Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Empty Trains"

I recorded my trip to the beer garden at Mt. Takao after work one evening a few weeks ago, and have posted an edited version of that at YouTube here:

Some details about the scenes in the video:

00:01 - The Yamanote Line.

00:02 - Heading down the stairs at Shinjuku to the Keio Line platform.

00:04 - Getting on a "Jyunkyu-Kaisoku" (a sub-commuter express).

00:06 - Pulling out of Shinjuku Station. The people on the platform are waiting for the next time. This was taken during the peak of the evening rush for home.

00:11 - Manga reading on the trains is still liked by many, but you see less and less of it since cell phones became part of people's daily lives. Cell phones have become just about everything except telephones (you hardly ever see anyone actually talking of them these days), so people are basically carrying around very small computers that they do various types of computing on, which includes reading text on the screen (usually in the form of text-messaging, but also for electronic books), watching TV and movies, etc.
The announcement in the background - is in this case by a real human being, but (unfortunately) they are recordings most of the time.

00:12 - Typical view leaving central Tokyo.

00:14 - As the train gets further away from central Tokyo, there are fewer and fewer people (on this line in any case - on the Chuo Line, it is so long and passes through so many areas of major population, that there are people getting on just about everywhere on the line, so it basically just stays crowded all the time, all along the line).

00:19 - Transfer to another branch of the Keio Line - the one that goes to Takaozan-guchi Station, which is right at the base of Mt. Takao.

00:29 - Overhead luggage rack. Empty in this view, but in the morning in particular, it's usually full and most of the people standing (far more than are sitting) can't find space to put anything on it, even if they can reach it (around the doors in particular - less so in the middle, between the doors).

00:31 - Station towards the end of the line - people who live out here have a longer commute, but they are the ones who can sit down in the morning! I was in the last carriage of the train, so the voice is of the conductor as he closes the doors.

00:35 - Very few people at this point. It's a strange thing, but when the train gets this empty, and there is not the slightest worry about getting a seat, then boredom tends to kick in, unless you have an interesting book or magazine to read.

00:38 - Takao - the last major stop on the line, and a transfer point for the last part of the trip to Takaozan-guchi (sometimes, some trains go straight through to the base of the mountain).

00:39 - Almost completely empty - very few people are headed to the mountain in the late evening (it was the best I could do after work on the other side of town!)

00:44 - Mechanical door latch. Very rare on newer trains, but all the trains used to have this type of door handle and latch for the doors between the carriages.

00:49 - Last stop of the line! From here there is just a short walk to the cable-car station and an effortless ride to the top (well, the top of one ridge - the mountain goes higher from there).

00:54 - Pulling away from the lower station of the cable-car line.

00:57 - Going through the first of two tunnels. Fortunately, the cable-cars are old enough to have opening windows on the front and back, so you can look through clear and clean. (I really hate being sealed into boxes with windows that don't open - like a fish in an aquarium.)

00:59 - Passing the cable-car going down. They are hooked to each other via a cable, and act as counterweights to each other, so on the last ride down, when it's packed full, and the one going up is empty, the first steep hill up at the top creates a little speed before the grade lessens).

01:00 - Notice how the carriage is built like a moving staircase - the carriage is at a fairly steep angle, but the seats inside are (for most of the ride) straight. Also note that this is the only part of the line where there are two sets of tracks - otherwise, both the up and down rides use the same rails.

01:04 - The second tunnel - and the steepest part of the ride. This is the section that produces some speed going down when the downward-bound cable-car is heavily loaded and the upward-bound cable-car is empty.

01:09 - Headed up the stairs to the beer garden (Takaozan Beer Mount).

01:11 - Y3,300 for two hours of all you can eat and drink.

01:17 - Yes - just one plate and one beer - I went there alone, but ended up meeting some people there and having a drink and talk with them.

01:22 - Back to the cable-car for the ride back down the mountain.

01:23 - A view inside the cable-car, looking up towards the back - notice how steep it is.

01:34 - Speeding through the tunnel (in comparison to the speed of the rest of the ride in any case).

01:46 - Mountain stream - I had originally intended to use my laptop to write something at the top, but instead pulled it out at the base of the mountain, while sitting by the stream.

01:54 - A look at the hanging advertisements in the empty carriage I was in.

02:03 - The whole carriage to myself. In the morning crush-rush, it's hard to imagine that there are times when there is this much space!

02:04 - Looking out the open window before the train reaches Takao Station.

02:09 - On the JR platform at Takao Station. The train in upper background is the Keio Line, and the train coming in is a Chuo Line train.

02:12 - Old style long-distance train.

02:20 - More advertisements - this type of Chuo Line train is new - while there are still a few of the older type in service, they've almost completely phased in the newer type. The one thing I really hate on the new ones are the recorded announcements - on the old trains, they actually have a human being announcing the stations.

02:24 - What's this? Someone invading my private coach!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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