Enoshima and Shonan Monorail

I awoke in the Japanese city of Fujisawa, about 40 km south west of Tokyo. Not a remarkable city in its own right, Fujisawa is in the Shonan region, which has a couple of interesting  local rail services; a street railway and a monorail.

I felt like an early morning walk, so I walked beside the Enoshima Electric Railway tracks towards Enoshima. The little 3 car trains passed me every so often on the single track line, and after about 40 minutes I arrived at Enoshima station. Between Enoshima and Koshigoe stations, the Enoshima Electric Railway turns into the Main Street of the town and for about 450 metres, the train pretends it is a tram; the full sized trains rumble slowly down the narrow shopping street.

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I watched the morning traffic dodge about half a dozen trains before I boarded a Kamakura bound train at Koshigoe. After the spectacle of trains traversing a suburban street, the short journey on reserved track was unremarkable and we terminated at a very ordinary platform at Kamakura. I made my way through to the JR Platforms, and caught a local train  for the short journey to Ofuna.

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At Ofuna, I left the JR train and headed for the monorail station, which is on the second floor of a shopping centre built on top of the JR station. The Shonan Monorail runs along a 6.6km route between Ofuna and Enoshima. It is single tracked with several passing stations, but the unusual thing about this monorail is that instead of balancing on a central rail, it is suspended (mostly above suburban streets) from an elevated track (similar to the Wuppertal Suspension Railway).

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A monorail at Ofuna station

I entered the monorail station and found a platform on either side of the single track, which came to a dead end inside the building. There was a smooth floor between the platforms, located beneath a steel support beam. I only had to wait a few minutes before the boxy 3 car train entered the side of the building and came to a smooth stop at the dead end; passengers alighting from one side of the train, before the doors were opened on the other platform to allow passengers to board.

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A monorail at Ofuna station

I boarded the train and we soon departed, emerging out of the building to pass about 10 metres above the bus terminal. We passed around some tight curves over a light industrial area, before straightening up and running at great speed, dangling above a busy street. We arrived at the first station of Fujimicho, which is a crossing station with two tracks with side platforms.

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Fujimicho Station

We paused for about a minute as we waited for a train approaching in the opposite direction to arrive, before continuing further down the single line, the train zipping above traffic at speeds of up to 70 km/h. Between Nishi-Fukasawa and Nishi-Kamakura, we left the road and climbed up the side of a leafy hill, before rushing into a tunnel. It was strange running through the tunnel, suspended less than a metre above a smooth concrete floor.

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Running above the traffic

We soon emerged from the other end of the tunnel, and once again followed the road. We zipped on over suburban streets, passing more trains at crossing stations along the way. We left the penultimate station of Mejiroyamashita, and entered another tunnel, before a short steep descent into the terminus Shonan-Enoshima.

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A monorail at Nishi-Kamakura

 

The platform at Shonan-Enoshima was a bare concrete building with 3 walls, open at the Ofuna end to allow trains to run in and out of the building. The building was elevated and surrounded by trees, with bare concrete steps leading down to the concourse. The concourse was also bare concrete, with several ticket machines and a drink vending machine. More steps led down to street level, emerging very close to Enoshima station on the Enoshima Electric Railway.

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A monorail near Mejiroyamashita

I climbed the steps back up to the monorail station, and caught a train one stop back to Mejiroyamashita. I left the station here, and spent a few hours walking the streets below the monorail, photographing the trains as they zipped overhead. From Nishi-Kamakura, I caught a monorail back to Shonan-Enoshima and walked the 750m to Katase-Enoshima station on the Odakyu Electric Railway. At Katase-Enoshima, there was a 60000 Series Romancecar MSE set sitting in the platform. Sadly, this sleek blue commuter train was not mine, and I boarded the 3000 series local train for Fujisawa.

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A sleek 60000 series Romancecar MSE at Katase-Enoshima (sadly, not my train)

 

At Fujisawa, I collected my luggage and boarded a local JR train for Tokyo, travelling on the double deck “green” car of the E231 series train. At Tokyo, I boarded a metallic green E5 series Shinkansen set running a Hayabusa service to Shin-Aomori, in the north of Honshu. This train was coupled with a white E3 series Shinkansen set, which would be uncoupled at Morioka to run a Komachi service on to Akita.

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An E5 series (green) and E3 series (white) coupled on a Hayabusa/Komachi serv

The 3 hour, 20 minute journey was smooth and uneventful, and by the time we arrived at Shin-Aomori it was dark. From Shin-Aomori, I boarded a 701 series local train for the 4 minute journey on the Ou main line to Aomori, from where my overnight sleeper train to Sapporo would depart.

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A 701 series local train at Aomori

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