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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Railway Day (1)

October 14th is Railway Day in Japan. The Ministry of Railways (present JR) established the day as the anniversary of Japan's railway in 1922 to commemorate the opening day of the Japan's first railway in 1872. Now railroad companies in Japan celebrate the day.

Recently railfans are also known as Tecchan(鉄ちゃん). Tetsu(鉄) means railroad (鉄道, tetsudo). Female railfans are called Tetsuko(鉄子) and kiddy fans are done Kotetsu(子鉄). Tori-tetsu(撮り鉄) means the railfans who are keen to take photos of trains. Nori-tetsu(乗り鉄) are fond of ride various trains across the country. there are also many model train buffs. Railroad dioramas are popular.
The Railway Museum(鉄道博物館) in Saitama Prefecture is also knowm as Teppaku and is crowded with various railfans.

Some railfans go around deserted railroads and rarely-visited train stations. Tsubojiri Station on the Dosan Line in Tokushima Prefecture, one of those stations, has only one regular user. It takes 30 minutes to go from the station to his house. He has to climb up and down a narrow road. He often decorates the station with flowers. Tsubojiri is a switchback station, so the station is surviving. There used to be many regular users of this station. Some travel agencies arranged a tour to visit the station.


Choshi Electric Railway(銚子電気鉄道) is a 6.4 km long local railroad between Choshi and Tokawa in Chiba Prefecture.  The railroad company started to sell nure-senbei(ぬれ煎餅, moist rice crackers) to eliminate the deficit in 1995.  In 2006, the company could not even cover the cost of inspection and maintenance stipulated in the statute because of a chronic deficit and the embezzlement of company funds by the former company president.

At the end of its rope, the company made an intensive appeal for aid to cover the expenses of three train carriages on its Web site on November 15th in the year.
"Please buy our nure-senbei to maintain the train service!!
We have to make money to repair train carriages."

The company's appeal received a great response. The company was flooded with orders from all over Japan, and nure-senbei were sold out. The mass media reported about the appeal, and nure-senbei became known to the whole country. The company overcame business crises.
This year its nure-senbei factory was visited by the Great East Japan Earthquake, but no damage was done to its railroad.


It is a relatively well-known fact that Hiroshima Dentetsu resumed streetcar service three days after the atomic bombing. But, did you know that bombed streetcars are still running on the streets in Hiroshima?


Two bombed streetcars, 651 and 652 of the Hiroshima Dentetsu 650 series, are running on the streets during the morning and evening rush hours.
The five streetcars of the 650 series were first put into service in 1942. The streetcar 651 was exposed to the atomic bomb at around 700 meters from the epicenter. It was derailed and burned. The streetcar 652 received relatively little damage, so it was running on the streets in August in 1945. The other three cars of the 650 series were wrecked or burned down. All the streetcars of the 650 series were restored.  The cars 653 and 654 were running until June in 2006, and they are preserved. The car 655 was wrecked in a crash and scrapped in 1967.

Due to the atomic bombing, 22 cars of 123 active streercars owned by Hiroshima Dentetsu were burned down, three were partially destroyed, 23 were completely wrecked, 34 were moderately damaged, 36 were slightly damaged and 15 were completely undamaged. Twenty seven cars were scrapped. Most of the streercars were restored.

The explanation provided on the car 651 is that only one passanger survived by jumping from the 651 when it was exposed to the atomic bomb. A man who was was exposed to the atomic bomb during the ride tells about his A-bomb experience on the car 651 around August 7th every year. He says that he was at around 750 meters from the epicenter and made it out of the streetcar alive with his mother(she died later). He spoke about his experience on 651 again this year. I'm never quite sure if he was riding on the car 651 when the bomb was dropped. His experience is different from the explanation provided on 651.  I can't find another streetcar that was at around 700 meters from the epicenter.


What is the reason why the trains in Japan always arrive on time?

Yuko Mito(三戸祐子) answers this question in "Teikokuhasha(Arriving On Time) " published by Kotsu-Shinbunsha in 2001, Shinchosha in 2005.
Her Web site(English version) is here.

Japanese trains are almost always on time. If my train arrives five minutes late during morning rush hour periods, I will get irritated. She says the origin of Japan's punctual train system dates back to Sankin koutai(参勤交代) in the Edo Period. Sankin koutai is the system of alternate attendance by a feudal lord in Edo. Project managers in feudal domains had to regularly make arrangements for Sankin koutai.

In "Kotsu Konjaku Monogatari(交通今昔物語, Japanese Railroad Tales of Times Now Past)" written by Keijiro Shimizu(清水啓次郎) in 1933, a train driver who worked on board the Imperial train from 1924 to 1933 said that the Imperial train stopped exactly at the required position at a station and arrived on time (within 2 or 3 seconds).


A rapid train of JR West's Fukuchiyama Line crashed into an apartment on April 25th in 2005 because the train approached curve at top speed to make up for being about two minutes behind schedule.

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