Tuesday, 10 May 2016

JAPAN - Tokyo Part 2.1 (feat. Shonan)


Returning to Tokyo after more than two weeks (read about my initial impressions here) through the southern parts of the country already felt like coming back home, no need for new orientation which a new city always requires before one gets settled (and it's already time to move on...). Anyway, with a full week ahead, I still felt stressed wondering if I would manage to do everything I still wanted to do. To avoid getting from one thing to the other in a very confusing way, I'm writing this down in a more diary-style way:

Day 1 (2 May 2016)

Shonan "Schwebebahn" near northern terminus at Ofuna

I started the first day by taking a JR train down to Ofuna, south of Yokohama, to explore the Shonan region. The Shonan Monorail was fun to ride. This is actually a single-track Schwebebahn, a bit like the H-Bahn at Düsseldorf Airport or the one at Dortmund University, but with a driver and even a conductor on board. The choice of this mode was probably correct considering the many curves and gradients the railway has to negotiate. As PASMO is not accepted yet, I bought a single ticket from end to end (unfortunately on exiting, the machine eats the ticket, so if you want to keep it, you'd better exit through the manned gate and ask if you can keep it!). And stupid as I am, I didn't double-check in our own book to see that I should have bought a Shonan Explorer ticket at the JR station, this would have given me a day pass for the Monorail and the Enoden for just 700 Yen, besides the local JR lines, but for these I had my Rail Pass anyway.

Due to the alignment described above, the ride is a bit shaky, but not too much. The funny thing about this line is that the intermediate stations apparently have no ticket gates, so the conductor has to check tickets, and therefore he jumps out of his rear cabin, and if the exit happens to be at the wrong end, he runs forward, and later back again. While I was looking whether any of the stations would be a good point to get off for a few photos, we had already arrived at the southern end in Enoshima. The terminus is something like on the third floor of what from the outside looks like a rather pathetic building.

 Enoden at Hase station - not a common view, but a funny coincidence

From the terminus you just follow the crowd down the road and if you happen to be there in holiday season like me (most Japanese have their Golden Week right now), you'll see a huge crowd trying to get tickets or waiting for the next train of the Enoshima Electric Railway (short Enoden). I got my day pass easily from the machine, but first went down to the beach (honestly, I'd rather keep to my Spanish beaches also in the future...) and then returned to the street-running section to the east of Enoshima station. Luckily, I didn't have much difficulty to jump on a westbound train at Koshioge, the next stop east of Enoshima, so I'd be on the train before the busiest station. But things got much worse later on, when after a few shots along the coastal route I needed to go to Kamakura. Hase station was at the verge of collapsing (there is an important Buddha statue nearby), so I walked to the next stop, squeezing myself into the next train as if I were on the Ginza Line during rush hour and eventually made it to Kamakura. For obvious reasons, I just wanted to escape the holiday crowd, and left all possible sightseeing for another trip.

Enoden's Kamakura terminus with loads of people trying to exit the station


Instead I headed for the third curious rail line in the area, the Seaside Line, yet another rubber-tyred driverless guided transit system. I went from Kamakura via Ofuna and the JR Negishi Line to Shin-Sugita, the northern terminus of the Seaside Line. 

Seaside Line: Rubber-tyred driverless line at Namikikita

The name suggests quite a lot, and in fact the southern third of the route is quite nice with views of the harbour and Kanazawa bay, but the rest is rather dull, alongside a major motorway or through industrial estates. Like with similar systems in Hiroshima or Osaka, the ride is not bad, but not too smooth either.

Seaside Line: alignment on the southern stretch


Previous stop: Nagoya | Go to: Tokyo Part 2.2



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