Keikyu, one of the typical urban railways, serves the Yokohama and Yokosuka area from Tokyo with a complicated but interesting operation pattern.
Keikyu (short for Keihin Kyuko Dentetsu - Keihin Express Electric Railway) is one of the 15 big private railways of Japan, and operates from Tokyo southwards via Yokohama to the Miura- peninsula. I consider Keikyu to be "my" railway, as it is the railway that I have used most often in Japan. I lived near Kami-Ooka station in southern Yokohama for three months in 1989 and for another month in 1991, using the Keikyu every morning to commute to central Tokyo, changing to JR at Keikyu's terminus at Shinagawa. During my other visits to Japan I traveled on the Keikyu at least once to see all the old places again and also to realize all the changes that have taken place since. In many aspects the Keikyu is similar to the other private railways around Tokyo, as it has one main line and several branch lines, runs parallel to JR lines, ends at the Yamanote-line and has through- running with a subway line. Although being one of the biggest railways in Japan, Keikyu is not well known. The reason for this is mainly that it starts in Shinagawa, the southernmost point of JR's Yamanote-line; a place rather far away from the big railway hubs such as Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya or Ueno. But there are some unique features of the Keikyu; there are 12-car-trains, the longest trains of all private railways in Japan and the top speed of 120 km/h, which is only surpassed by one other private railway, the Kintetsu (the table in Bullet-in no. 16, page 16, does not list Keikyu as they started to run 120 km/h from 1995 only). Also, Keikyu has a very interesting, and slightly complicated, system of slow and fast trains overtaking each other. Keikyu has a route length of only 84 kilometers, but a total of 1.2 million passengers travel on its trains every day; these are more passengers than Meitetsu has on its 539 km of track, making Keikyu the 11th biggest railway in Japan in terms of passengers carried (except subways). Keikyu is of course not only a railway, but a group of several companies with the railway as its center. Similar to Tokyu (described in Bullet-in no. 14) but smaller, Keikyu has department stores near, or directly at, their stations. It also develops the land around their lines, and operates buses in this area.
The first part of today's Keikyu network opened for traffic on the 21st January 1899, the section between Rokugobashi and Daishi (today Kawasaki-Daishi). Rokugobashi station does not exist anymore, it was near the Rokugo-bridge, between the today's stations Minato-machi and Keikyu- Kawasaki. This first line is now the northern part of the Keikyu Daishi-line in Kawasaki city. Daishi is the name of a temple, and was probably built for the people making a pilgrimage to the temple. The company was called Daishi Denki Tetsudo (Daishi Electric Railway), and it was the third electric railway in Japan after Kyoto (1895) and Nagoya (1898); thus there was an electric railway in Kawasaki while there were only steam locomotives and horse trams in the capital, Tokyo, only a few miles away. Traffic was not very heavy in the beginning, as the company had only 5 cars and the line (single track) was 2 km long. However, it was Japan's first railway using the European standard gauge, 1435 mm. Although it was considered to be a very expensive railway, costing 5 Sen for a single trip, the line got the divine favor of the Priest Daishi, and the business developed very well. Note that 100 Sen made 1 Yen, and so 5 Sen would today be the equivalent to about 0.03 Pence.
Only three months after opening, the company was renamed Keihin Denki Tetsudo (Keihin Electric Railway), as they had the plan to built a network between Tokyo (here shortened to kei) and Yokohama (hin). So the line was extended from Rokugobashi to Omori (7.2 km) in 1901, and one year later for one more kilometer to Kawasaki. This station is now called Keikyu-Kawasaki, to distinguish it from JR's Kawasaki station. Also in 1902 a 3.6 km long branch line was opened between Kamata (again today called Keikyu-Kamata) and Anamori, today a part of the Kuko- (Airport-)line. As the company had the plan of a joint operation with the trams in Tokyo and Yokohama, they decided to regauge the whole line to 1372 mm, which was done in 1904. In the same year, the line was extended 4.3 km northwards from Omori-Kaigan to Kita-Shinagawa, and one year later it was extended 9.9 km southwards from Kawasaki to Kanagawa. Kanagawa is the name of the prefecture, in which Kawasaki and Yokohama are, but it is also a ward in Yokohama, very close to the center. So in 1905 Keihin Electric Railway started through traffic between Shinagawa, in the south of Tokyo, to Kanagawa, about 1 km north of Yokohama station. The National Railways, which were operating trains between Shimbashi and Yokohama (Japan's first railway, opened in 1872), were of course opposed to this parallel line; and so three days later they introduced an express service making two return journeys per day, taking only 27 minutes. Keihin Railway's trains were rather tram-like with many stops in between, taking 55 minutes.
During the next 25 years not much happened; then in 1930 Keihin built a small extension southwards and finally reached Yokohama station. In the same year a new 36 km long railway, the Shonan Denki Tetsudo (Shonan Electric Railway), opened between Koganecho (3.3 km south of Yokohama) and Uraga, with a branch line from Kanazawa-Hakkei to Zushi. This meant that only 3 km were missing between the two railways, so in 1931 Keihin extended its line from Yokohama to Hinodecho, and Shonan from Koganecho to Hinodecho, so that a through service could start. However, two problems arose: the Shonan Railway was a real railway with 1435 mm gauge and a voltage of 1500 VDC, while Keihin was a tram with 1372 mm gauge and 600 V dc. So Keihin was regauged again to 1435 mm, the through-running with Tokyo's municipal tram, that had started in 1925, was no more. Now the Keihin trains ran through to Uraga, the fist dual voltage trains being used for this.
In 1941, Shonan Railway and Keihin Railway merged, and one year later they became part of the big wartime merger with Tokyu, Odakyu and later Keio, being the Shinagawa Operating Office of this big railway. During the war the line was extended further southwards from Horinouchi to Kurihama, and all the old tram-lines were classified as a railway, thus higher speeds could be achieved. After the war, the lines had to be partly rebuilt, and during this time the voltage on the former tram- lines was increased to 1500 VDC.
Keihin became independent from Tokyu in 1948 and was renamed Keihin Express Dentetsu (Keihin Express Electric Railway). More extensions southwards were opened in 1963 (2.7 km from Keikyu-Kurihama to Nobi), in 1966 (4 km from Nobi to Miura- Kaigan and in 1975 (2.2 km from Miura-Kaigan to Misakiguchi, which is still the southern terminus). A further extension, 2.1 km south to "Abura-Tsubo" is being planned.
There have been some changes in the northern part of the Keikyu-network as well: The Daishi-Line was extended in 1944 and 1945 for 5.2 km, and 2 km of this extension was given to the municipal trams of Kawasaki in 1952. However, 1.2 km closed in 1970, and so the 2 km between Kawasaki-Daishi and Kojima- Shinden is the only part remaining today as a part of this wartime extension. The airport-line was extended in 1956 and again in 1993 to reach the new terminus of Tokyo's Haneda Airport. Finally, in 1968, a small but very important link of 1.2 km length was opened between Shinagawa and Sengakuji (underground), to connect the Keikyu with Toei's (Tokyo Municipal Subway) Asakusa underground line.
Today, Keikyu has five lines: The main line from Sengakuji to Uraga (56.7 km), the Airport-line (Kuko-line) from Keikyu-Kamata to Haneda (airport, 3.3 km), the Daishi-line from Keikyu-Kawasaki to Kojima-Shinden (4.5 km), the Zushi-line from Kanazawa-Hakkei to Shin-Zushi (5.9 km) and the Kurihama-line from Horinouchi to Misakiguchi (13.4 km), making a total of 83.8 km.
Keikyu's Service Pattern:
Keikyu's slowest trains are called Regular (Futsu in Japanese), which comprise of 4 or 6 cars, stopping at every station. Faster is the Express (Kyuko in Japanese), which is distinguished by blue on the destination table. But even the Express have to wait for faster trains sometimes; the Limited Express (red colour, Tokkyu in Japanese) are quite fast, stopping only at big stations, and the Rapid-limited-express (green, Kaisoku-Tokkyu in Japanese) stops only at very few main stations. The normal service pattern during the daytime is one Rapid-limited-express, an 8-car-train, beween Shinagawa and Keikyu- Kurihama every twenty minutes, and a Limited express, also an 8-car-train, every twenty minutes in between, so making a ten-minute-service between those two stations.
The Limited Express all start in Misakiguchi and go through to the Asakusa Subway, and then on to the Keisei Railway as far as Oshiage, Aoto, Keisei-Takasago or even further over the Hokuso Railway to Chiba New Town Chuo. The Express, 6- or 8-car-trains, have two services: the first is from Shin-Zushi to Kanagawa-Shimmachi, and the second is from Haneda into the Asakusa subway, the same direction as the Limited Express. Local Regular trains normally go from Uraga to Shinagawa, and on the Daishi-line, there are also only local trains. Every train runs every ten or twenty minutes with other trains between, thus every station is served at least once every ten minutes. The only exception is the section south of Keikyu-Kurihama, where there is only one Limited Express every twenty minutes.
This changes slightly during the rush hour, when far more trains run; the trains are also longer with the Commuter-rapid-limited-express having 12 cars, making it the longest train of all private railways in Japan. The Commuter-rapid-limited-express (Tsukin-Kaisoku-Tokkyu in Japanese) is very similar to the Rapid-limited-express, except that it is called "Commuter" It uses violet/mauve colour for the destination tables, only runs during the rush hour (and only "up" to Tokyo) and also stops at Keikyu-Kamata.
One new service was introduced a few years ago, the "Keikyu-Wing". This train runs every twenty minutes between 18.45 h and 21.05 h between Shinagawa and Kurihama or Misakiguchi. It does not stop until Kami-Ooka, and from there it uses the service-pattern of the Rapid-Limited express. You can only enter the "Wing", if you have a ticket for your seat reservation; this is 200 Yen extra to your normal ticket. You can buy your reservation between one week and one day before departure at any Keikyu-station, and on the day of departure only at ticket-machines at Shinagawa station. The Wing is not faster than the other trains, but it is much more comfortable as you have your seat reserved.
The through-service with Tokyo Municipal Subway's Asakusa line is not as important to Keikyu as it is for other companies. Tokyo Municipal Subway is quite expensive, and many people prefer to change to JR at Shinagawa instead of going on into the subway without having to change trains. But it is very interesting to see not only subway rains, but also Keisei- and Hokuso-trains on Keikyu's tracks. The Asakusa subway line has probably the most interesting variety of liveries of all Tokyo subways.