27 Oct 2010

1 railways - a week of infrastructure

The city as a composition of lines representing railways, subways and streetcars. Tokyo is defined by public transport.

Yamanote-loop line, in isolation, this is the heart of Tokyo, along this line the pulse of the city flows.
The Yamanote line is made up by two north-south paths trough the city and connected in the north by a shortcut. Owned and operated by JR-East.

Subways, a total of 13 lines, showed in relationship with Yamanote. There are two different subway companies, both publicly owned; Tokyo Metro with 9 lines and TOEI with 4 lines. This is important since when you switch from one to the have to pay the fare for both companies.
By the pure distribution of lines it easy to see that the city is not homogenous. The areas covered and not covered by subway, the concentration of lines around the imperial palace area (visible as a notable void) and the eastern side of Yamanote. The areas the subway spreads out into and the areas it doesn't touch. All this mean something, tells the story of relative importance, investment, speculation and planing. But all in rather weak form. TOEI and Tokyo Metro are set to merge in the near future.

JR-East (Japan Railways) operates a number of lines other than the Yamanote. They are all important.

Keisei, Keihin, Odakyu, Seibu, Tobu, Tokyu and some small network in relation to the Yamanote loop line. These are the privately owned railway lines that defines the infrastructure of parts of suburbia. All of this lines have a character that shows in their development. Most of these lines terminate at edge of Yamanote-line, creating a series of major transfer stations at which the railways lines have used the space above their stations to build department stores: Tokyu - Shibuya, Keio and Odakyu in Shinjuku, Seibu and Tobu in Ikebukero and so on. JR all also owns and operates departments store at many of these locations. Of these stations the one with largest amount of passengers is Shinjuku. The commercial areas around these stations are the true centres of commerce in Tokyo. The area inside the Yamanote is today the domain of publicly owned subways, but private railway lines are older than the subway, before the subway a network of trams roamed the streets. Two tram lines still exist and operate, Toden Arakawa-line and Tokyu Setagaya-line.

Due to the amount of people that need to change train-line along the major stations a series of connecting services between the private railway and subway exists. The figure above shows how Tokyu Den-en Toshi-line, Tokyo Metros Hanzomon line and Tobu Isesaki-line are connected, the connections happen in Shibuya and Oshiage. The same trains operates on all three lines. When you pass from one operator to another you pay the fare for both companies. Which can make a short trip more expansive than expected.

In the end it is all rather confusing, the options are many and which one that is the best depends on many factors. If you are here for a short time get SUICA or PASMO, keep it filled with money and enjoy.

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