Japan is one of those places which really seems to spark an interest in many people and then there are the true Japanophiles who have a real strong obsession with a certain part of Japanese culture. Back on Jan 10th there was a programme on the TV Tokyo channel which featured a young Hungarian guy called Lazlo who had never been to Japan but absolutely loved the Tokyo Metro. The TV company paid for him to come to the county of his dreams and shadowed him as he went about his otaku business. (Watch it here – Japanese language only)
He was really into all manner of things and had the old Metro ‘Do it at home/Please do it again‘ posters on his bedroom wall, knew the platform melodies for each station, the name of the lady who announces each station (who he got to meet) and he couldn’t wait to get to Kotake Mukaihara as that is the station name which he loved hearing the lady pronounce the most.
Also on his list of things to do was visit the Chikatetsu Museum in Kasai which is a place I had been intending to visit for many, many years on the back of my visit to the Railway Museum in Omiya (Saitama-ken) in 2009. Unfortunately I never quite got round to it but spurred on by its brief appearance on this TV show I finally made my way over to this area of Tokyo on the border of Chiba which is also home to Kasai Rinkai Koen and Tokyo Sea Life Park.
Other than cycling adventures passing through the area, it was my first time to be back in Kasai since my TESOL course back in the first half of 2009 and, having purchased my ticket (210 yen) from the vending machine, I entered the exhibit area which was naturally done via a ticket gate (below). The first thing I encountered on the other side was a display of the ticket roll from vending machines which can print out about 5000 tickets from each roll.
The world’s first metropolitan subway system started running in London in January 1863 and 64 years later Japan got it’s first subway. Such train systems play a very important role in supporting urban life and economic activities in many cities and it is that kind of thing which is attractive to the many, many train enthusiasts in Japan.
The museum has plenty of exhibits including construction of tunnels technology (above) and a photo of the Ueno station (below) area taken around 1935.
There was also a bust of Noritsugu Hayakawa (below); a man who was pivotal in establishing the Tokyo Underground Railway Company having been impressed by the London network system before doing subsequent subway research study in Europe and the USA.
There is a replica of an automatic ticket gate used by Japan’s first subway (below) and once you’ve passed that (you can’t go through it though!) you are taken back in time to when the first Japanese metro line (the yellow Ginza line car no. 1001) and the first Marunouchi line (red car no. 301) were in operation. What was surprising is that they really haven’t changed that much in appearance and layout.
The museum was actually bigger than I thought it would be and so I was surprised to find that it stretched way beyond the two train cars…..with a painted track on the floor to guide the visitors in the right direction. There were sections about Metro safety, passenger service, Metro train structure, Metro systems of Japan and the world and a play-land area where budding train drivers can operate a simulated ride under the guidance and supervision of staff members.
The Chikatetsu Subway Museum is underneath the elevated railway tracks of Kasai station. It is open from 10am – 5pm and is closed on Mondays.