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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tokyo's Fukutoshin subway line


Yesterday heralded the opening of Tokyo’s newest – and, according to present plans, its last – subway line: the Fukutoshin, or “Auxiliary Center City” line.

The Fukutoshin is, in effect, the finishing touch to the Yurakucho New Line, a line built in 1994 that ran parallel to part of the Yurakucho line. It started in Tokyo’s furthest north-eastern Nerima ward (Kotake-Mukaihara Station) and ended in Toshima ward’s Ikebukuro station. With the Fukutoshi line, you can now continue on south through Shinjuku and Shibuya wards (three stations each), terminating at Shibuya Station.

The Fukutoshin train I rode yesterday was packed with palpably excited passengers, many of them toting cameras. A somewhat sudden halt partway through the tunnel between Higashi Shinjuku and Shinjuku San-chome Stations which on a normal day would go completely unnoticed drew gasps and murmurings about “an accident,” but it was all first day nerves and yearnings for sensation. As far as I can tell, the first day of the Fukutoshin line went as smooth as silk.

There were railway staff out in droves yelling their largely unnecessary directions, but necessarily there on hand to answer questions put to them. There were trainspotters galore, crowded up the end of the platforms in a tight bunch, cameras ready for the appearance of the next new Tokyo Metro 10000 series train.

The line’s terminal Shibuya Station was designed by the famous Japanese architect, Tadao Ando, and, true to form, boasts architecturally cutting edge elements unseen in any other Tokyo subway station so far. It bears Ando’s characteristic bare concrete look, his “futuristic” vision – being consciously based on the idea of a spaceship – considerable redundancy for the sake of style, and, perhaps best of all, tastefully subdued lighting.

With the Fukutoshin line, western Tokyo’s east-west accessibility has been pretty much balanced by north-south commuting convenience. It comes, of course, at a price. The ride from Nakano-sakaue on the Marunouchi line to Shibuya on the Fukutoshin line – eight stops – came to a cool 270 yen. But still cheaper – and more fun – than, say, a taxi.

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