Born of disasters, war and massive infrastructure projects, 21st-century Tokyo has plenty of ghosts buried underground. If you ride the subway these days, you can catch a fleeting glimpse of two of them but, if you blink, you'll miss them. The Ginza Line is marking 90 years since its opening with the illumination of two "ghost stations" abandoned long ago. Manseibashi and Jingumae stations have been brought back from the dead as part of a tribute to the Ginza Line, which was the first subway line built in Japan and East Asia.
A broken rail delayed subway trains on the Tokyo Metropolitan Ginza Line for 4 hours and 40 minutes Monday, stranding some 99,000 commuters. The broken rail was discovered near Shibuya Station at around 8 a.m., canceling subway runs between Shibuya and Tameike-Sanno stations. One train got stuck between Omotesando and Shibuya stations for an hour. Tokyo Metro said one of the two tracks between Shibuya Station and its train garage, which is used for route changes, was found damaged. The tracks, however, are not used to carry passengers, metro officials said, noting that out-of-service cars pass by once every several minutes.
Platform-edge doors are appearing at many of Japan's busier railway stations to keep passengers from falling onto the tracks, but installation is taking time. Problems range from the cost -- up to 1 billion per station -- to lack of space on platforms that need heavy structural remodeling. The transport ministry aims to have platform barriers set up at 800 stations by the end of fiscal 2020. But installation can only take place at night when trains are not running, and some stations simply do not have the space for teams to work. The doors were seen as a solution after a blind man fell from a platform and was killed by a train at Tokyo's Mejiro Station on the Yamanote Line of East Japan Railway Co. in January 2011.
From Sunday, visitors to Japan will be able to go cashless while traveling across the country, with major rail operators set to release new chargeable prepaid transportation IC cards for tourists. The Welcome Suica cards, to be offered by East Japan Railway Co., or JR East, add to a growing number of support services amid an influx of foreign travelers. As with JR East's regular Suica IC cards, it will be possible to use the special cards to pay fares on buses, trains and metro lines as well as taxis, and to buy goods at convenience stores, kiosks, vending machines or grocery stores. They will also be accepted for payment at eateries that support the payment service. "Improving travelers' experience and making it more convenient is our main goal," a spokesman for JR East told The Japan Times by phone.
For more than 90 years, the European-style Harajuku Station building has been part of the Tokyo urban landscape -- bearing witness to the Great Tokyo Air Raid during World War II, the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the district's rise as a mecca of Japanese youth culture. Despite calls to retain the historic Shibuya Ward landmark, cherished by visitors and locals alike, East Japan Railway Co. announced last month it will build a new station building in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the extra visitors expected ahead of the event. JR East said it will build the new station adjacent to the current building with no plans yet on what it will do with the existing station structure. The original Harajuku Station opened in 1906 about 500 meters north of the current location, according to the Railway Museum in Saitama Prefecture. The current structure, built in 1924, a year after the Great Kanto Earthquake, is believed to be the oldest wooden station building in Tokyo.