Few tourists and even fewer Tokyo natives ever have a reason to ride the tiny Keisei Kanamachi line (京成金町線). It is not the shortest train line in Japan but very nearly, at only 2.5km in length it must surely be the shortest proper train ride in Tokyo. The line has three stations, the Keisei Takasago (京成高砂), Shibamata (柴又), and Keisei Kanamachi (京成金町). Except for the middle Shibamata station, which is the most interesting for tourists, the line is pretty well linked with other lines and stations at both end.
The first and so far only track of the line was laid down in 1899 when the station was served by single train cars carrying six passengers and pushed by hand by one or two operators who walked behind the train car. The line was not electrified until 1913 when it was purchased by the Keisei company and only got the automatic ticket gates in 2010. Today the lines sees 89 sorties per weekday, and 75 during weekends and holidays, usually at a 10 or 20 minute intervals. Originally the line was established to make it easier for worshippers to reach the famous temple in Shibamata, but these days the train is very popular with locals and commuters as well.
If you are a fan of train history or just want to spare your feet the 1 or 1.5km walk to the temple, you really will have to try out the Keisei Kanamachi Line! Incidentally I found the house prices around Shibamata to be very reasonable, so if you are looking into buying a proper house in Tokyo that is not priced astronomically high I can recommend having a look out, although it is just a couple of kilometers away from Chiba Prefecture!
“Around the Station: There are some shops and houses.”
— Wikipedia, Ikusabata Station
It is easy to forget that the majority of land even in Tokyo consists of fields, forests and almost impregnable mountains. You quickly get used to jostling with literally millions of other people every day on trains, subways and streets of this bustling metropolis. But there is another Tokyo, for example, Ikusabata Station. I just love the Wikipedia entry to this Tokyo station located in Ome City on the Ome line. Some houses is partly correct, but as for shops, well, I saw one I think (which incidentally sold ice cream at below market costs). The station was built in 1929 and apparently serves about 238 people per day, but I think that figure is wildly optimistic. The station these days is totally unmanned.
The interesting name, that literally translates as Battle Field, comes from the bitter battle that took place in 1560 in this area, between the local lord Mita whose clan had dominated the area for over 250 years, and the Hachioji lord Hojo. The field beneath the Castle Karakai is now called Ikusabata and it has given the name of the station. Nothing remains of the castle, apart from a few blocks of stone too heavy to move.
There is a saying that in Tokyo you can eat out every meal for your entire life and never have to eat at the same restaurant twice. While this is certainly true, I feel that a variation on this saying could be: In the Tokyo region you could travel to a new station everyday of your life. This though, is certainly an exaggeration even it feels like it sometimes! Despite having spent years and years in and around Tokyo I still travel to stations every now and then that are completely new to me. The Mizonokuchi Station in northern Kawasaki City of neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture is one of those major stations that I had just never had a reason to visit. It is used by on average over 140 000 people per day, much more than the population of most cities in Europe. Mizonokuchi Station (溝の口駅) was inaugurated in 1927 and serves Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line and Tokyu Oimachi Line. It is also popular as it is just a stone’s throw from the JR Musashi-Mizonokuchi Station (武蔵溝ノ口駅). You can see that JR has kept the old “spelling” of the station name.
I still haven’t had time to explore the station or the area around it, but maybe some day! Until then, I’ll file this under “places to check out”. If you have any personal stories or information about the station or the area around it please let me know!
If there is one thing that Hiroshima is more well known for than the special Hiroshima Okonomiyaki, it must be the hodgepodge fleet of streetcars servicing the city day in and day out. Unlike other cities of similar size in Japan, it was not technically possible to build an underground railway here due to the myriad streams and rivers crisscrossing the city and the poor soil conditions of the relatively few patches of dry ground. Instead the city for a long time relied on a system of streetcars operated by the Hiroshima Railway company, Hiroden for short. The streetcars are slow and not very comfortable but they do the trick of transporting people from one end of town to the other economically and conveniently. Theses days a couple of lines even go quite far out of the city into the neighboring towns and villages.
The Hiroshima streetcars are especially well known by streetcar lovers all over the world for the myriad of makes and models that traffic the system to this day. The oldest cars are almost a century old and the newest just a few years young, making for a very interesting mix of vehicles. You never know what kind you will be riding until it turns up at your stop! About half the cars are articulated, double-cars, while the rest are ordinary single cars like the ones we sometimes see in other parts of Japan.
During the war electricity was rationed and very few of the cars were running on that faithfull day of August 6th, but all of them suffered considerable damage. Most amazingly, the plucky 651 which was very close to the nuclear bomb detonation is actually still in service! When the bomb dropped, all 81 people onboard were killed instantly and only one person survived, but it wasn’t long until the 651 was repaired and put back into service. I missed getting a shot of it myself, mostly because it is only occasionally put into use in the morning rush hour traffic, but if you are in Hiroshima on August 8th, you will be sure to see it as it is always put into traffic on that day. I have borrowed a couple of photos of it from Wikipedia, which you can see at the end of this post.
Sorry for the terrible photos, it was raining almost my entire visit to Hiroshima. I hope for more sunshine the next time I visit!