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LRA/Rob van der Bijl, Amsterdam, December 22, 2003
Light Rail in Japan - Today, click here...

Photo: (C) Light Rail Atlas/AUTUMN, October 2002

Tokyo Kyuko Dentetsu
In Japan Light Rail as traditional tram has a limited meaning. Just the city of Hiroshima owns a larger classical tramway. However Light Rail in the form of wellknown 'interurbans' is still very important in Japan. Many of these systems have developed into urban-regional railways. An example of such an urban railway is the 'Tokyo Kyuko Dentetsu', which means the 'Tokyo Electric Express Railway'. Kyuko Dentetsu is one of the biggest private urban railway companies in Japan. The network of Tokyo contains seven train lines and one tram line (Setagaya-sen). Total lenght: over 100 kilometer. Daily amount of passengers: 2.6 million.
The region of Tokyo has been urbanized heavily. The railway lines of Kyuko Dentetsu have helped to structure urban growth.

Map: (C) Light Rail Atlas/Kyuko Dentetsu, June 2003
The Setagaya-line is in blue. The map represents a part of the Tokyu network between Tokyo and Yokohama

Setagaya-sen This one line Light Rail system is located at the western side of the Tokyo conurbation. The line from Sangenjaya (at the Shin-Tamagawa-sen) to Shimotakaido (connection to the Keio-sen) is 5.1 km long and has 10 stations, all new, high platforms. It is the last survivor of the Tokyu tramway network. The cars still use 600 V and their gauge is 1372 mm, as on all trams in Tokyo. 53.000 passengers use the line every day (2000).

Photo: (C) Light Rail Atlas/AUTUMN, October 2002
The new cars have a different livery each.

The Tokyo Kyuko Dentetsu is a private company. Like many of these companies in Japen it is not subsidized. Therefore this kind of railway companies are developing retail and real estate around their station areas. This works out te be a fine solution. The commercial activities generates both money and passengers!

Photos: (C) Light Rail Atlas/Manuel López, September 1998

"Hurry up!", shouts the girl, but the white-gloved driver of car 75 is still busy. Light Rail Atlas likes these typical Japanese LRV's!. However, the old green ones have been replaced by new rolling stock, which has been put in service during 2000-2001.

Sobu-Nagareyama Dentetsu K.K. Many former tramways were transformed into urban railways. This is an example at the eastern edge of the Tokyo metropolitan area. Long ago it was a narrow gauge steam railway which was eventually transformed into a rural tramway. Now the line (12.8 km) is an integral part of Tokyo's electric commuter railway network.

Photos: (C) Light Rail Atlas/Manuel López, September 1998

The photos show secondhand trains from the Seibu interurban system. Manuel López of Light Rail Atlas is asking himself if there is anybody who wants to use this quiet Light Rail-system.

Arakawa (Tokyo)

Car 7301 watched by hundreds of birds
Photo: (C) Light Rail Atlas/Manuel López, September 1998

Tokyo owns a single tramway line (12.2 km.), which used to be part of the former large tramway network. But in 1967 Tokyo decided to enlarge the metro system and to transform or close nearly all tramways. During the eighties of the last century new trams of the Japanese firm Alna Koki have been put into service.

The Arakawa-line represented on scale (above)

Maps/photo: Light Rail Atlas/Kuri/TRTA

The schematic map shows the Arakawa line (orange) in context of the northern part of the railway and metro system (in grey and white). The municipal line is upgrated to Light Rail standards. This means the tramway is located predominantly right of-way and uses high platforms. However, much street operation still excists.

Photos: (C) Light Rail Atlas/Manuel López, September 1998

The pictures show impressions of the eastern terminus situation of the Arakawa tramway. Car 7505 is speeding up, while 7005 is at the terminus building. The other two photos show car 7031 on duty.

Metro (Tokyo)

Tokyo is a huge and complicated metropolis. The metro system is operated by two companies. The first and oldest one (1927) is the privately owned 'Eidan Underground', shortly 'Eidan', or 'Teito', in English abbreviated as TRTA, Teito Rapid Transit Authority. Since April 2004 the Eidan-metro is called 'Tokyo Metro'. The second operator is the municipal transport company of Tokio, Tokyo-to Kotsu-kyoku, shortly 'Toei'.
The development of the metro system resambles the complex growth of Tokyo. The system is unique. There is through running of regional railways on the metro network, and vice versa. The operational and technical characteristics vary enormously. Type of vehicle and service, gauge width, power supply, signalling, and train control depend on the specific line or group of lines.
Tokyo's metro stations get beautiful names, like Asakusa, at the oldest line of the system, which is called Asakusa as well: 'the low gras'. Or at the Nanboku-line station Sendagi: 'the tree with thousands burdens'. At the southwest branche of the Marunouchi-line to Hònanchó one station before the terminus wins the prize of Light Rail Atlas for the most beautiful name. The station is called 'Nakanofujimicó', which means 'the district in the fields from which one sees the mount Fuji'.


Photo: (C) Light Rail Atlas/TERRA, Enoshima, May 4, 2002

At the south side of the Tokyo-Yokohama urban region, a ten kilometer 'interurban' style tramway connects Enoshima with Fujisawa and Kamakura. This Light Rail system is called Enoden. The cars come in a variety of styles (1927-1997). The Enoden Light Rail advertises itself as a retro-railway. Built in the early 1900s as a tourist line, it now also serves commuters and shoppers.
The Enoden is located predominantly right of-way and uses high platforms. In the city of Enoshima the cars run through the main street.

The fifth station from Kamakura brings one to Hase, home of the Great Buddha (see map). This beatiful Light Rail starts in Fujisawa on the roof of the Enoden-mall. Fujisawa is connected via Yokohama to the regional train system of Tokyo. In Enoshima a monorail runs to the station of Ofuna.

Photos: (C) Light Rail Atlas/TERRA, January 11, 2003 & May 4, 2002

The Enoden Railway winds through back streets of Kamakura, cruises along the ocean with superb views of Enoshima, up the main street of Koshigoe, through the posh neighborhood of Kugenuma. The Miura peninsula fits in this Light Rail landscape.

JAPAN Light Rail Today Back to top of page: click here...

Light Rail in Japan is healthy. There is no wave of new developments (yet), but Japan has a long Light Rail tradition. In contrast to America Japan has conserved a substantial part of their systems.

Photo: (C) Light Rail Atlas/K.Horikiri, June 9, 2002
The new tram of Okayama filming 'Momo'

The first Japanese low floor articulated tram has been put in service during summer 2002 in the city of Okayama. The tram is produced by Niigata in co-operation with Bombardier and designed by Eiji Mitooka. Nickname of the tram is 'Momo', a hero of a Japanese fairy tale. Tram facts - Type: Double ended 2 section 4 axles articulated car, Axle stand: (1A)'(A1)', Length:18,000 mm, Width:2,400 mm, Height:3,407 mm, Weight:21,000 kg, Traction motors:2x100 kW, Floor height:360 mm, Passenger capacity:74 (20 seated).
Okayama owns a small network. Two lines run from the station to the centre, sharing the first part of their route. Total length of the network: 4.7 km.

Light Rail is a common phenomenon since the twenties already (1924 was a memorable year!) There used to be many tramways. However, Hiroshima is the only remaining city with a large tramway network (1912; and including one Light Rail line, 1922). Still many other, all small tramways excists: Gifu (1911, including Light Rail), Hakodate (1897), Kagoshima (1912), Kochi (1904), Kumamoto (1907, including Light railway, 1911), Matsuyama (including light railway, 1908), Nagasaki (1915), Okayama (1912), Osaka (1903, including metro, 1933), Sapporo (1910, including metro, 1971), Takaoka (1948), Toyama (1913), Toyohashi (1925, including light railway, 1924), and last but not least Tokyo (1882, including metro 1927, light railway and Light Rail 1907).
Besides metro-only cities (Kobe, 1977; Sendai, 1987;Yokohama, 1972) one can find Light Rail in many other places: Choshi-Tokawa (Light railway, 1923); Enoshima-Kamakura (Light Rail, 1902); Fukui (Light railway, 1924); Fukuoka (Light railway, 1908 & Metro, 1981); Fukushima (Light Rail, 1899 & 1924); Hamamatsu (Light Rail, 1909); Hirosaki (Light railway,1927); Kaizuka-Mizuma (Light railway, 1924); Kanazawa (Light railway, 1919); Kitakyushu (Light Rail, 1911); Kuwana-Ageki (Light railway, 1914); Kyoto-city (metro, 1981), but Light Rail between Kyoto-Arashiyama (1910) and Kyoto-Otsu (1912); Mabashi-Nagareyama (Light railway, 1916); Matsumoto-Shimashima (Light railway, (1924); Maebashi-Nishi-Kiryu (Light railway, 1928); Misawa-Towada (Light railway, 1922); Mukogawa (Light railway, 1921); Nagoya (metro, 1957), but Light Rail between Nagoya-Owari-Seto (1905); Odawara-Gora (Light railway, 1919); Shizuoka-Shimizu (Light railway, 1908); Ueda-Bessho (Light Rail, 1927); Yokkaichi (Light railway (1912); and Yoshiwara-Gakunan-Eno (Light railway, 1949).

Recente closures: Gosen-Muramatsu (Light railway, 1923 - October 1999); Niigata-Shirone (Light railway, 1933 - April 1999).

Japan Topics (March 1998) revealed plans for tram-based Light Rail: "In Okayama, one of the hub cities in western Honshu, there are plans to make the current 4.7-kilometer line into a loop by adding 2.3 kilometers of track. The vital impetus came when some 300 streetcar lobbyists, city administrators, and others held a "streetcar summit" in May 1997. And during fiscal 1997, the city of Toyohashi in Aichi Prefecture plans to start extending its streetcar lines with Ministry of Construction subsidies, while several other cities are considering proposals for new lines and extensions. In Kyoto too, where the lines were scrapped 19 years ago, there has recently been mounting citizen pressure for a revival of streetcars.
Underlying this comeback has been the development and appearance in Western countries of light rail transit systems, a mass-transit hybrid somewhere between a streetcar and a train in which the units have very low floors and high technical performance. German-built rolling stock put into operation by Kumamoto City in Kyushu in August 1997 has a floor level only 36 centimeters above the track, less than half the normal gap. And because the alighting area is only 30 centimeters off the ground, the gap between it and the 18-centimeter-high platform is only 12 centimeters, making it easy to get on and off the cars. It has also won plaudits for the rubber pads built into the wheels, which reduce noise and vibration and make for a comfortable ride for the handicapped and the aged. A railway company in Hiroshima Prefecture in western Japan, which claims the highest rates of streetcar use in the country, plans to bring in four-car LRT units during fiscal 1998. And a panel has been put to work researching LRT systems with a view to their introduction in Tokyo. Although the capital now only has one route, compared with the 41 municipally run lines of the heyday of streetcars, it plans studies for new lines in several selected districts in fiscal 1998. (...) Japan's Construction Ministry is including resurfacing of roads so that streetcars can run on them in its fiscal 1997 top-priority policies, and has decided to subsidize line building and extensions. But it will be essential to get commuters to leave their cars at home, and the public to cooperate generally, if the streetcar is to become a fixture. The degree of social acceptance will likely determine how far into Japan's towns and cities the new rails penetrate."
Yet no news on these plans (June 2003).

Tokyo (July 2003) considers two new tramway projects. The first one could be an extension of the Arakawa line to the Ikebukuro railway station in the city centre. Transformation of the freight railway between Kameido and Shin-Kiba to Light Rail is the second possible project.

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LINKS Site of Kenji Hojo, lives in Yokohama: "I am a radio engineer and enjoy Railroad buff. I love Electric Streetcar Train. (Tram) Don't you think Streetcar and LRT are most passenger friendly public transportation system in the planet earth? For kids, elderly person or physically challenged person." Site of the official 'Japan Tramway Society'.


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