A year after the worst post-war natural disaster in Japan, an earthquake and several other quakes followed by a tsunami struck Japan's northern coastline on Wednesday according to officials, prompting closings at Tokyo's Narita International Airport and trains.
According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the first quake was magnitude 6.8 located on Hokkaido island, 146 miles south of Kushiro, Japan, six miles below the sea surface. The second was 6.1 off the coast of Chiba just east of Tokyo, where a moderately strong 5.7 quake was felt three hours later.
No damage or injury was reported, according to The Associated Press, after an aftershock of 6.1 magnitude followed, as reported by the National Post.
The earthquake resulted in a 20 centimeter tsunami on the Pacific coastline, the region where a devastating earthquake and struck Japan last year, prompting an evacuation for coastal residents in Hokkaido. A Pacific-wide tsunami warning was not issued, though Japanese officials predicted a tsunami as high as 50 centimeters.
Two runways at Tokyo's Narita International Airport and bullet trains in northern Japan were closed as a result of the earthquake, according to the National Post.
Otsuchi, along with several others towns, issued a precautionary evacuation order to homes along the coast before the initial earthquake, according to prefectural disaster management official Shinichi Motoyama.
There have been no reported about damages to nuclear facilities and plants resulting from Wednesday's earthquake. According to the National Post, the Tokai No.2 nuclear power plant northeast of Tokyo and the Tokyo Electric Power Co's tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi and Daini plants were unaffected.
"We have not monitored any change in radiation levels around the facilities following the quake," a spokesman for Tohoku Electric Power told the National Post.
The 2012 earthquake comes just days after the first anniversary of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011, resulting in over 19,000 people reported dead or missing and destroying Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant. Japan paid tribute to the lives lost on Sunday for the first anniversary.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said a possible tsunami could reach the Kuril islands, off Hokkaido, though tsunami advisories were lifted just over an hour after the second quake. The JMA warns those fishing, swimming and activities of the like should remain cautious as there are still slight shifts in the sea-level.
Railway company 'renames' central station after local noodle delicacy
Takamatsu Station's renewed station nameboard carrying its official name and its nickname, Sanuki Udon Station. (Photo courtesy of Shikoku Railway Co.)
TAKAMATSU -- For all you future travelers to Kagawa Prefecture, if your ticket reads "Final Destination: Sanuki Udon Station," instead of the anticipated Takamatsu Station, don't rush to return it -- you're still on the right train.
Starting from March 29, Takamatsu Station in the prefecture's capital city Takamatsu will also be known by a new "official" nickname, "Sanuki Udon Station," its operating company Shikoku Railway Co. (JR Shikoku) announced on March 26.
The move is the latest pitch of Kagawa Prefecture's ongoing PR campaign that was launched in October last year to boost tourism and promote its popularity through local delicacies, including the well-known noodle dish "Sanuki udon" and other local food and drinks.
As part of the most recent campaign, the station nameboard will carry both names -- the official Takamatsu Station and the nickname Sanuki Udon Station -- which will be accompanied by colorful noodle illustrations, the prefecture's unofficial name "Udon Prefecture" to the left of the board and Takamatsu City to the right.
The campaign will be effective for a limited two-year period, JR Shikoku officials said.
To add to the appeal, staff at the Takamatsu Station, who will be doing their best to welcome travelers to the wonders of Kagawa -- or Udon -- Prefecture, will be wearing neckties with noodle patterns.
"We would like to keep promoting the prefecture as much as possible," a JR Shikoku official commented enthusiastically.
I've posted details of my proposed October-November China trip to Sandaoling, Baiyin, Pingzhuang, Yuanbaoshan, Hongmiao, Fuxin and Beitai at http://www.users.waitrose.com/~jraby/chinatour4.html
The Beitai option is currently the least definite item on this trip plan as I'm waiting to hear how my guide Mike Ma, about to visit with a small group, does there in the next few days.
If anyone is looking for an 'off-the-peg' tour to Shibanxi, Mojiang and other Sichuan and Chongqing narrow gauge industrials and standard gauge steam lines, I have posted details athttp://www.users.waitrose.com/~jraby/chinatour3.html Zebedee would be pleased to guide you if you decide to visit.
I am also about to post ideas for a Japan trip - 'Railways around Tokyo' at http://www.users.waitrose.com/~jraby/tokyotour.html I lived in Tokyo for roughly 15 years of my working life in two longish periods and although Tokyo transport is always changing, I feel sure that I could show enthusiasts the railway sights as well as local foods and culture. The trip will likely be timed for the 2013 cherry blossom period (late March - early April).
Train passengers will soon be able to use their mobile phones on the city's subways.
Japan's three largest mobile carriers said Wednesday that they would begin to offer services on sections of some lines from this week, with full coverage to come later this year. Voice and data will be available in stations as well as underground tunnels.
NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, and Softbank said in a joint statement that the first section to go live will be a stretch that runs from Shinjuku, a central business and shopping district. EMobile, which mainly offers high-speed data services, is also participating.
Tokyo's miles of subways, some of which run several stories underground, have long been a rare gap in the city's blanket cellular coverage. Commuters often scramble to make calls, download their messages, and check train schedules during brief stops at the stations where they get reception.
Some are concerned that mobile services on subways will end a rare sanctuary from the constant background of phone chatter in the city. Posters on trains ask that passengers refrain from making calls on trains and switch their ring tones to vibration mode. In the joint announcement for the start of services, Japanese carriers asked that train passengers "continue to observe the rules for using mobile phones, as they have in the past."
OSAKA, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Osaka, a traditional commercial city in western Japan, aims to become a new information and business hub through a major city development project, Grand Front Osaka with a unique activity center called "Knowledge Capital" in a district near the central railway station, a developer of the project said in an interview with Xinhua.
Toyonori Takahashi, Managing Director of Knowledge Capital Management Corporation, the consortium of more than 10 companies participating in the project, expressed the hope that Osaka would get the position to be competitive with other big cities in the world for trading in knowledge and information through the project.
The big construction plan was proposed nearly 10 years ago as the first phase of the larger Osaka Station North District Project, or "Umekita Project", which is one of Japan's major development projects, to boost economic and cultural growth in Osaka City plus its neighboring areas, Kansai.
The big project has two construction stages to convert the Umeda rail freight yard with 24 hectares, located in the north side of the station, into a futuristic city in the city, which is surrounded by green gardens and an event arena designed by well- known Japanese architect Tadao Ando.
According to the plan, Grand Front Osaka covers an area of over seven hectares and is divided into three blocks including office zones, convention facilities, condominium, entertainment space and commercial outlets. The Intercontinental Hotel is also expected to open in the complex to accommodate foreign and domestic travelers.
Takahashi pointed out that Grand Front Osaka has huge potentiality because it is the complex adjacent to the Osaka Station where about 2.5 million commuters and travelers visit every day, stressing that it will be the most attractive urban zone in Japan upon completion next year.
He said that among the facilities, Knowledge Capital, a newly conceptualized area with a unique blending of service, culture, art and technology, is expected to function as its core place which is composed of various arenas based on four themes: "Gather, " "Create," "Exhibit," and "Interact."
"Knowledge Capital will locate in the center of the complex, connecting with each building of the three blocks, encouraging intellectual exchange by linkage between people who want to come in the venue and stop over to exploit expertise and technology."
"The area aims to help people create new things from business ideas to cultural activities, or to display prototypes of new technology and even test them on millions of the world's most demanding people every day before launching them in markets globally," he added.
According to the Grand Front Osaka plan, Knowledge Capital covers over a total of 88,000 square meters of floor space and will feature three essential parts: "The Lab", "Theater", and " Salon"-- all interconnected through basic functions of meeting, creating and displaying with the state of the art facilities and resources.
"It will open to any future builders not only business people or researchers, but also creators, musicians, authors, students and anyone else from all over the world who want to create new values," Takahashi said.
"If the business model for urban development project is well accepted in Osaka, we will apply the trend to similar projects in Asian cities in the near future," he said. Meanwhile, Takahashi admitted that Osaka, compared with other big cities in Asia, lacked systems and facilities to express and send its message to the outside world while its people, especially after the 1970 World Exposition, forgot to notice that its traditional way of inward mind could no longer bring future development for its economy and the culture.
"It's time for Osaka and the people to change their attitude towards a new era, looking outside to attract various peoples and investments from abroad to ensure its continued growth," he added.
Japan's high-speed railway, known as shinkansen, is a remarkable engineering accomplishment. The frequency and efficiency with which this system runs has been incredible to read about.
Japan's first high-speed railway, the Tokaido Shinkansen, opened in 1964 with traveling speeds of up to 130 mph. Today every major city is accessible via shinkansen, which run at average speeds of between 170 and 186 mph and depart with frequencies that rival the New York City subway system. Four hundred trains travel the Tokaido Shinkansen (which, remember, is only one of six shinkansen lines) daily, arriving in increments of about three minutes each with an average delay time of 0.1 minutes, typically because of climatic impediments, such as heavy snow.
This speed, efficiency, and dependability, along with its carrying capacity are what make shinkansen an integral part of daily commuting in Japan -- and an important contributor to the Japanese economy.
In a 1994 report, Features and Social Economic Effects of Shinkansen, Hiroshi Okada, a Japanese civil engineer, demonstrated the social savings -- a growth accounting technique used to measure the economic implications of new technologies -- realized by Japan with the advent of the shinkansen.
In his report, Okada calculated that if 85 percent of the total passengers on the four shinkansen lines that then existed shifted from conventional lines, the annual time saving calculated from the difference in schedule times between the shinkansen and conventional lines would be about 400 million hours. By calculating the value of the time per hour from the GDP per capita, he determined the value of the time saving to be about 500 billion yen (about US$5 billion, based on October 1994 conversion rates) a year.
A slight caveat: Okada doesn't specify how much time per passenger is saved, opting instead to give the above total. This is important because, while it is clear time is saved by the use of shinkansen instead of conventional trains for transportation, what is most important is if the time saved can be put to any good use. A savings of seconds per person over a large cohort is ultimately less useful than a savings of minutes or hours per person in one that is smaller.
The possibility of such time savings is a common rationale for general investment in public transportation. The theory goes that improved public transportation -- "improved" meaning faster, more efficient, and more reliable -- can increase business productivity by attracting new public transit passengers, thereby reducing road congestion and increasing employer access to skilled labor.
How a high-speed railway in America would stack up to shinkansenremains to be seen, however. Current plans for high-speed rail in the US seem somewhat limited, eliminating the possibility of its use as a mode of daily commutation and offering little access to a large swath of the country.
Long term, the vision seems to improve, allowing for easy access to urban public transit networks from high-speed rails and high-speed access to various medium- and high-population cities.
You can read more about the effects of congestion on economic factors in the National Cooperative Highway Research Program Report 463 and the American Public Transportation Association's Economic Impact of Public Transportation Investment.
Japanese airlines canceled hundreds of flights, some train services were halted and thousands of workers went home early as some of the strongest winds in more than 50 years hit Tokyotoday.
The weather agency issued a tornado warning for the Tokyo area after the storm dumped as much as 6 centimeters (2.4 inches) of rain an hour in central Japan as it crossed from the southwest, with winds gusting up to 140 kilometers (87 miles) an hour. An 82-year-old woman died after being knocked over by the wind and hitting her head, national broadcaster NHK reported.
Strong winds in Tokyo on April 3, 2012. Photographer: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images
A storm passing over Japan is seen in this satellite image acquired at 13:00 JST, on Tuesday, April 3, 2012. Source: Japan Meteorological Agency via Bloomberg
“Our company closed early but I stayed longer to finish work,” said Akio Fukuzaki, an engineer waiting in line at a Tokyo train station for operations to resume. “I should have left earlier.”
As many as 11,500 households have lost power because of the storm in Toyama and Ishikawa prefectures, Hokuriku Electric Power Co. (9505) said in a statement. At least 60 people have been injured in 17 prefectures, NHK reported, showing a golf driving range destroyed in Hiroshima in western Japan.
Sustained winds in Tokyo may reach 90 kph during its evening peak, Takeo Tanaka, head of the weather advisory office at theJapan Meteorological Agency, said in a telephone interview. That would make it the strongest storm to hit the capital since 1959, when Tokyo was buffeted by winds of 97 kph, data from the weather agency show.
“People should try to avoid going out,” Tanaka said. “It’s very unusual for Tokyo to have such strong winds when there’s not a typhoon,” he said, referring to the tropical storms that regularly strike Japan between May and October.
All Nippon Airways Co. (9202) and Japan Airlines Co. (9201), the nation’s two largest airlines, canceled 566 flights, stranding more than 68,000 passengers. All Nippon scrapped 336 flights, affecting about 38,000 people, the airline said in a faxed statement, while Japan Air (9201)canceled 230 domestic flights that had 39,500 passengers. Both airlines warned that international services may also be disrupted.
East Japan Railway Co. (9020), the largest railway operator in the Tokyo region, canceled some trains due to strong winds, according to its website. Express services on the Chuo line, linking western suburbs with the city center, were scrapped, while regular services were running at 70 percent frequency, the operator said. Some expressways were also closed in the capital.
The weather agency issued warnings for waves as high as 10 meters (33 feet) on the northwest coast of Honshu and up to 8 meters along the Pacific coast hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami last year. After passing Tokyo, the storm is forecast to dump heavy rain on the disaster-hit Tohoku region.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (MOTZ) issued an advisory for companies to send employees home where possible to avoid transport disruption, the first time such a warning has been issued for a storm that isn’t a typhoon, a spokesman said.
Sony Corp. (6758) advised 16,000 employees in Tokyo to leave work early to avoid the storm, spokesman George Boyd said in an e- mail. Nissan Motor Co. (7201) ordered employees at its headquarters in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, and other facilities in Kanagawa prefecture (KANZ)to leave work at 2 p.m. today, spokesman smeg smeg said by phone.
JVC Kenwood Corp. (6632), also based in Kanagawa, sent workers home, the company said in a statement on its website. Fujitsu Ltd. (6702) said it gave 25,000 employees the option to leave work early, the company said in an e-mailed statement.
Professional baseball games were canceled in Yokohama, Tokyo and Saitama, north of the capital, Kyodo News reported. Some schools in Tokyo closed at lunchtime.
Today’s storm, caused by a low pressure front that formed over the Sea of Japan, differs from the typhoons or tropical storms which form over warm water in the Pacific and develop into a cyclone with surface wind circulation, according to the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center. Typhoon Talas killed 67 people in September, the nation’s deadliest storm in seven years.
“Usually the low pressure systems develops east of Japan but this is unusual because the low pressure system has developed in the Sea of Japan,” Masashi Kunitsugu, at the weather agency’s typhoon center, said in an interview. “It usually develops after passing the islands of Japan.”
The storm dumped heavy rain overnight on Japan’s southwest island of Kyushu before moving northeast toward Osaka and Tokyo.
Cosmo Oil Co. (5007) halted oil barge berthing at its refineries at Chiba and Yokkaichi, west of Tokyo, Katsuhisa Maeda, a company spokesman, said by phone earlier today. The refiner may also stop loading and unloading barges at processing plants at Sakai, south of Osaka, and Sakaide on the island of Shikoku.
JX Nippon Oil and Energy Corp., Japan’s largest refiner, stopped barge berthing at its Marifu refinery in western Japan, as well as its Negishi refinery in Yokohama, according to a company official who declined to be identified citing the company’s internal policy.
Idemitsu Kosan Co. (5019) stopped berthings at its Chiba, Aichi and Tokuyama refineries, spokesman Kei Uchikawa said.
West Japan Railway Co. (9021) canceled bullet train services on the Sanyo Shinkansen line between Osaka and Hakata station in Kyushu, the company said on its website.
Travel chaos storms Tokyo region
Thursday, 5 April 2012
Storm lashes Tokyo region - Source: House of Japan
Travel in Tokyo was thrown into chaos yesterday as Japan’s worst storm in over 50 years smashed into Tokyo region, grounding flights and halting a number of train services.
Japan Airlines cancelled 230 domestic and seven Asia-bound flights, affecting 31,600 passengers. All Nippon Airways also had to ground 320 domestic flights which affected 37,700 people.
The bullet train that links Tokyo and the western city of Osaka experienced delays after a short suspension, while East Japan Railways, which operates a vast train network in the eastern and northern regions, cancelled some commuter and long-distance services.
The typhoon-strength storm produced winds up to 150 kilometers an hour. A spokesman for the Japan Meteorological Agency said “This is like the core of a typhoon, but it is staying for a long time. A typhoon usually moves rather quickly.”
Japan Airlines stated on their website that normal operation is expected for today 5 April.
BMI View: Our view that Japan's post-Tohoku reconstruction efforts would have to wait until 2012 continues to play out. Robust growth in construction orders since the crisis has yet to translate into greater construction activity within the country. Although private investment could decline due to the potential of a Chinese hard landing, we are maintaining our forecasts for Japan's construction sector, with real growth expected to reach 4.1% and 1.8% in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Over the long-term, we see some opportunities for infrastructure development in Japan (particularly in power and railway infrastructure sub-sectors) but remain unconvinced that the country has the financing capabilities or the political will to sustain these growth levels.
Key developments include:
- Sentiment towards nuclear generation has changed. In November 2011, the Japanese government restarted its first nuclear power plant reactor since the Fukushima Daiichi plant was shut down in March 2011, reports abs-cbnnews.com. Power was restored to the Genkai nuclear facility in the south of the country, in a move the government hopes will placate sceptics of atomic energy in the wake of March 2011's incident at Fukushima. Prior to the national shutdown, Japan was dependent upon nuclear power for one-third of its total electricity.
- In November 2011, Japanese mobile operator Softbank undertook the construction of three experimental solar power plants in the northern island of Hokkaido. The 100 kilowatt (KW) test plant became operational in mid-December 2011 and is equipped with solar panels produced by local and international manufacturers such as Kyocera and Canadian Solar.
- In February 2012, Japanese electricity utility Kansai Electric Power Company announced that it will postpone the launch of its 12MW Awaji wind power plant, reports reuters.com. The facility was scheduled to open at the end of March 2012, but will now commence commercial operations in February 2013, following a delay in the plant's construction.
- Kajima Corporation
- Tokyo Electric Power Company Co (TEPCO)
- Taisei Corporation
For more information visit http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/9cfa06b0/japan_infrastructu
In the light of the March 11 2011 earthquake, East Japan Railway has allocated ¥100bn to improving the earthquake resistance of its infrastructure over the next five years.
t took more than six years for train punctuality to recover after the October 2000 Hatfield crash which killed four people and injured another 102 when a London to Leeds express hurtled off the track at 115 mph.
To the frustration of passengers, trains crawled along the network as the Government imposed speed restrictions amid fears that a phenomenon known as gauge corner cracking could cause another derailment.
By comparison, the Japanese rail network - including its fleet of 200 mph bullet trains were working normally within 50 days of the earthquake and Tsunami which devastated the country and killed, according to the latest official figures, 18,926 people.
The astonishing resilience of the Japanese network was outlined by Mutsutake Otsuka, the president and chief executive of East Japan Railway, the world’s biggest train company which carries 17 million passengers a day.
Not a single passenger was injured as the country during the disaster of March 11 last year, he told the global summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council summit in Sendai, the city which bore the brunt of the catastrophe.
When the earthquake struck there were 650 conventional trains and 26 Shinkansen bullet trains on the track on the track.
With seconds, thanks to network of 28 seismometers - or tremor detectors - emergency brakes were triggered on the trains across the region and the entire network was brought to a halt.
Anti-tilting brackets on the trains kept them upright, despite the severity of the earthquake and viaducts, which been reinforced after previous earthquakes all remained intact.
The company, which is now in private hands, is planning further improvements including installing a further 30 seismometers, which will cut the response time to another earthquake even further.
Bus routes linking Tokyo Sky Tree with key locations in the capital on the rise
Prior to the grand opening of Tokyo Sky Tree, the world's tallest free-standing broadcast tower and Japan's newest landmark, bus companies are rushing to launch services that link the structure with key locations in the capital and make the journey to the famous spot more comfortable for tourists.
Three new shuttle bus services, launched by Tobu Bus Co., that link Tokyo Sky Tree in the capital's Sumida Ward with Tokyo Station, Haneda Airport and Tokyo Disney Resort, will begin simultaneously with the opening of the tower on May 22.
Passengers will reach the tower in approximately 30 minutes from Tokyo Station, and between about 50 to 70 minutes from Haneda Airport. Adult passengers will be charged 500 yen on the Tokyo Station bus and 900 yen for the Haneda route.
Using a bus to reach the tower from either of the locations is both more time consuming and costly when compared with train fares on each of the four railway lines stopping near Tokyo Sky Tree. However, the bus companies -- who are using a "have a seat all the way to your destination" sales pitch -- say using buses will benefit those coming from afar who are not used to transferring trains in Tokyo, as well as travelers who carry heavy luggage.
A separate bus service operated by Tobu, which currently connects the tower with Ueno Park and the Asakusa district on weekends and national holidays only, will begin regular daily operations from May 22. The buses' outer design will also be remodeled with images of an illuminated Tokyo Sky Tree painted on the sides.
Some of the buses will even be equipped with large glass ceilings allowing passengers to view the tower throughout their ride.
Meanwhile, additional bus routes launched by Keisei Bus Co. linking Shin-Koiwa Station with Asakusa via Tokyo Sky Tree, are also scheduled to begin operations sometime this June.
Toei buses operated by Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Transportation Bureau passing near the tower debuted on March 20, operating four times a day on weekends and national holidays. The buses start from Tokyo Station and reach Tokyo Sky Tree in approximately 40 minutes for a fixed charge of 200 yen.
A separate route linking Nippori Station with the tower in approximately 20 minutes, targeting travelers arriving from Narita Airport and other passengers, has also been launched.
I’ve known for quite a while that Tokyo is often recognized as the most expensive city in the world. Its society is also widely known as “crazy” about discipline and orderliness, which at least is perhaps the major reason why Tokyo looks so attractive, neat and clean.
“Tokyo has been a major city for centuries, surpassing in size the great capitals of Europe since the seventeenth century,” wrote John H. and Phyllis G. Martin in their book, Tokyo: A Cultural Guide to Japan’s Capital City.
It is a city that offers visitors one of the most modern facades in the world and boasts towering skyscrapers that, it is claimed, can withstand future earthquakes. Yet past traditions are retained despite all the modernizing in the second half of the twentieth century.
The first impression is felt on arrival at Narita International Airport. Airport personnel work quickly and adeptly. They are responsive to the people queuing at the immigration counter.
Leaving the airport and traveling by bus for around 90 minutes to Tokyo, we watch neat roads and orderly traffic. A rural atmosphere with plantations and warehouses also prevails on both sides of the toll road leading to Tokyo.
In Tokyo, the various high-rise buildings, overpasses and railway lines give the idea that we are entering a modern city. Beautiful and well-arranged parks are inseparable from Tokyo, with their dominant sakura trees, adding distinctive color to the city and enhancing its freshness. Scattered sakura flowers on public roads and parks don’t prevent people from relaxing on plastic mats available at many places.
In contrast to the traffic in Jakarta, for two days no car horns can be heard. In Japan, this is of course unsurprising because when the country was rocked by a major earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, it continued to maintain traffic discipline and order.
In general, traffic is light and smooth as commuters in Tokyo heavily rely on the subway system. Access to subway stations is easy and convenient. Moreover, Japan strictly regulates car ownership, making people less dependent on private cars for their travel. Traffic jams can only be found around some shopping areas like Omotesando, Harajuku and Roppongi.
Tokyo’s infrastructure indeed affords greater space for pedestrians and cyclists, enabling more people to walk instead of driving. There are lots of fences to chain bicycles along the sidewalks.
Unlike Indonesia, many older people in Tokyo are still working with zeal. At Narita, for instance, most check-in staff members are relatively old. Some work as taxi drivers and provide cleaning service at hotels.
Japan has the highest percentage of senior citizens in the world. Based on a census in 2010, Japan has a population of around 128.5 million, of whom the elderly make up 30 million, or 23 percent.
Visiting the city for two days certainly is not enough to get a thorough picture of a city boasting diverse tourist destinations like Disneyland, Tokyo Tower, the Tokyo Imperial Palace, the Asakusa Kannon Temple and shopping centers. But the short visit did amaze us and make us wish to return another time.
This brief stay gave us some valuable lessons and we can in fact do the same. We can imitate how the Japanese pay considerable attention to comfort and give utmost care to apparently trivial things.
For instance, on rainy days all of the shops make umbrella stands available and customers wishing to carry them are provided with free plastic bags to prevent water from dripping on the floor.
Litter boxes are placed everywhere and those already full are promptly replaced by garbage collectors. On Saturday and Sunday mornings at about 6 a.m. the Roppingi area was littered with rubbish, but by 7 a.m. it was all cleared.
Nearly every restaurant display models of every food offered, with lists of prices ranging from around 1,000 yen (Rp 100,000) to 2,000 yen. Their menus are also replete with the nutritional contents of relevant specialties.
The Japanese are known for their punctuality, which is distinct from Indonesians. The tourist bus serving us always arrived on time and was ready for our tours as scheduled. Many positive things can be learned from Japan, with its close emotional ties with Indonesia.
Current bilateral relations have gotten a boost as Japan is among the largest investors in Indonesia and a lot of Indonesian students are studying in Japan, although history has its gloomy side — Japan once occupied Indonesia.
From the city’s 333-meter Tokyo Tower, visitors can experience the magnificent view of tall buildings and the busy streets of the metropolis. Open since 1958, Tokyo Tower has been one of the city’s symbols and among the tallest towers in the world, higher than Eiffel (320m). The orange-and-white tower was originally meant to be a radio antenna.
Located in the Shiba Park area, the tower has three parts: foot town, the main observatory and the special observatory. On floor 1 of Foot Town are convenient stores, souvenir shops, an aquarium and an elevator to observation decks. Floor 2 has some other souvenir shops. Floor 3 houses the Tokyo Wax Museum and Space Wax, and floor 4 a game corner and Noppon Square.
The main observatory, at a height of 150 meters, has two floors where visitors can enjoy the beauty of Tokyo. A glass floor also helps. The special observatory, at 250 meters, is the highest place to observe Tokyo.
Tokyo Imperial Palace
Surveying the Japanese Emperor’s principal residence in Chiyoda, Tokyo, is like grasping the attitude and character of Japanese society in general, which is mostly closed, exclusive and less receptive to foreign cultures.
Surrounded by a lake, buildings and a park measuring 7.41 square kilometers with various houses, like the royal family’s private homes, it is not open to the public.
Visitors can only get closeand take pictures at the main doors connected with a broad bridge. They can also relax in the tidy and gorgeous park in front.
The park is adorned with statues of imperial soldiers and has a parking area farther from the palace. Although nobody can witness the palace interior, the royal mansion near Tokyo Station is always teeming with tourists.
Asakusa Kannon Temple
To complete the Tokyo visit, Asakusa Kannon Temple is the old est holy place in the city and the bastion of Japan’s traditional values amid its modern lifestyle. It is an indispensable destination.
Asakusa, one of many tourists’ favorite spots, has many buildings in its complex, like Kaminarimon (Kaminari Gate), Sensoji Temple, Dempoin Temple and Asakusa Shrine. There are also Nakamise and Shin-Nakamise shopping streets, where visitors buy souvenirs and cookies.
Sensoji is an important shrine in Asakusa. Legend has it that in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, Sensoji was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon. The temple was completed in 645.
A musical show combining Balinese traditional instruments and Japanese Shamisen (guitar) with jazz musical rhythm made the song “Sakura” sound more melodious and artistic. The performance by Japanese artists received warm applause from those attending the commemoration at Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Tokyo.
Modernity without abandoning tradition as presented by the music was the image Garuda Indonesia wished to convey to its business partners in Japan and Japanese and Indonesian government representatives.
“This event constitutes an attempt to further promote Japan as a very important market of Garuda Indonesia,” Garuda Indonesia president director Emirsyah Satar said. It was also intended to strengthen ties between the Japanese and Indonesian communities.
The first Garuda Indonesia flight to Japan took place on March 13, 1962 from Kemayoran Airport, Jakarta to Haneda Airport, Tokyo, via Hong Kong. The 100-seat Lockheed L-118 Electra for the route was flown by pilot in command (PIC) Capt. A. Muthalib, Jusman Repon and Capt. Roekanto Jokomono.
From 1996, all Garuda Indonesia flights to Japan have used Airbus A330-300s, and since 2009 Garuda Indonesia has served its flights to Japan with the latest 222-seat A330-200s, comprising 36 business class passengers and 186 economy class passengers
The Jakarta Post
Wed, 04/25/2012 12:16 PM
A worker carries out repairs on the Tokyo Metro series 6000 electric train at the Balai Yasa depot in Bukit Duri, Manggarai, South Jakarta, on Tuesday. State-owned railway operator PT KAI has bought 20 used electric trains from Japan to add to its current fleet.
A worker carries out repairs on the Tokyo Metro series 6000 electric train at the Balai Yasa depot in Bukit Duri, Manggarai, South Jakarta, on Tuesday. State-owned railway operator PT KAI has bought 20 used electric trains from Japan to add to its current fleet.
The Knorr-Bremse Group hauls in another major order, bolstering its market position in Japan. The company was commissioned by Japanese rail operator JR East to outfit the E6, the latest generation of Japan's high-speed Shinkan-sen trains, with brake systems.
The order extends to the supply of brake discs, brake callipers and brake pads for the traction bogies on 23 new trains. As with the previous E5 generation, the new E6 trains will feature ultra-compact, weight-optimised brake callipers. The brake disc and the ISOBAR sintered brake pad have been developed to ensure maximum per-formance under various operational conditions.
Dr. Dieter Wilhelm, Executive Board member of Knorr-Bremse AG and responsible for the Rail Vehicles Systems division, traces the ongoing success on the Japanese rail market back to two significant success factors: "On the one hand, Knorr-Bremse can offer customers its tremendous pool of expertise, particular in the high perform-ance brake segment. On the other hand, this commission shows that the systems delivered for the previous generation, the E5, lived up to the operator's high expec-tations". Knorr-Bremse also successfully outfitted four wagons on the E6 prototype models.
The new E6 generation of Shinkansen train will be rolled out in spring 2013, shutt-ling between Tokyo and Akita on the west coast of the main island of Honshu. Cars from the new E6 trains will also be coupled with cars from the older generation of E5 trains on the stretch between Tokyo and Morioka. During the first stage the new E6 generation will be operated at top speeds of 300kmH; starting in spring 2014 that will climb to 320 km/h.
JR East is the world's largest passenger rail operator, moving roughly 17 million passengers daily on network of rails stretching over 7,500 km. The company is one of seven spin-offs from the former Japanese National Railways, which was privati-sed in 1987.
JAPAN: East Japan Railway has awarded Knorr-Bremse a contract to supply braking systems for the 23 Series E6 high speed trainsets which are scheduled to enter service between Tokyo and Akita in early 2013. The 'major order' announced by Knorr-Bremse on April 26 includes brake discs, pads and compact lightweight callipers for motor bogies. The company has previously supplied braking systems for Series E5 trainsets and four prototype E6 cars. 'This commission shows that the systems delivered for the previous generation, the E5, lived up to the operator's high expectations', said Dr Dieter Wilhelm, executive board member responsible for Knorr-Bremse's Rail Vehicles Systems division. The tilting Series E6 trainsets will initially run at up to 300 km/h on high speed infrastructure, with an increase to 320 km/h planned for March 2014. Speeds will be lower on the mini-Shinkansen section of upgraded conventional route between Morioka and Akita.
OSAKA, April 27 (Xinhua) -- In July, Japan will launch a new feed-in-tariff scheme for renewable energy, expecting to encourage both solar and wind power projects in the country.
The new scheme was proposed by the central government aiming to reduce reliance on nuclear power after the radioactive disaster at Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant while diversifying methods of power generation.
Local press reported that a government panel proposed this week regional power utilities should purchase electricity at a rate of 42 yen (about 0.5 U.S. dollars) per kWh for solar power supplies.
The report said the proposed rate could meet earlier demands from the industry. Prior to the official start of the renewable energy incentive program, Japanese companies have accelerated setting up mega-solar projects over the past months especially in western and southern Japanese cities or towns where no major damages by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 are seen.
Among them, Japanese electronics giant Kyocera Corporation earlier this month unveiled plans to build Japan's largest solar plant in the country's southern city of Kagoshima. Kyocera said the new project would be jointly undertaken with heavy machinery manufacturer IHI Corporation and Mizuho Corporate Bank which will devise a financing plan for the project.
The three companies agreed to construct the 70-megawatte solar power plant, The total cost of the project is estimated at 25 billion yen (about 309 million U.S. dollars). The planned site of the solar plant is approximately 1,270,000 square meters, and construction is expected to start this July.
According to the plan, Kyocera will provide solar modules, using 290,000 panels, based on its 35 years of experience in the solar business while IHI will lease the land.
The Kagoshima solar farm will generate enough electricity to power 22,000 households while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25,000 tons annually. Kyocera stressed that the project would also serve as a business model to further explore chances to develop such utility-scale solar power generation that the country's utility companies also widely research in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident.
"As Japan has little fossils fuel resources such as oil and gas, it is quite natural and reasonable to select renewable energy resources, particularly "solar" as the basic tool to find out other alternative choice to them." "Of course, solar power makes a better contribution to environmental protection, including the reduction of CO2 emissions," Chikako Morioka, Manager of Kyocera' s Communication Section told Xinhua.
She also pointed out that such projects would attract many industries in local areas, both vitalizing their economy and culture through the spread of renewable energy use.
Meanwhile, Japanese mobile telecoms group Softbank also set up its project to construct the 30-megawatte solar power facility in Yonago, Tottori Prefecture in western Japan.
According to the news release, SB Energy Corporation, Softbank' s clean energy unit and trading house Mitsui & Co. will jointly construct a plant on industrial estate with about 500,000 square meters of area. A SB Energy spokesperson said the company hopes to complete construction of the plant by the end of 2013 and the output of the plant could be enough to cover all electricity needs of about 7,500 households.
The energy firm also plans to build and operate mega-solar power plants with other partners at more than 10 locations in Japan, including major plants currently being constructed in Kyoto and Tokushima Prefectures in western Japan.
Softbank's Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son expressed his satisfaction regarding the proposed purchasing rate under the new feed-in-tariff scheme, telling reporters that the price would enough fit a series of his projects and boost renewable energy businesses in Japan.
In addition, major Osaka-based private electric railway company Kintetsu Corporation also revealed its plans to build a mega-solar plant in Mie Prefecture where the railway operator widely runs its train and bus networks.
The Kintetsu solar farm will produce 20 megawatts of electricity, supplying power to about 6,000 households in the prefecture. Kintetsu spokesperson Yuri Miyamoto told Xinhua that the company hopes to begin the operation from March 2014 and the produced electricity could be sold based on the government program.
Local paper said Kintetsu, severely affected by electricity- saving measures last year, will be the first railway operator in the country to construct such a large-scale solar farm for commercial purposes.
Munenori Nomura, a professor of economics at Kwansei Gakuin University, told Xinhua that development of solar projects, or wind, may promise attractive returns to those challenging companies under the new feed-in-tariff policy, but feasibility of such a renewable energy business will depend on potential capacity of the power generation in the end.
"Competing with other power generating ways such as in thermal or nuclear plants, the companies are required to maintain stability of the power generating which must supply enough amounts of electricity throughout the day and night," he said.
Before the Fukushima disaster, nuclear power generation had supplied about 30 percent of Japan's electricity over the years while dependence on fossil fuels also caused the country's CO2 emissions to increase.
"As long as the new program to utilize renewable resources within the national electricity grid brings a lot to the developers and people, 'mega-solar' can be the start of an effort to seek much safer way of energy supply in the country," Nomura added.
Friday, April 27, 2012
JR EAST has selected Knorr-Bremse to supply braking equipment for its latest-generation E6 Shinaknsen trains, 23 of which will be delivered from next March for use on Tokyo - Akita services.
The order covers the supply of brake discs, callipers, and Isobar sintered pads for the traction bogies on the trains, which will be built by Hitachi and Kawasaki Heavy Industries.
Each seven-car train will accommodate 338 passengers, with 315 in standard class and 23 in green class. The trains will initially operate at up to 300km/h, increasing to 320km/h in spring 2014.
A pre-series train (pictured) was delivered in 2010, and is currently undergoing tests on the Tohoku and Akita Shinkansen.
Knorr-Bremse has already supplied braking systems for traction bogies on JR East's E5 Shinkansen trains.
Knorr-Bremse has won a contract from Japanese rail operator JR East to supply brake systems for the new E6 generation of high-speed Shinkansen trains.
Under the deal, Knorr-Bremse will supply brake discs, brake callipers and brake pads for the traction bogies on 23 Series E6 high-speed trains that are scheduled to enter service between Tokyo and Akita in early 2013.
Knorr-Bremse, which had previously supplied braking systems for Series E5 trains and four prototype E6 models, said that compared to previous E5 generation, the new E6 trains will feature ultra-compact, weight-optimised brake callipers.
The company said the brake disc and the Isobar sintered brake pad have been developed to offer improved performance under various operational conditions. Knorr-Bremse had previously delivered braking systems for Series E5 trains and four prototype E6 cars.
The new E6 generation of Shinkansen trains will operate between Tokyo and Akita, on the west coast of the main island of Honshu, starting from spring 2013. The E6 series will also be coupled with cars from the older generation of E5 series trains on the stretch between Tokyo and Morioka.
In the first stage, the new E6 series trains will initially run at up to 300 km/h, which is expected to be increased to 320 km/h in Spring 2014.
The company said that the speeds will be reduced on the mini-Shinkansen section of upgraded conventional route between Morioka and Akita.
JR East, which was privatised in 1987, transports about 17 million passengers every day on its rail network, which spans over 7,500km.
Knorr-Bremse' rail product portfolio also includes door systems, control components, air conditioning systems, windscreen wiper systems and platform doors systems.
Image: Series E6 high-speed trains are scheduled to enter service between Tokyo and Akita in early 2013.Photo: courtesy of Sukhoi37.
Following criticism over its handling of passengers left stranded after last year’s Great East Japan Earthquake, JR East took the opportunity to test its revised emergency procedures during an earthquake simulation drill held by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Around 130 ‘passengers’ were led onto platforms where they were given food and water. The operator has identified parts of its stations that can be used as temporary shelters and plans to stockpile food, blankets and first aid kits.
Tokyo Metro is a rapid transit system serving the capital city of Japan. It is the world's busiest subway with 3.16 billion annual passenger rides (2010) and a daily ridership of 6.31 million people. It has been operated by Tokyo Metro since April 2004.
The metro system is comprised of nine lines with a total operating length of 203.4km. It has 179 stations in total.
History and line routes of Japan's capital city's rapid transit system
"Tokyo Metro placed an order for 240 bogies with steering with Sumitomo in February 2011. The bogies will be operational in 2012."
The Tokyo Underground Railway Company, which was established in August 1920, undertook the construction of the Tokyo Metro. It completed the first line of the metro, known as the Ginza Line.
Teito Rapid Transit Authority, which was established in July 1941, took over the operations of the metro. A new company called Tokyo Metro Co. was established in April 2004 and all operations of the metro were brought under the management of the new company.
The nine lines on the Tokyo Metro are named Ginza, Marunouchi, Hibiya, Tozai, Chiyoda, Yurakucho, Hanzomon, Namboku and Fukutoshin.
The Ginza and Marunouchi lines are of standard gauge (1,435mm), while all other lines are of narrow gauge (1,067mm). The trains operate at a speed of 80kmph.
Details of the nine lines along the Tokyo Metro network
Ginza was the first line built on the Tokyo Metro. The 14.3km long stretch serves Shibuya, Minato, Chuo, Chiyoda and Taito. It operates between Asakusa and Shibuya, with 19 intermediate stations.
Construction on the first subway section between Asakusa and Ueno was started in September 1925 and was completed in December 1927. The section between Ginza and Shimbashi was opened in June 1934. In December 1953, the Asakusa-Shibuya section was named as the Ginza Line.
Marunouchi is a 27.4km stretch between the Ogikubo Station and Toshima Ikebukuro Station, with a branch from Nakano-sakaue Station to Honancho Station. The U-shaped line has 28 stations.
In December 1953 the Ikebukuro-Shinjuku section was named as the Marunouchi Line. The Ikebukuro to Ochanomizu section, part of the line, was opened in January 1954. The whole stretch of this line was completed in March 1959.
Hibiya is a 20.3km long stretch between Naka-Meguro in Meguro and Kita-Senju in Adachi, with 21 intermediate stations.
The Minami-Senju to Naka-Okachimachi section of the line was opened in March 1961.
The Kita-Senju to Minami-Senju section and the Naka-Okachimachi to Ningyocho section were opened in May 1962.
The Higashi-Ginza to Kasumigaseki section of the Hibiya Line was opened in August 1964.
Tozai is a 30.8km stretch between Nakano Station in Nakano, Tokyo and Nishi-Funabashi Station in Funabashi, Chiba, made up of 23 intermediate stations.
The Takadanobaba to smeg section of this line was opened in December 1964. The Toyocho to Nishi-funabashi section was opened in March 1969.
Chiyoda is a 24km stretch serving the wards of Adachi, Arakawa, Bunkyo, Chiyoda, Minato and Shibuya. The line has 20 stations.
The Kita-Senju to Otemachi section of this line was opened in December 1969. The Ayase to Kita-Senju section was opened in April 1971. The Yoyogi-Koen to Yoyogi-Uehara section was opened in March 1978.
Yurakucho is a 28.3km stretch between Wakoshi Station in Wako, Saitama and Shin-Kiba Station in Koto, Tokyo, with 24 intermediate stations.
The Ikebukuro to Ginza-itchome section of the line was opened in October 1974. The Wakoshi to Eidan-Narimasu section was opened in August 1987. The Shintomicho and Shin-Kiba section was opened in June 1988.
Hanzomon is a 16.8km stretch serving Shibuya, Minato, Chiyoda, Chuo, Koto and Sumida. It comprises 14 stations.
The Shibuya to Aoyama-Itchome section of the line was opened in August 1978. The Suitengumae to Oshiage section was opened in March 2003.
Namboku is a 21.3km stretch between Meguro in Shinagawa and Akabane-Iwabuchi in Kita with 19 intermediate stations.
The Komagome to Akabane-Iwabuchi section of the line was opened in November 1991. The Meguro to Tameike-Sanno section was opened in September 2000. The Suitengumae to Oshiage section was opened in March 2003.
Fukutoshin is the newest line among the entire network. The whole length of the line is around 20.2km with 16 intermediate stations. It was opened on 14 June 2008.
Rolling stock from Hitachi used along the world's busiest subway system
Rolling stock for the Tokyo Metro was supplied by Hitachi. Ginza Line operates 01 series rolling stock. Marunouchi Line operates 02 series rolling stock. The Hibiya Line operates 03 series rolling stock. Tozai Line operates 05, 07 and 15000 series rolling stock.
"It has been operated by Tokyo Metro since April 2004."
The Chiyoda Line operates 06, 5000, 6000 and 16000 series rolling stock. The Hanzomon line operates 08 and 8000 series rolling stock. The Yurakucho Line and Fukutoshin Line operate 7000 and 10000 series rolling stock.
Rolling stock will be equipped with Mitsubishi's next generation Traction Inverter System which will save 30% energy with a 40% reduction in power loss. These new inverter systems will increase the performance of regenerative brakes, emit less noise and have a low maintenance. Installation will be done after completion of trial tests which have been going since January 2012.
Tokyo Metro placed an order for 240 bogies with steering with Sumitomo in February 2011. The bogies will be operational in 2012.
Signalling and communication along Tokyo's public transport network
Hibiya, Tozai, Chiyoda, Ginza, Yurakucho and Hanzomon lines use the Cab Signalling-Automatic Train Control System (CS-ATC).
Signalling of the Tokyo Metro takes place through Automatic Train Control System. The Hibiya, Tozai, Chiyoda, Ginza, Yurakucho and Hanzomon lines use the Cab Signalling-Automatic Train Control System (CS-ATC).
Toei Subway network, in Tokyo, Japan, is operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation, a public transportation authority.
It is one of the two rapid transit systems serving the capital city of Japan, in the Kanto region.
The operations of the Toei subway network started in 1960. The subway is 121.5km long, with four lines and 106 stations.
Four lines making up the Toei subway: Asakusa, Mita, Shinjuku and Oedo
"All the lines making up the Toei subway network operate on 1500V DC overhead catenary power supply."
Toei subway consists of four lines, namely Asakusa, Mita, Shinjuku and Oedo.
The Asakusa Line, also called Line 1, is an 18.3km stretch between Nishi-magome in Ota and Oshiage, in Sumida. The line was built on a standard gauge track and has an operating speed of 70kmph. The first 3.2km section of this line was opened in December 1960. The whole stretch was completed in different phases by 1968.
The line operates private trains on some routes, including the Keikyu Main Line to Misakiguchi, Keikyu Airport Line to Haneda Airport, Keisei Oshiage Line to Inba-Nihon-Idai, Keisei Main Line to Narita Airport, plus the Shibayama Railway Line to Shibayama-Chiyoda.
Mita line, also known as Line 6, is a 26.5km stretch operating between Meguro in Shinagawa and Nishi-Takashimadaira in Itabashi. The line operates on a narrow gauge (1,067mm) track with a speed of 75kmph.
Automatic platform gates which work synchronously with the train doors are installed throughout the line.
Tokyo Metro, Kanto Region, Japan
Tokyo Metro is a rapid transit system serving the capital city of Japan. It is the world's busiest subway with 3.16 billion annual passenger rides.
The Shinjuku Line, also named Line 10, is a 23.5km stretch between Shinjuku and Motoyawata in Ichikawa, Chiba. The line operates on a medium gauge (1,372mm) track at speeds of up to 75kmph.
Oedo Line, also called Line 12, is a 40.7km stretch between Hikarigaoka and Tochomae. The line operates on a standard gauge track with a speed of 70kmph. It is completely underground and is the second longest tunnel in Japan and seventh longest in the world.
The line was opened on 12 December 2000. It took ten years for its construction and cost about $12.37bn. It is used daily by an estimated 0.8 million people. There are plans to extend the line westwards from Hikarigaoka Station through Oizumigakuen Station to Higashi-Tokorozawa Station.
Infrastructure throughout Japan's rapid transit public transport system
Automatic gates are installed at the entrance of each station to provide access to only those who purchased the ticket.
All the lines making up the Toei subway network operate on 1500V DC overhead catenary power supply. Automatic ticketing counters are set up at every station.
Tokyo Sky Tree, Japan
The Tokyo Sky Tree became the tallest free-standing structure in the world when it reached its final height of 634m in 2011.
Automatic gates are installed at the entrance of each station to provide access to only those who purchased the ticket.
Asakusa Line has 20 stations, in which some are Airport Limited Express Stops. This line is represented with a rose colour. Mita line has 27 stations with automatic platform gates in each station.
This line is represented in blue. Shinjuku Line has 21 stations with some Airport Limited Express Stops. This line is represented with green. Oedo Line has 38 stations and is the newest among all the lines.
ATS systems on Tokyo's Toei network and rolling stock on the subway
Toei subway is equipped with automatic train stoppage (ATS) systems.
"The operations of the Toei subway network started in 1960. The subway is 121.5km long, with four lines and 106 stations."
Asakusa Line operates Toei 5300 series electric multiple units. Keisei Electric Railway operates 3300 series, New 3000 series, 3400 series, 3500 series, 3600 series and 3700 series rolling stock on the subway.
Keikyu operates New 1000 series, 600 series and 1500 series rolling stock. Hokuso operates 7500 series, 7300 series, 7260 series, 9100 series and 9000 series rolling stock. Shibayama operates 3600 series rolling stock.
The Mita Line operates Toei 6300 series electric multiple unit rolling stock, Tokyu 3000 series and Tokyu 5080 series. Shinjuku Line operates Toei 10-300 series, 10-300R series and 10-000 series rolling stock.
Keio Corporation operates 9030 series and 6030 series rolling stock. Oedo Line operates Toei 12-000 series rolling stock.
Recently I spent six weeks in Tokyo for a project entirely unrelated to my transportation writing at Atlantic Cities, except insofar as they both involve the planet Earth and the human race. Still, I intended to keep a scorecard comparing Tokyo's transportation system to that of New York. I kept score for about two days before stopping, mostly out of pointlessness and a little out of patriotism. It was clear even at this early stage which city would win.
No doubt a glass-half-emptyist such as myself could find fault with elements of Tokyo's transportation network given the proper time and linguistic capacity. But within my admittedly limited sample set I found the network — particularly the intra- and intercity rail system — difficult to overrate. The worst you can probably say about it is that it very efficiency creates a problem of crowding. Which, to keep the sports metaphor going, is a little like complaining about the jog after hitting a homerun.
So I'll invoke the mercy rule and, rather than provide a halfway completed scorecard that was tending toward a shutout, offer instead a few broad observations, for New York's own system to take or leave as it will. Hopefully take.
Contrary to popular myth, not everyone arrives into Tokyo in a plane that looks like this:
When you do arrive into Narita Airport, Tokyo's main international entry point, you're about an hour and a half from the downtown area — which itself is often half an hour from other parts of the rather expansive city. You can take a taxi into the city from Narita for a fare on the order of several hundred dollars. You can take public rail transit into the city for a fraction of the cost of a cab but a multiple of the hassle, at least if you have big bags. Or you can do the sensible thing and take what's called the Airport Limousine Bus service for about $40.
That modest fee includes a comfortable ride, an orderly boarding process, great attendance to your baggage, and tip, which in Japan is always zero. Though the system is not limited to English-speaking travelers it's clearly intended for them — which, as I'd later find, pretty much goes for all Tokyo transportation. The Limo Bus doesn't travel to every hotel in the city, but dollars to donuts (yen to rice balls?) it goes to one that's either a short walk or quick cab ride from wherever you're staying.
The service is almost suspiciously well-staffed and as a result extremely efficient. Narita ground transportation is ringed with numbered signs and digital placards whose departure times and places appear in English. People stand in neat lines marked by chalk. Boarding assistants position your bags, after they're tagged by destination, at the precise spot where they'll be loaded onto the bus. When it arrives, luggage assistants run over and load all the bags even before the last person is on board. Announcements are in English too, including the one that tells you to silence your cell phones "as they annoy the neighbors." When your bus pulls away, the boarding assistant bows in its direction.
Confusing as the system seems on paper, it's very simple in practice. That's especially true for English speakers. Automatic card vendors have an English button, and if you're still able to make a mistake a little bell goes off and an attendant pops out of a door in the wall you didn't know was there and fixes the problem. Video displays on board oscillate to English, and the final speaker announcement for each station is also given an English — a practice very welcome to this tourist but which must grate on city residents.
In truth you don't even really need to speak any language to ride: just know how to count and recite the alphabet. Each station, in addition to having a name, has a letter-number combination denoting the line and stop number. So if you have trouble at first recognizing the name Azabu-Juban, you can instead just make sure you're heading for N-4 — the fourth stop on the Namboku line. There is also a wonderfully helpful map on every platform that shows you which car to board based on your destination or transfer needs.
The lines themselves are seamlessly integrated despite being owned by different companies: you can take the JR Yamanote line to the Mita line on the Toei system to the Namboku train on the Tokyo Metro system without ever leaving a station or buying a different fare card. The cars have cushioned seats and floors you could eat off and an abundance of hanging straps. I once counted 87 in a single car. The (numerous) ads not only grace the walls of the cars but also hang from the ceiling, and flap a bit in the breeze of the air ducts.
The entire system is almost impossibly neat and orderly. The bathrooms in the stations are perfectly acceptable to use. I didn't see a beggar or performer on a train once in six weeks, and even the guy who sells concessions on the platform wears a suit to work. In the morning people naturally form lines where the doors will open before the train arrives, and the platform speakers pipe in bird calls to increase the serenity. The floors of both the stations and the cars seemed clean enough to eat off.
Speaking of mornings, the early rush is everything it's made it out to be. Take the most crowded car you've ever been on in Washington or New York and add, oh, 30 percent more passengers. You don't have to worry about holding a pole or a strap because there's nowhere to move: you're essentially a subatomic particle. The only thing between you and any number of moral and federal offenses is a thin layer of polyester; once you reach a stop you feel partly obliged to cuddle with those around you. That said, at every stop, those nearest the door funnel out to allow others to disembark, then funnel back in with great aplomb.
Still there are concerns about groping on trains during the morning rush, so there are Women Only cars for those times. Of course the act of groping implies a freedom of movement which, in my rush-hour experience, did not exist. I'm also told that some men, to avoid such accusations, sometimes ride with their hands above their head — like a basketball player does to show he hasn't committed a foul — in what's called a bonsai commute.
I did ride several buses in the outskirts of the city but found little of note about them besides, once again, cushioned seats, and also the fact that they turn off their engines at every red light, presumably to conserve fuel and/or mitigate exhaust.
Intercity Rail System
I'm hardly the first to say it, but Japanese bullet trains — called the shinkansen — are also as good as advertised. Not to sound like a broken record, but these too are quite easy to use for an English speaker: the same digital arrival and departure signs that oscillate to English; the same on-board intercom announcement in English, though in a British accent; even the car diagrams on the tray table in front of you offer English.
Now the ticketing process can be a bit confusing. Unlike Amtrak, which has a single fare ticket from station to station, the shinkansen requires you to purchase both a basic rail fare and then also a seat fare. The rail fare, for example, covers passage in the Tokyo-Hakata corridor, but an additional seat fare must be paid to reserve an assigned seat. You can also buy a non-reserved seat fare, for slightly less money, and duke it out in the non-reserved cars with other passengers.
Shinkansen platforms, like those of the Limo Bus, are well-organized. Taped lines and hanging signs (again, which oscillate to English) show you where to stand based on which car you've been assigned and which train you're taking. (While Amtrak offers only regional or Acela trains, there are several types of shinkansen, ranging up to the Nozomi, or superexpress.) Platforms have vending machines, proper convenience stores, and smoking sections, where passengers huddle around air vents.
Watching the JR staff turn a shinkensen at the end of the line is really something. Once a train arrives workers blitz through the cars, wiping down seats and tray tables and window sills and generally straightening the place up. Then they flip the seats with the push of a lever so they face the other direction. The task is taken seriously: when passengers are finally allowed to enter, the platform agent bows to let you know it's time.
The bowing continues on-board — it's done every single time a conductor or cart vendor enters or exits the car. There's no quiet car, but there doesn't have to be. Anyone who receives a call steps out to the space between the cars to talk. There's a small vending machine between many of the cars, and smoking rooms between others. In addition to bathroom stalls there is just a general sink area in case you simply want to freshen. Some trains offer both Western and Japanese toilets: to sit or to squat, that is the question.
The seats are often filled despite holding more passengers than Amtrak. Instead of a two-two seating arrangement, the shinkansen have three-two seating. (The automatic ticket vendors intelligently assign the middle seats last, so that you can often ride, at least part of the way, with a free seat beside you.) The only complaint I had was a lack of electrical outlets, though that's only true on the slower trains. On Nozomi every window seat has an outlet of its own.
A lot of people ride bicycles in Tokyo. The popularity of cycling holds true despite the fact that there don't seem to be any bike lanes in Tokyo. That's impressive but also annoying, since it means a great many people ride on the already crowded sidewalks. No one wears a helmet. This is only halfway related to biking, but it seemed worth mentioning that food-delivery people ride scooters with heated compartments that hold the food.
What's striking to an American in Tokyo is just how many women ride bikes. What's striking to a New Yorker is how many people leave their bikes places without locking them. I won't say I thought seriously about starting a bike-lock business and hiring a number of bike thieves for pretty cheap to get it going. But it's possible the idea crossed my mind.
Tokyo is a very populous city so it's not surprising that the sidewalks and crosswalks are often very crowded. I once wondered whether the famous Shibuya crossing was the Worst. Crosswalk. Ever. but having visited in person it's hard not to appreciate how many people are accommodating at a single intersection, all while cars wait patiently. (There's very little honking in Tokyo compared to New York.)
An American pedestrian in Tokyo also can't help but notice the corrugated yellow stripes that line pretty much every walkway. At first I thought this was to separate lanes of walkers, something I've always wanted in the United States, but I'm told these are actually guides for the blind. It seems like a lot of effort for a small part of the population — that's not to say it isn't admirable, of course — but it speaks, like the English announcements and cell-phone courtesies, to a general transportation culture of accommodating others.
The only element of Tokyo transportation I feel unable to evaluate with any authority is car travel. I know they drive on the left and don't honk much, but that's about it. I can remark only in brief on the taxi situation: it's expensive, with a starting fare up around $8-10, but you can pay with your subway pass — a remarkable feat of urban transport integration. (Side note: you can also use the pass to pay at most food vendors inside a station.) Also the taxi drivers wear suits and hats and some of them even white gloves. And they don't talk on their cell phone or headset. That might be annoying to the neighbors.
The Tokyo Skytree, twice as tall as the Eiffel Tower, opens next week as Japanese train operators counter an aging population by building malls, offices and tourist attractions.
The 634-meter (2,080 feet) structure in eastern Tokyo sits in a retail complex housing more than 300 shops and restaurants, a planetarium and an aquarium. Developer Tobu Railway Co. (9001) expects the project to draw 32 million visitors in its first year, surpassing the numbers at Tokyo Disney Resort. Tobu, whose revenue has fallen for five years, will also get a 28.3 billion yen ($352 million) sales boost in the year ending March 31, according to Kazuhiko Hirata, a general manager for finance.
Members of the media walk on the Air Corridor leading to an observatory at the Tokyo Skytree in Tokyo. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg
The Tokyo Skytree in Tokyo. Photographer: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Bloomberg
The Tokyo Skytree in Tokyo. Photographer: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Bloomberg
A member of the media takes a photograph from an observatory at the Tokyo Skytree in Tokyo. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg
Buildings are seen from an observatory at the Tokyo Skytree in Tokyo. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg
The 143 billion yen development, which took four years to build, follows last month’s opening of Tokyu Corp. (9005)’s 34-story entertainment complex in the Shibuya shopping district andEast Japan Railway Co. (9020)’s ongoing 50 billion-yen renovation of Tokyo Station. The companies are taking advantage of land they own around stations to generate new income and lure more travelers as Japan’s shrinking birthrate threatens commuter traffic.
“People will use the Tobu line to go to Tokyo Skytree and they will shop in Tobu shops when they get there,” said Masayuki Kubota, who oversees the equivalent of $2 billion in assets in Tokyo at Daiwa SB Investments Ltd. “It’s a very good investment.” He doesn’t own Tobu shares, he said.
The development will boost Tobu’s operating profit by 3.2 billion yen in the year ending March 31, according to Hirata. The company will have as many as eight trains an hour running from the Asakusa terminus to the development’s closest station, which has been renamed Tokyo Skytree.
856 Million Passengers
Tobu, which operates routes to the north of the capital, carried856 million passengers in the year ended March 31. The company is the third biggest by ticket sales among the 11 major train operators in Tokyo and surrounding cities, according to JR East. (9022) The region is home to 35 million people. By contrast, Amtrak carried 30 million passengers in the U.S. in the year ended September 2011.
Tobu, which also operates buses, hotels, shopping centers, department stores, golf courses and sports clubs, fell 2.3 percent to 387 yen in Tokyo trading yesterday. It’s jumped 24 percent in the past year, compared with an 11 percent decline for the benchmark Topix Index.
The Skytree, opening about a year after a temblor and tsunami devastated parts of northern Japan, stands on three legs with a central column in the style of a pagoda to make it more earthquake-resistant. Its steel frame changes from a triangle at the base to a circle at the top, and its curves and arches reflect a traditional Samurai sword, according to Tobu’s website.
The tower, which cost 65 billion yen on its own, will have two observation decks, one at 350 meters and another at 450 meters. A trip to the lower deck will cost 2,000 yen. Visits up the tower are fully booked through July 11, said Kenji Aoyagi, a Tobu spokesman.
The tower surpassed the 600-meter Canton Tower inGuangzhou, China, as the world’s tallest, according to theCouncil on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. Dubai’s 828-meterBurj Khalifa is the tallest building, according to the council.
The new tower is also about double the height of Japan’s previous record-holder, the 333-meter Tokyo Tower, which opened in 1958. Six TV stations, including state-owned NHK, will start using the Skytree instead of the older tower for transmissions next year.
Skytree looms over Tokyo’s Asakusa district, previously one of the city’s main entertainment areas and still home to geishas and traditional Japanese restaurants. The area also houses Senso-ji temple, a popular tourist site, famed for Kaminarimon, Thunder Gate.
Property prices in Sumida City, which includes Asakusa and Skytree, are the third-lowest ofTokyo’s 23 wards, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. Commercial land prices have fared better than other Tokyo wards this year, falling 1 percent, compared with an average 2.1 percent decline.
“As a local, I’m very happy,” said Naoyuki Sato, 56, who runs a restaurant near the tower and has lived in the area all his life. “It’ll be a new symbol for Japan. It’s a ray of hope after the earthquake.”
Japan’s population peaked at 127.1 million people in 2005 and has been shrinking since, according to figures from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The population of Tokyo’s 23 wards will start declining after reaching a peak of 13.35 million by 2020, according to forecasts from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
Tokyu, the Tokyo region’s fourth-largest train operator, last month opened Hikarie in Shibuya ward, which houses 26 restaurants, about 200 shops and sales outlets, and a 1,972-seat theater. About 14 million people will visit a year, said Isao Watanabe, an executive officer at the Tokyo-based company.
“We have great hopes for the new building,” he said. “We’re sure it will increase the number of people using our trains as well.” Tokyu also operates hotels, supermarkets and entertainment facilities.
JR East, the largest train operator in the Tokyo area, is working to turn Tokyo Station in the Marunouchi financial district into a tourist destination. Plans includes adding more shops, restoring rooftop domes destroyed in World War II and building a plaza in front of the station that will be lit up at night. An expanded 150-room hotel will also open in October.
The Tokyo-based rail company is trying to increase its share of revenue from shops, hotels and offices to almost 40 percent from about 30 percent by the year ending March 2019.
“The railway companies have to put their energy into expanding other forms of revenue to grow,” said Ryota Himeno, an analyst at Barclays Capital Japan Ltd. “Train travel isn’t going to increase when the population is shrinking.”
Japan: NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank are sharing the cost installing wi-fi on all Toei and Tokyo Metro lines.
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