Tokyobling's Blog

The Giant Tengu Head of Takao Station

Posted in Places by tokyobling on February 9, 2015

If you ever find yourself passing through or actually stopping at JR Takao station in Tokyo’s extreme western areas you might want to take a few minutes to say hello to the giant Tengu head statue (Tenguzo) that adorns platform 3 and 4! At 1.2m height this long nosed spirit of the mountain weighs in with a respectable 18 tons. and greets every train coming in from Tokyo. Some people even call it a dating spot!

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Ueno Ghost Station – Hakubutsukan-Dobutsuen Station

Posted in Places by tokyobling on January 29, 2014

Tokyo is really the urban explorer’s dream city. It is such a layered city, starting with the tiny agricultural villages before the 17th century, then growing, adding, fixing, layering new things, all the while keeping some of the old, replacing a lot and creating new systems to interact with the old. One of the most visible aspects of this is the transportation network inside the city, and especially the old abandoned or disused train stations, ghost stations. I have blogged about ghost stations before, but here is one that I have always wanted to write about.

The Hakubutsukan-Dobutsuen station (博物館動物園駅) in Ueno was in daily use as late as 1997, and closed permanently on the first of April that year. I am betting there are readers of this blog that remembers using this station. It opened in 1933 as the second stop on the Keisei Honsen-line, operating between Ueno station and Narita airport in neighboring Chiba Prefecture. The station is named after its proximity to the museums and the zoos in the Ueno park area. The station was the last station in central Tokyo to still use wooden turnstiles right up to the last day of operation, giving the station a very old time feeling even when it was in operation. The bare soot stained concrete walls of the underground platform contributed to the run down look, even when it was fairly new. Students from the nearby Tokyo University of the Arts tried to liven it up a little by two murals of an elephant and a few penguins, still surviving in the old station. The station was never refurbished during its use.

There are several reasons why the station was closed. Firstly the station platform only allowed the very shortest of the trains running the line to stop there, the four car trains. As more and more trains grew longer there were serious safety and scheduling concerns over the operation of the station. The relative closeness to the starting station of Ueno, only 900m away also played a role, as did economics. In the end the station was manned by only one person and had limited opening hours.

Today the main exit of the station remains just like it did while in operation. The secondary exit is unmarked and completely shut up but still used as a storage facility for the nearby university. The building itself was designed by the architect Shunji Nakagawa in the same style as the parliament building, in a greek-roman revival style. Closed up like it is today, the worn concrete makes it look more like a mausoleum. It is fronted by two plain un-fluted tuscan columns, with a prominent parapet decorated sparingly by a balustrade screening. The parapet is lined with antefixes of acroteria, giving it a strangely greco-buddhist look.

If you travel from Ueno you can spot the station platform as you run through it not even a minute after start. It is almost pitch black though, so you’ll have to concentrate to spot it in the tunnel. The only remaining function of the station today is as an emergency exit for the tunnel, but I have been told it looks like it was abandoned only yesterday. I would love to go inside someday! Please let me know in the comments if you ever used it back in the good old days!

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Yoshiwara Station – Tokaido Line

Posted in Places by tokyobling on October 23, 2013

Yoshiwara station on the Tokaido line between Tokyo Station in the east and Kobe Station in the west is a typical station for an industrial town like Fujishi. Even though the station is on one of the major railway lines of Japan the city itself is quite far from the station. It is not hard to understand why as the surroundings mostly consists of light and heavy industries, like the Nippon Paper plant in the first photo. Every time I travel somewhere in Japan I am always interested in finding out what the economical heart of the area I visit is, and in this case it is easy to find. The station itself is a treat for lovers of stark industrial landscapes. When living in Tokyo it is easy to forget that Japan is a country built on agriculture first, industry second and commerce only third, which to this day almost perfectly mirrors the social order of the old feudal country. The growers, the makers and the movers. Most people who exit this station change trains to get into the city center itself, a few stops down the line of the Gakunan Railway Line. From this station it is possible to get a really nice view of Mount Fuji, but I missed my chance by a few hours. As usual, the closer you get to the mountain the harder it seems to be to catch it!

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