorail 1000-series glides toward Haneda Airport, heading for Hamamatsuchō.

   
A pair of Kawasaki Heavy Industries E321-500 series trains meet while racing along the loop around Tokyo, the Yamanote Line. This is my favourite of the "above ground" commuter rail trains in the Tokyo area so far.

   
The Nippori-Toneri Liner is typical of the Japanese AGT (Automated Guideway Transit) systems, which are built to a standard guideway size and ride on rubber tires. Most of them, including this one, are automated - which means you can sit in the front seat and pretend you're driving!

   
I was lucky enough to stumble across one of just two of the new 2200-series trains on the New Shuttle, another AGT system which links Omiya in the Northern reaches of Tokyo. This system is integrated into the massive guideway structure for the Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen (bullet train) lines, which you can see overhead/to the left in this photo.

   
Not a train: I spotted this adorable bird at Tobu Zoo, nibbling away on the cherry blossom flowers.

Yesterday, the friend I'm here with in Japan asked me what had surprised me most so far about the country. Since I've studied the country so much (admittedly, mostly through YouTube train videos), I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. But a couple of things have stood out, so far:
  • The quiet. And when I say quiet, I mean quiet. When walking along the streets of Downtown Tokyo at rush hour, I noticed a digital sign with two dB reading on a temporary construction fence - I think one was for sound inside the construction zone, and the other was ambient background noise outside. They were like 30 and 55. To put this into perspective, Industrial Noise Control describes 60 dB as "Conversation in restaurant, office, background music, Air conditioning unit at 100 feet." When you're on a very crowded train, everyone's phone is off (set to "Manners Mode"), nobody says anything at all, and when the trains pull into stations and the doors open, it's just absolutely perfectly silent. I'd read that westerners will find that they'll often suddenly realize just how loud they are, but this was beyond what even I had expected.

  • The politeness. Japanese politeness is legendary. But a couple of examples stick out in my mind: The panic attack we caused two older women to have when we offered our seats on a semi-crowded train. They absolutely weren't having it - "How could we possibly trouble two westerners out of their seats?!" They smiled politely and (very quietly!) said a few rushed words before very reluctantly sitting down and hyperventilating and having a rushed, whispered conversation while totally blushing and covering their faces. Later; when exiting a train on a very busy platform in the height of morning rush-hour, the crowd going up the stairs formed perfectly, and without instruction, into three lines. I looked up and saw that the staircase narrowed to single file further up. At the merge point, people were taking turns, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, and everyone was doing a little half bow out of respect for the person who just let them through. At another station last night, my friend said "Did you just catch what happened?" I had seen two people having a semi-awkward conversation but I thought maybe they were coworkers saying goodbye or something. It turns out that as they were queuing up on the train platform in front of where the doors on the train would be, the man and woman were insisting "No, you go first, please" - Jeff counted no less than 7 bows before one of them finally succeeded and took their place in line. In a store, I went to buy a T-shirt and the cashier didn't speak any English. Not really a huge deal, but when he saw what shirt I was getting, he got all flushed and tried to indicate "just one moment please" and got his supervisor. They had a quick conversation and they reached under the desk and started sifting through some bags of LEGO. The supervisor explained "If you buy a little bit more, you can have this gift" - the little LEGO set. At SEGA Joypolis, an indoor theme park/entertainment complex on Odaiba, an employee came running over to us when we were buying our tickets at an automated machine to make sure we knew we'd get almost half-off admission if we had foreign passports. Like these folks go out of their way to make sure we are getting the best deal or everything we're entitled to with their offers and so on.

  • the BREAD! When my husband told me before I left to "get ready for no dairy and cheese for 2 weeks", I think I just wrote off all foods that I enjoy entirely. But, much to my surprise, just like in Denmark, pastry shops are abundant and lavish. In fact, lunch yesterday consisted entirely of a tray of various pastries and baked goods.

  • The trains. So, I knew there were trains everywhere. But I don't think I realized just how all-encompassing everywhere really is. When riding the Yamanote line you can look on either side of the train and there's a good chance there's at least 1 more train going the same direction as you. I think of Japan like I think of a huge skyscraper - where there are more elevators per floor than there is usable space. I think trains are like the elevators - that there are more trains in Japan, than there is Japan!

Every couple of days I'll try and sift through my photos and post some of my favourites.
For daily ion construction updates, photos and general urban rail news, follow me on twitter! @Canardiain
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#2
Familiar sights for me, but better train photos than I have ever taken! (What lens are you using? Maybe 200mm?) Where did you shoot the monorail photo from?

Enjoy Japan, I'll look forward to more photos!
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#3
Today, I had the pleasure of riding the Tama-Toshi Monorail Line.  This is a fantastic Alweg-type Monorail which connects two commuter rail lines and runs across the hilly terrain of the suburb of Tama.  It's a fantastic example of just how versatile monorail technology can be.

   

   

   

I took the Kanazawa Seaside Line, another AGT (Automated Guideway Transit) system out in Yokohama to Hakkejima Sea Paradise, a theme park much like Ontario Place, with some better rides.  I just love those big ship cranes in the background.

   

Bandit at Yomiyuriland is a coaster I've had on my "must ride" list for many years.  It was the first real "hypercoaster" and it has a beautiful setting, with track draped across a valley of cherry blossoms.

   
For daily ion construction updates, photos and general urban rail news, follow me on twitter! @Canardiain
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#4
(04-03-2016, 09:12 AM)Canard Wrote: Today, I had the pleasure of riding the Tama-Toshi Monorail Line.  This is a fantastic Alweg-type Monorail which connects two commuter rail lines and runs across the hilly terrain of the suburb of Tama.  It's a fantastic example of just how versatile monorail technology can be.

I love the monorail crossover. Very cool piece of engineering! Thanks for the great pictures!
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#5
I forgot to mention something rather embarasing that happened, that I'm going to chalk up to being so to exhausted from my schedule.

At an ultra-packed subway station, I tried to tap-out of the the turnstile with my Suica (railway) card. It didn't go. I tried again- nope. Tons of people behind me. "sumimassen, sumimassen..." (Sorry, sorry...) and I went over to the station masters both.

I asked him (in Japanese) if he spoke English and he said "a bit." I explained I'd just tried to exit and couldn't with my Suica; maybe something was wrong with it.

He kind of looked at me like I was a stupid gaijin. "Not Suica." And he points to my card. I look down.

I'd been trying to tap out with my hotel room key.

I think they're going to deport me.
For daily ion construction updates, photos and general urban rail news, follow me on twitter! @Canardiain
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#6
(04-03-2016, 12:24 PM)Canard Wrote: I forgot to mention something rather embarasing that happened, that I'm going to chalk up to being so to exhausted from my schedule.

At an ultra-packed subway station, I tried to tap-out of the the turnstile with my Suica (railway) card. It didn't go. I tried again- nope. Tons of people behind me. "sumimassen, sumimassen..." (Sorry, sorry...) and I went over to the station masters both.

I asked him (in Japanese) if he spoke English and he said "a bit."  I explained I'd just tried to exit and couldn't with my Suica; maybe something was wrong with it.

He kind of looked at me like I was a stupid gaijin. "Not Suica." And he points to my card. I look down.

I'd been trying to tap out with my hotel room key.

I think they're going to deport me.

Nah. You've just reinforced the stupid gaijin stereotype. Blame it on the jetlag and eat some more sushi :)

...you know, it never occurred to me that there was no cheese or dairy, really, in the cuisine while I was there. My wife's lactose-intolerant, so usually it's a thing we need to look out for... But you're right. Casting my mind back, there was nothing. And you're right about the bread. T&T-brand bread can be found in some of the Zehrs back here which is the closest I've been able to find to real melonpan or anpan.

Be sure to find some taiyaki that are still warm, and if you venture further south get your okonomiyaki on.

Oh, that reminds me of the Ramen we had in the hole-in-the-wall behind Shinagawa-eki... Ah, I need to return.

(( It occurs that food to me might be what trains are to Canard. And I'm okay with this. ))
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#7
Cheese is really only found in some selected foods: Italian pasta dishes, sandwiches, cheeseburgers, paneer etc, but not as commonly used. Milk is available in the grocery stores but I think people drink it less (I don't drink it much either) -- but you can easily get your milk quota with cappuccinos, lattes, chai lattes etc at the countless cafes in Tokyo.

Oh yes, I have done the same thing as Canard, too, with using some other card. Haven't gone as far as complaining to the ekiin, though!
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#8
(04-05-2016, 02:35 PM)chutten Wrote: (( It occurs that food to me might be what trains are to Canard. And I'm okay with this. ))

Just imagine if you could ride around inside food.
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#9
I just spent the whole day at the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line, watching trains blast through the valley at 500+ km/h.

I don't ever want to leave!

...And ate vending machine chicken nuggets from the test centre lobby - sorry, I am totally not a foodie Smile
For daily ion construction updates, photos and general urban rail news, follow me on twitter! @Canardiain
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#10
(04-06-2016, 04:56 AM)Canard Wrote: I just spent the whole day at the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line, watching trains blast through the valley at 500+ km/h.

I don't ever want to leave!

...And ate vending machine chicken nuggets from the test centre lobby - sorry, I am totally not a foodie Smile

Oh, but the vending machines are must-see. Especially for beverage selection. Warm cans of coffee and "Hot Lemon" for those chilly early-morning strolls... chilled coffee, CC Lemon, and Qoo for when the sun comes out... (edit: Oh, and Pocari Sweat!)

I'm not so much a foodie as I am someone who appreciates food. Yes, I did eat at Iron Chef Morimoto's teppanyaki restaurant in Roppongi... but I also ate conveyor belt sushi where you got capsules for every five plates you sent down the chute, and more than one lunch bowl at the quick and compelling (and ubiquitous) Yoshinoya.
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#11
I guess I should rephrase that:  It's not that I'm "not a foodie", it's just that I hate eating.  Smile  There's so much else I'd rather be doing... like riding more trains!

Here are a couple of shots from my visit to the Yamanashi Maglev Test Centre.

Here's the little local train that goes down to the village that the test centre is in:

   

   

   

I climbed partway up a nearby mountain/hill for this vantage point; watching the test runs from up here was great:

   

I also enjoyed seeing all the specialized maintenance vehicles.  They must put a lot of mileage on these; even though the test train ("L0") takes just a few minutes to run the whole 42 km line, it would take this truck at least an hour to get to the other end!

   
For daily ion construction updates, photos and general urban rail news, follow me on twitter! @Canardiain
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#12
That first picture is so incredibly Japanese: a train, mountains, and a blossoming cherry tree.
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#13
Since I'm now in Osaka, today I took the Sanyo Shinkansen down to Hiroshima.  After visiting the Peace Memorial, I rode the Astram Line before taking the Shinkansen back to Kobe, and rode the Port Island Line (Portliner).  This was the world's first fully automated AGT system, and was reconfigured in 2006 to include an extension out to the newly opened Kobe airport.  I just love the complexity of the system, especially at the centre section which has a crazy two-level station with various guideways going in and out of it for the two different routes.  That aspect of it reminded me a lot of the Morgantown PRT.

   
The Astram Line is a manually-driven AGT.

   
I just love the look of these trains.

   
A Nozomi Super Express N700A at Shin-Kobe.

   
The Kobe Portliner.
For daily ion construction updates, photos and general urban rail news, follow me on twitter! @Canardiain
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#14
Haha, oh man, just keep on enjoying every last minute of Japan. It really doesn't get any better than that for a railfan.
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#15
I wouldn't call myself especially interested in trains.  However, this thread is amazing if only for the sheer excitement in Canard's posts.

Love it, keep the posts coming!
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