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This is a strange and fabulous company that deserves its own topic. It's a railway line that is not covered much by fans, as it's quite remote and relatively expensive to travel on. That is, if you're not looking beyond your own field of perception. More on that later. The Kantō Railway (関東鉄道) is owned by the Keisei Group and operates two lines. Both are fully dieselised and are operated with 3-door DMU.

- One is the very short Ryūgasaki line (4,5km), starting at Sanuki on the JR Jōban line and ending in Ryūgasaki in the sticks. It's a very charming line that runs through the fields and only has three diesel cars in operation. Two of them are new types (no. 2001 and 2002), of which one only runs on Sunday with a special promotional livery. And the third one is an older type (no. 532), based on a modified JNR KiHa 20, which occasionally runs in the weekends.

- The second one is the Jōsō line from Toride, also strarting on the JR Jōban line (far end of the 1500V DC area) and ending in Shimodate on the JR Mito line (20kV AC 50Hz area). There the Mooka Railway (famous for its C11 and C12 steam trains in the weekend) also has its starting point.

There are day passes in the weekend for ¥1500 which can be used to travel the whole of the Jōsō line. It's kind of a strange pass, since it allows you to travel for less than the entire line in one go! From Toride to Shimodate it costs ¥1510 and it's only one way, whereas the day ticket allows you to travel as much as you like the whole day. So, I did.
 

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That day, I also obtained a free to use rental bicycle at Mitsukaidō station (水海道) and rode to the line's car shed to snap pictures of the rolling stock that rarely runs nowadays. It looks like they're saving some up for a museum of some sort. They certainly have the space for it as opposed to other railway companies! Rental cycles could only be obtained with a valid drivers licence or a valid health insurance card. Basically something that states your place of residence in Japan, so for foreign tourists they may decline this request.

Also, Tobanoe station (騰波ノ江) celebrated it's 88th birthday this weekend, so I paid them a visit after traveling the network. It was very small, but they did have a small N gauge layout and a respectable H0 layout that reflected the Jōsō line network. I also was asked to draw a picture on a glass that would be used for a candle for later that day. I didn't stay that long though, as we had to get up early in the morning and drive back to our place in Kanagawa. We exchanged business cards and had a little chat. It was a very warm and cosy event.
 

Jōsō line:


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Ryūgasaki line:


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The Kantō Railway certainly has left a deep impression on me. Especially, the Jōsō line is a very interesting line, as it's halfway double tracked and fully dieselised with 3-door trains that remind of the commuter trains of the metropolitan lines. The reason this is like it is, is because the line runs through two different national electricity networks (or whatever it's called). Basically, it would be hugely expensive to electrify the line and buy rolling stock that can operate on both 1500V DC and 20kV AC 50Hz. The line also runs through rural areas only, so this would probably be a moot investment. At least for now.

As the Tōkyō metropolitan area keeps expanding, I wouldn't be surprised to see this line being electrified within the next 30 years, or maybe even be connected to the Tsukuba Express for that matter... It's a fantasy though. It would certainly be beneficial to a lot of towns along the line to have a fast connection to Tōkyō methinks. You never know what the future might bring and what Keisei Group comes up with now!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the shoddy pictures and I hope the Kantō railway has also gained your hearts and minds a little bit. I will certainly travel this line again when I'm back in Shimodate!
 

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Edited by Toni Babelony
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It should be noted that the Jōsō Line is surprisingly busy, mostly because of its southern terminus at Toride Station, the north end of 1500 V DC overhead power operations on the JR East Jōban Line (a lot of JR East commuter trains terminate at Toride).

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Yes, the Kantō Railway Jōsō line is double tracked between Toride and Mitsukaidō and sees quite intense operations, even in weekends. Beyond Mitsukaidō the line transforms into a single track line which runs through a more rural and less developed area. Especially the other end of the line, Shimodate, is a town that is slowly falling apart, despite well targeted investments. All that fails is a cheap and (more importantly) fast connection to the metropolitan area. I see room here for a fictional railway scenario once again xD

 

Here is a playlist of the whole Jōsō line to get a feeling of what it's like to travel with a commuter DMU through the Kantō pains of Ibaraki prefecture:

 

 

Anyway, it's a shame though there are so little ready made models available of this railway company (Tomytec made a KiHa800 set and Modemo once produced a KiHa 300 set). Only a handful of kits (Amagi, KitcheN) are available, if you can obtain them that is...

Edited by Toni Babelony
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Interesting report and photos, thanks!

 

There's a film called Kamikaze Girls (Japanese: Shimotsuma Monogatari) partially set in Shimotsuma on the Jōsō line. It's a bit of a weird comedy but the station/line do pop up quite a bit.

 

And here'a a report from the master of depressing reports on provincial Japan on the closed Kashima Tetsudo, which was owned by Kanto Tetsudo.

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Interesting report and photos, thanks!

 

There's a film called Kamikaze Girls (Japanese: Shimotsuma Monogatari) partially set in Shimotsuma on the Jōsō line. It's a bit of a weird comedy but the station/line do pop up quite a bit.

 

And here'a a report from the master of depressing reports on provincial Japan on the closed Kashima Tetsudo, which was owned by Kanto Tetsudo.

 

Ah yes, I remember that movie. It was a nice one and quite reflective for the people living in that area. Lots of yankii. Really a lot.

 

And yes, such is rural East Japan. However, there are also signs of revitalisation, as young educated people are slowly turning their backs on the harsh urban life and choose for a quiet and healthy rural life. Either as a farmer or continuing business as usual from their homes. Still, it's no compensation for what is happening at the moment. Rural Japan will recover one day, but not any time soon I think.

Edited by Toni Babelony
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I honestly wonder about that with the current population decline. I don't know of any place in the world where rural suddenly became popular either, and with that not just a few dozens or hundreds people moving there.

Edited by Densha
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Oops, I did it again. This time with radical weather. Clear skies, bright sun, mostly HDR photos (dat light), strong wind and frozen hands.

 

I'm just dumping the pictures here in the attachment section. Included are bonus pictures of JR East Mito line (415-1500, E531-1000 and E501) and Mooka Railway (MOOKA 14 and C11) trains around Shimodate station.

 

It looks like the JR East Mito line circulation no. A102 now has an E531-1000 instead of a 415-1500 due to the scrapping of one of the latter last month. Yes, I've been studying the operations intensively on the Mito Line and Mooka Railway due to boredom... The Jōsō Line is still a bit complicated.

 

The Jōsō line by the way is undergoing an upgrade to concrete sleepers, which will most certainly improve the ride quality of the trains. It's however great fun to blast over the badly maintained narrow gauge tracks at 90kph at the moment.

 

Also my hat with newly bought Kanto Tetsudo 100 Type pins. I need to get myself a fleet of KIHA 35s...

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  • Like 3
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It's a dream living in Japan as a rail fan, you get to go out there and take photos and view them lovely trains as often and as much as you like!  

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It's a dream living in Japan as a rail fan, you get to go out there and take photos and view them lovely trains as often and as much as you like!  

 

Well, not as much as I like, but enough to satisfy my needs. I have a family and own firm to take care of as well (which both have a good overlap with my railway hobby xD ) The 'like' is more a matter of finance and time. Mostly finance.

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Well, not as much as I like, but enough to satisfy my needs. I have a family and own firm to take care of as well (which both have a good overlap with my railway hobby xD ) The 'like' is more a matter of finance and time. Mostly finance.

 

Tony,

 

Keep up the nice reports. Your situation is like everybody else's, having to balance family, work and hobby. The great difference is that you are next to a thriving railway system...unlike me, who is next to to a half-dead one...

 

 

Cheers NB

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And yes, such is rural East Japan. However, there are also signs of revitalisation, as young educated people are slowly turning their backs on the harsh urban life and choose for a quiet and healthy rural life. Either as a farmer or continuing business as usual from their homes. Still, it's no compensation for what is happening at the moment. Rural Japan will recover one day, but not any time soon I think.

 

Tony,

 

When I was in Japan I was shepherded during an afternoon around Tokyo by an internet acquaintance of mine who was very kind to take time off and show me around. Over lunch he told me that certain metropolitan areas in Japan (he quoted Nagoya) are losing population...to Tokyo!

 

 

Cheers NB

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Thanks for sharing Toni.  Looks like a nice place to visit.  Wherever you were.

 

It's a nice place if you like very rural areas. It's not so exciting in terms of tourism (well, there is Mt. Tsukuba and so on), as this line is more focussed on commuter traffic, rather than tourism.

 

When I was in Japan I was shepherded during an afternoon around Tokyo by an internet acquaintance of mine who was very kind to take time off and show me around. Over lunch he told me that certain metropolitan areas in Japan (he quoted Nagoya) are losing population...to Tokyo!

 

I can imagine fleeing from the Nagoya area because Meitetsu is replacing their trains with more boring ones, closing lines, etc. JR Central isn't the best to deal with either xD. Joking aside, Tokyo is a magnet for business, so it's no wonder the rural areas around Tokyo are rapidly developing. I have no insight in the Kansai or other areas, since I never go there and it lies beyond my field of interest.

 

I saw this along the Kanto Railway Jōsō Line a great deal (as well as in the vicinity of where I live). The closer you got to Toride (JR East Jōban line), the more urban development was going on. Along the Jōsō line, deeper into the countryside, big road building projects were also being conducted, providing easier access for more settlements and more potential ridership for the Jōsō Line. This, because kids don't drive cars to school and the Jōsō Line provides easy and quick access to the Metropolitan area (Tsukuba Express and JR East Jōban Line). Even so, towns further away from the busy section of the Jōsō Line (Toride - Mitsukaido) are looking very gloomy...

 

Japan is highly centralising its power around Tokyo, though I wonder for how long this can keep up. Eventually these areas around Tokyo will develop on their own and create their own business centres (Saitama City and so on are good examples). Even here in Sagamihara, areas like Sagamiōno and Hashimoto (10~15 years ago mostly consistent of fields and simple housing) are developing on their own like crazy to provide the same services that can be found in the direct Metropolitan area.

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Toni, one thing that's interesting is that Gunma Prefecture--40 minutes away from Tokyo by Shinkansen train--is starting to rapidly develop as businesses want to expand without the space issues of Tokyo itself. You're seeing a lot of development around Takasaki and Maebashi, and at the rate it's going JR East may have to actually consider double-tracking the Ryōmō Line between Shin-Maebashi and Oyama Stations because of all the companies looking for cheaper land to open a business but still serve Tokyo area residents.

 

(Peter Payne, the owner of the J-List web site that sells Japanese goods to foreign customers, has a goods mailing office in Isesaki about 4 km northwest of JR East Isesaki Station. He said the rural farmland around Isesaki is starting to give way to light industrial and residential development because of its ease of getting back to Tokyo itself, not only from the Ryōmō to Takasaki Station, but from the Tobu Isesaki Station, which has the Ryōmō limited express train all the way to Asakusa Station in Tokyo a couple of times a day.)

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Toni, one thing that's interesting is that Gunma Prefecture--40 minutes away from Tokyo by Shinkansen train--is starting to rapidly develop as businesses want to expand without the space issues of Tokyo itself. You're seeing a lot of development around Takasaki and Maebashi, and at the rate it's going JR East may have to actually consider double-tracking the Ryōmō Line between Shin-Maebashi and Oyama Stations because of all the companies looking for cheaper land to open a business but still serve Tokyo area residents.

 

Yep, I've been there not so long ago: http://www.jnsforum.com/community/topic/9338-tobu-ryomo-region/ Tōbu has heavily invested in modernising the stations, as well as JR East on some stations. It's remarkable how many foreigners you see on those trains as well. Either factory workers or assistants in agriculture. Mind you, there is not much for tourism going on there. IIRC the single track part of the Isesaki line still has space to expand to a double track layout in the future, as the trackbed is pretty wide.

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Tony, thanks for going to the trouble of writing this report. I found it very informative. And I liked your photos too. That C11 looks to be very well maintained.

 

Cheers,

 

Mark.

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It's a nice place if you like very rural areas. It's not so exciting in terms of tourism (well, there is Mt. Tsukuba and so on), as this line is more focussed on commuter traffic, rather than tourism.

I dont mind rural.  And I really enjoy DMUs.  They sound beasty, they rattle, you feel the bumps and sways.  They are old skool.

 

Kameoka area west of Kyoto was great to take the kids last visit to Japan.  Rice fields, the rice hanging on the racks.  Old skool water irrigation drains from eras many moons ago.  The kids seemed generally interested in the rice farming techniques.  Or they just wanted to splash in the water.  I would've liked to chat to a local about the irrigation systems used, due to them lokking like the systems were 18th century.  And rivers and places to hang out also with no other souls around.

 

The Hisatsu Line in southern Kyushu is very similar.  And the Kumagawa Railway (Hitoyoshi to Yumomae) looks very similar to the Kanto Railway.  All the little stops along the Hisatsu line are rural, and you only meet farmers and their families.  Very friendly and surprizely passable english skills.  They have little stalls on weekends, and you can by some home-grown and homemade goods.

Edited by katoftw
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Tony,

 

Keep up the nice reports. Your situation is like everybody else's, having to balance family, work and hobby. The great difference is that you are next to a thriving railway system...unlike me, who is next to to a half-dead one...

 

 

Cheers NB

 

Mine's worse. Where's the railway system?

 

 

Yep, I've been there not so long ago: http://www.jnsforum.com/community/topic/9338-tobu-ryomo-region/ Tōbu has heavily invested in modernising the stations, as well as JR East on some stations. It's remarkable how many foreigners you see on those trains as well. Either factory workers or assistants in agriculture. Mind you, there is not much for tourism going on there. IIRC the single track part of the Isesaki line still has space to expand to a double track layout in the future, as the trackbed is pretty wide.

 

Ryomo Line! I'm visiting there too on my next trip this April. Perhaps it's because the Ashikaga Flower Park is there near Tomita station on the Ryomo line, hence the tourist? The flower park is quite the tourist attraction...  

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Ryomo Line! I'm visiting there too on my next trip this April. Perhaps it's because the Ashikaga Flower Park is there near Tomita station on the Ryomo line, hence the tourist? The flower park is quite the tourist attraction...  

 

Well, there is always the transfer to the Jōmō Railway and the Watarase Keikoku railway to get you out of the rather boring Ryōmo region. xD And flowers... Who cares about flowers when you have 200/250, 8000 and 800/850 Series at your service to take pictures of?

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Mine's worse. Where's the railway system?

 

 

 

Ryomo Line! I'm visiting there too on my next trip this April. Perhaps it's because the Ashikaga Flower Park is there near Tomita station on the Ryomo line, hence the tourist? The flower park is quite the tourist attraction...  

 

Come on, it's not that bad - you've got the Singapore MRT. For an island-state such as Singapore it could count as it's national rail system. Although one have to admit that the nearest real train is at Johor Bahru...

 

 

Cheers NB

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A slight bump.

 

The Kantō Railway Jōsō line has been hit by the backlog of typhoon no. 18 and has caused significant damage. So far, seven deaths have been confirmed with another 15 missing. More on this here: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/09/13/national/3000-residents-joso-remain-evacuated-devastating-floods/

 

All frequently used rolling stock has been evacuated to safer ground as the Kinugawa River broke its shores and flooded the land, together with the depot in Mizukaidō. Mostly to the south, with four remaining cars to the north region. The trains in the north region will maintain a thinned out schedule between Shimodate and Shimotsuma, while the rest of the line has to be restored and partially rebuilt. Especially the part between Shimotsuma and Mizukaidō suffered some serious damage.

 

 

Less used rolling stock unfortunately had to be left behind in the depot and suffered some water damage.

 

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SuRoNeFu 25-501

I hope the company could restore the services on affected sections as soon as possible...

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Services between Toride (JR East Jōban Line) and Moriya (Tsukuba Express) have been restored as of today with a thinned out schedule. Between Moriya and Mizukaidō, a bus service is ran.

 

The section between Shimotsuma and Mizukaidō is serviced by neither train or bus. The area just got electricity and tap water back, which is already a slight improvement.

 

Here is a snapshot from a news broadcast I received from a friend a few days ago of the Mizukaidō depot. This is not how you do Spirited Away...

 

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The trains in this picture are 101 (red), 102 (suka-colour), 006 (creme to the left) and 2304. Out of the picture are 005 (other half of 006 ), 2303 (the other half of the 2304) and 301 (a rusty donor) somewhere in the far back of the depot. Museum Locomotive DD502 is also present and was due for a service overhaul, which will probably have to wait for a bit longer.

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