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It’s all change at Shibuya Station for the Toyoko Line

by Minoru Matsutani

Staff Writer

On March 16, the platforms for the Tokyu Toyoko Line at Shibuya Station moved from the chijō nikai (地上二階, second floor) to the chika gokai (地下五階, fifth basement floor) to connect the Toyoko Line with the Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line.

To make that change, the old Toyoko Line platforms closed on March 15.

The conversion of the train lines meant that for the two days of the transformation Shibuya became a magnet for tetsudō fan (鉄道ファン, train fans), along with tetsudō otaku (鉄道オタク, train geeks) or toritetsu (which can be rendered as either 撮り鉄, train-photo-taking geeks, or 録り鉄, train-recording geeks).

Hordes of fans gathered at the station to see the saishū densha (最終電車, the last train of a day), which was also the final Toyoko Line train to depart from the old platform at Shibuya Station. They were there to take photos of what they called the rekishiteki shunkan (歴史的瞬間, historical moment.)

Looking at footage of the event, train fans literally packed the station, scrambling to board the last train, causing the ekiin (駅員, station staff) to scream, “Please make space for other passengers,” and “Hamidasanaide kudasai” (「はみ出さないで下さい」, “Please don’t step over this line”).

The shattā-chansu (シャッターチャンス, photo opportunities) did not end there. As soon as the last Toyoko Line train left the old Shibuya Station, work began to redirect the senro (線路, rail tracks) to the new station. With just four hours to complete the task, the construction was, of course, another rekishiteki shunkan.

Around 5 a.m. on March 16, fans packed the platform of the new underground station to see or ride the shihatsu densha (始発電車, the first train of a day) to depart from the new station.

But was all the excitement over the transformation of a train line really worth the fuss? In reality the change has its pros and cons, depending on how people use the Toyoko Line.

On the plus side, the Toyoko Line is now a chokutsū unten (直通運転, direct connection of two train lines in which passengers can travel from a station on one line to a station on another line without changing trains) with the Fukutoshin Line.

This means that people can take a train all the way from Yokohama chūshinbu (横浜中心部, central Yokohama) to some areas in Saitama Prefecture without changing trains, because the Fukutoshin Line also makes a chokutsū unten with the Tobu Tojo Line and the Seibu Ikebukuro Line, which go from Ikebukuro to Kawagoe and Tokorozawa areas.

A program on Nippon TV conducted gaitō intabyū (街頭インタビュー, interviews on the street) near Motomachi Chukagai Station, Yokohama, to coincide with the changeover. Shuzai wo uketa hito (取材を受けた人, interviewees) living in Kawagoe said they were pleased they could take the Tobu Tojo Line all the way to Motomachi Chukagai without stopping.

Meanwhile, some kakikomi (書き込み, comments) on online news websites and bulletin boards complained that people living in the Toyoko-sen ensen (東横線沿線, Toyoko Line area) Saitama ni iku yōji ga nai (埼玉に行く用事がない, don’t have any reason to go to Saitama).

Motomachi Chukagai is the station nearest to Japan’s largest Chinatown and other tourist sites, so people in Saitama may have more reasons to go to Yokohama than people from there have to go to Kawagoe and Tokorozawa.

One TV personality commented that “Shinjuku ga hitorigachi shiteiru” (「新宿が一人勝ちしている」, “Shinjuku is the sole winner”) because Shinjuku is mittsu no tāminaru eki no mannaka (三つのターミナル駅の真ん中, the center of the three major stations, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro) and the only station that the Toyoko, Seibu Ikebukuro or Tobu Tojo lines don’t go to — but the Fukutoshin Line does.

On the negative side, those living on the Toyoko Line and getting off at Shibuya now have a gokaibun aruku (五階分歩く, a five-story walk) ascent instead of two-stories. Meaning those living in the Toyoko Line area and changing to any line other than the Fukutoshin Line now have to walk much further.

In a jitsuen (実演, proving something by actually doing it) on the Nippon TV program a person walked with a stopwatch from both the old and new Toyoko stations to the street level and compared how long each walk took. It was about one minute and five minutes respectively.

Also, this change of chokutsū unten with the Fukutoshin Line means the end of the chokutsū unten with Tokyo Metro’s Hibiya Line, which used to be directly connected with the Toyoko Line at Nakameguro Station.

This means that those living on the Toyoko Line now have to always change at Nakameguro and wait for a Hibiya Line train on the other side of the same platform to go to Roppongi and Tsukiji.