Coming up for air: trains from the tunnel’s mouth

Please pardon the Freudian implications of this post.

My last entry, about things we see when waiting for a train, led me to consider other ways in which trains influence life in Tokyo. As I sort through my photographs it doesn’t take long to notice just how many pictures of trains I’ve taken; it appears I’ve become a character out of Trainspotting, just without the heroin addiction and indecipherable Scottish accent. But I’m not alone in this obsession. While riding the Toden Arakawa-sen 都電荒川線, for example, I was amused by the number of children who waved vigorously at the passing streetcar, not to mention the grown men taking photographs with expensive cameras.

Generally speaking, trains in central Tokyo are buried underground, but sometimes they come up for air, breaching a symbolic threshold at the tunnel’s mouth. This first tunnel mouth, between Yotsua and Shinanomachi Stations, can only be reached by a quiet and relatively hidden road (map), just steps away from Akasaka Palace 赤坂離宮.

Slightly more thrilling is the Maranouchi Line, which, after leaving Hongo Sanchome station, enters the open air below my feet in the following picture (taken from a small parking lot here). The brightly-lit mouth of Korakuen Station 後楽園駅 in the distance reminds me of a hangar-bay for spaceships in a science fiction movie.

Then there’s iconic Mizonokuchi 溝の口駅, a tangle of trains, bridges and canals that offers a visual feast for transit-lovers. I walked through Ochanomizu on my very first day in Tokyo, and it imprinted itself on my brain as though I were a baby bird seeing its mother for the first time. Ochanomizu is best seen in the light of day, when its myriad details can be appreciated.

The same cannot be said of Shinsen Station 神泉駅 (map), whose tunnel is a striking addition to this quiet neighborhood. Situated on the backside of “Love Hotel Hill” in Shibuya’s Dōgenzaka 道玄坂, Shinsen is only half a mile from Shibuya crossing, yet feels as quiet as the other stations on the Keio Inokashira Line 京王井の頭線.

Hopefully I’ve gotten trains out of my system, and can now write about other topics. That being said, when living in Tokyo, you can never get trains out of your system!

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