Tokyobling's Blog

Keisei Kanamachi Line

Posted in Places by tokyobling on August 25, 2015

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!

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Mizonokuchi Station – Kawasaki City

Posted in Places by tokyobling on November 9, 2014

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!

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Manseibashi and Akihabara at Night

Posted in Places by tokyobling on March 13, 2014

One of my favorite places in Tokyo was always the Manseibashi Station platform that spent a large chunk of both the last and this century in slumber – one of Tokyo’s few remaining ghost stations. Last year however it was finally revived with a great looking shopping arcade, balcony overlooking a canal and a fantastic cafe up on top between the tracks of the central Chuou Line train. I blogged about it last year after the renovation was complete and I still love going here every now and then, although I am not the only one – that cafe I mentioned earlier actually sells out of food most nights! Last time I went there they said the only thing we have left is black coffee, so if you go, go early!

A few days ago I passed the station just after the sun had set and the last light of the day was almost gone. The old platform looks even better at night. There is something special about red bricks that you just can’t translate into concrete. They feel alive, and their strength and longevity means that they can last for hundreds of years, accumulating raw history – the wrinkles and spotches of red bricks in old Tokyo buildings have everything from bomb shrapnel holes to modern signs. The special look and feel of red brick, or akarenga, as they are known in Japan, gets even further enhanced because there are so few of them. Red brick walls are incredibly difficult to earthquake proof and even the ancient romans solved the problem by adding copious amounts of reinforced concrete to the core of their brick structures (I am sure the Manseibashi platform also has a concrete heart but at least the cladding is the original red bricks). In fact the first architect to finally solve the problem of building with red brick walls in earthquake countries was Josiah Conder (1852-1920) by using reinforced metal bands embedded in the mortar between the bricks, effectively tying the walls together. You can see an example of this in the fantastic Mitsubishi Ichigokan building in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district. The Manseibashi station platform building is a perfect example of a building that is valuable, lovable and useful, so much that it survived Earthquakes, bombing raids, urban development and modernist architectural fads. It is not a mere space to which people adapt but an organically and historically evolved living building. I am sure it will be around for the future generations to come many centuries from now.

As a contrast, the last photo shows the totally utalitarian and disposable modern Akihabara on the other side of the canal, that represents a different form of beauty, where the brutalist architecture of concrete were unable to withstand the pure commercial and creative onslaught of unabashed humanity. You can see the signs of human activity literally crowding out every inch of ugly bare concrete helplessly drowned in a sea of humanity.

Sorry for this public love letter to a city – I just had to get it out!

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Manseibashi Station Cafe – N3331

Posted in Places, Shops by tokyobling on February 4, 2014

One of my favorite cafes in Tokyo right now is the Manseibashi Station cafe, called N3331, right on top of the old Manseibashi Station platform, between the present day Chuo Line tracks. The unwieldy name comes from the cafe being run in tandem with the closeby 3331 Art Chiyoda art center project in the converted building that used to house the Rensei Junior High. You can read my blogs about this project here and here.

Understandably, this cafe is popular both with older people revisiting their old station house, as well as young couples into a slightly more cultural cafe experience, as well as train maniacs and kids who get a thrill out of sitting next to the trains rushing past ever couple of minutes on both sides! The coveted table next to panorama window at the end is taken quickly and even though I rushed to be the first one through the doors at opening time I had to settle for a lesser table until the lucky couple who got it first left. Still, it doesn’t really matter because all the seats are good, as is the food, the soups, the coffee. Not the cheapest cafe in the city but not over expensive by any means.

Best part though is role reversal, usually I am in one of those orange trains zooming past looking out the window. At this cafe I can relax and enjoy seeing them from the other side! Just remember to turn of your flash if you take a photo – don’t want to accidentally blind one of the train drivers!

For more on the old Manseibashi Station, please see this blog entry about the history of the site, and one more here about the present renovation.

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