Rather deteriorated underground JR station at Shimbashi
Day 7 (8 May 2016)
Sunday was my last day in Tokyo, and I actually wanted to use it for a bit of city walking and sightseeing, but then I remembered that I had almost forgotten to ride the Tokyo Monorail! Well, with so many different rail systems in the whole of Greater Tokyo, this can easily happen! So, after walking across the Imperial Gardens to Tokyo Station, I went downstairs to search for Tokyo's north-south "Passante", something that's shown as Sobu-Yokosuka Line. The underground station isn't really pleasant, but at least the train which was about to depart had a nice driver, who stepped aside when I wanted to take a picture, then helped me to reassure that this was the right train and after he had driven me down to Shimbashi, just one stop, saluted me with the big train horn. A very small, but lovely gesture in a country where train drivers seem to risk their job when the show any human gesture towards trainspotters.
Frightening photographing spot at end of platform at Shimbashi on Yamanote Line
At Shimbashi I had to change to a surface line, because just these, and primarily the Yamanote Line stop at the following station, which is Hamamatsucho, where the Toyko Monorail starts. The good thing about this line is that JR Rail Passes are accepted (I saw that some of the intermediate stops have unmanned gates where you won't be able to get out and back in again with a JR Rail Pass). The Monorail begins somewhere high above the Yamanote Line tracks, the station has only a single spur, though rather wide platforms, one side for arrivals, the other for departure, with a clear system for queuing painted on the floor:
And of course, there are three types of services, express just for the airport stations, some semi-express and locals. The local trains let the faster ones overtake at Showajima, next to the depot, but the timing is very tight, so the stop is rather short. Upon departure from Hamamatsucho, the Monorail glides over the multi-track railway corridor, you can watch all sorts of trains from Yamanote to Shinkansen head north and south. At this point I actually discovered the only Yamanote prototype train, so at least I knew that it was in service and in which direction it was moving on the ring line. The Monorail offers many spots for good photos, the better ones would be in the morning as on the western side there are often high buildings which throw their shade on the route in the afternoon.
Tokyo Monorail - end-of-platform shot at Seibijo
From the end of the narrow side platforms, many photos are also possible after noon, though. And while in many countries of the world we are confronted with stupid photographing bans or whatever trouble, the Monorail encourages photographing, at least at the International Terminal station, where big signs show you the way to the best spot at the end of the platform. As this view is towards the east, late afternoon would be the best time here.
Invitation to take photos of Monorail!
View from official photo spot at Haneda International Terminal
The station at the International Terminal is wide and clear, and the arrival platform has a direct exit to the departure hall, whereas passengers who have just arrived by plane, easy access is provided from the lower level with one escalator up to the monrail. The Monorail's two underground stations at the Domestic Terminal are quite nice and also well-integrated into the terminal building. What is a bit funny on this monorail is the strange seat arrangement, probably determined by some technical equipment or the wheels under the floor. On some vehicles there are raised seats in the middle of the car, like thrones, very weird:
This is probably a problem with straddle-beam monorails that has been solved later, as the vehicles in Tama or Kitakyushu have normal flat floors and seats could be arranged in whatever way, though resulting in an overall higher vehicle.
To finish off this Tokyo urban rail story, I could not help myself and started to chase the new Yamanote Line train. To improve my chances to get a photo in good light, I jumped on the next clockwise train at Hamamatsucho to get to the western side of the loop, while the new train was doing its circles in the anti-clockwise direction. With a headway of 3-4 minutes, I looked out continuously to see whether the new train passed on the other track. From that moment I would be able to calculate its position, with a full circle taking about an hour, similar to Berlin's Ringbahn. I got off at Ebisu and still hadn't spotted it, so it couldn't be too long unless it had been taken out of service in the meantime. But after a couple of older trains had come through it suddenly appeared and I got the pictures I wanted. While I was concentrated on my job, I heard some clicking behind me, and when I turned round, some spontaneous photographers who had taken the chance for a shot, too, had jumped back into their train going in the opposite direction:
And finally, the new stylish prototype Yamanote Line train at Ebisu
With that job accomplished I returned to Hamamatsucho on the next train to really finish my pleasant stay in Tokyo with a visit to the Tokyo Tower and its fantastic views. Then I made my way back to Iidabashi to collect my luggage and headed for Tokyo station to get on the next possible train to Sendai.
Tokyo at UrbanRail.Net (feat. all-rail map)