By Oliver Mayer

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Tokyu (full name Tokyo Kyuko Dentetsu = Tokyo Express Electric Railway) is one of the major private railways in Japan with a network of seven railway lines and one tramway line with a total length of 100.7 km. In terms of size of network, Tokyu is the 13th biggest private railway in Japan, but it transports more passengers than any other of the private railways (2.6 million per day). Actually JR East and JR West are the only railway companies in Japan with more passengers than Tokyu. In spite of the many passengers, Tokyu does not have the biggest total daily income (4th of the private railways), but the biggest income per route-km of all Japanese railways: 2.5 million Yen per km and day. But riding on the Tokyu is not expensive, in fact it is one of the cheapest railways in Japan, where you can take a trip up to 3 km for only 110 Yen on some lines. Another feature of the Tokyu is that the average trip length per passenger is only 9.4 km, less than the 14.1 km for the other big private railways.

Toyoko 8000 series
8000 series on the Toyoko line, at Gakugei-Daigaku, 28.9.1995

Tokyu is quite profitable, as there is traffic on most lines in both directions all day long. Many railways centered on big cities suffer the same operating problem, namely that in the peak hours trains running against the flow of the rush run nearly empty. The Toyoko-sen connects two big centers (Shibuya/Tokyo and Yokohama), and is therefore in a very favorable position. Mekama-and Ikegami-sen bring the passengers to JR s Yamanote-sen at one end and to JR's Keihin-Tohoku-sen at the other end, so they are also quite full throughout the day. A "full train" in Japan does of course mean overcrowding in the morning rush hour: Toyoko-sen reaches a congestion-rate of 199% and the Shin-Tamagawa-sen of 193%. These numbers are among the highest of all private railways in Japan, but much lower than JR s congestion-rates, which are between 200% and 270% around Tokyo. In spite of these rates, Tokyu s trains are very punctual, because the lines have a very simple service pattern.

Tokyu shows once more, that a railway with a network instead of a single line is in a better position, the lines of the network are creating demand for each other. Lessons for the privatisation of British Rail or Deutsche Bahn (German Railways)?

But now back to Tokyu's railways. As described in the first paragraph, they have some unique features, for which they are quite well known: Very cheap, very many passengers, a short average travelling distance and a close-meshed network of eight lines, serving south-western Tokyo (especially the wards of Setagaya, Meguro and Ota) and parts of Kawasaki and Yokohama.

Tokyu was established as a regional development company in 1922 and has since grown to become one of Japan's large corporate groupings with a total of 390 companies and 9 foundations, employing 106,000 persons (of which 3800 work for Tokyu s railways). Railways, real estate and department stores have been the main areas for business since the beginning; but since the war, Tokyu has built up a leisure department as a fourth sector. Although Tokyu's railways are situated only in the southwestern part of Tokyo and in Kawasaki and Yokohama, you can still use their system to get to other parts of Japan by taking one of the long-distance Tokyu buses, e.g. to Izumo, Himeji or Wakayama. If you want to go faster, you can fly by Japan Air System, one of the three biggest airlines in Japan, owned by Tokyu.

Origine of Name:
The name "Tokyu" did not appear from the beginning. In 1922 the Meguro-Kamata Dentetsu (Meguro-Kamata Electric Railway) was founded as the railway section of Denentoshi Ltd., a development and real estate company. In 1935 it merged with the Ikegami Denki Tetsudo. The Tokyo-Yokohama Dentetsu had been founded in 1927 to operate what is today Tokyu's Toyoko-sen, and in 1938 it took over the Tamagawa Denki Tetsudo, that had already started tramway operation in 1907. Meguro-Kamata-Dentetsu and Tokyo-Yokohama Dentetsu finally merged in 1939 to become what is today Tokyu. But, in 1942 because of the war Tokyo-Yokohama Dentetsu, Keihin Kyuko and Odakyu had to form one railway company in southwestern Tokyo to reduce the costs of railway operation, and Keio followed in 1944. This company was called Tokyo Kyuko Dentetsu, which was broken up again in 1948 to make the four former companies. But the Toyko-Yokohama Dentetsu did not retain its pre-war name and kept the wartime name, which is often shortened to Tokyu. If you want to know why, just try saying "Tokyo Kyuko" very fast for ten times - after a short while you will automatically say "Tokyu".

Stay at one of their 44 hotels or play golf on Tokyu s 8 golf courses, that are all over the country. These land developments were influenced by the British idea of a "garden city", and so Denen Chofu and later Tama Denen Toshi were built, which of course can be reached by Tokyu railways or Tokyu buses. Today Denen Chofu is the most distinguished high-class residential area in Tokyo. Other big companies are Tokyu Cable TV, several restaurants, schools and construction companies and Tokyu Sharyo, a railway car maker. Tokyu's department stores are among the largest in Japan, and many of them can be found in the Shibuya station area of Tokyo. The "109" department stores also belong to Tokyu: They should (even in Japanese) be pronounced "one-oh-nine", but if you spell the numbers in real Japanese, 10 is TO and 9 is KYU. And if travelling overseas, you will find 15 "Pan Pacific Hotels" and several land development projects around the pacific, all operated by Tokyu.

Tokyu has a "Railway and Bus Museum" near Takatsu on the Den-entoshi Line.

Night Bus Service:
If you stay out late in Toyko and miss your last train (Toyoko-sen and Shin-Tamagawa-sen both leave from Shibuya at 0:42 h), you could catch on of the Tokyu night buses. Two buses leave from Shibuya at 1:00 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. and drive along the Toyoko- and Den entoshi-sen, where they stop at the major stations. The fare is between 1400 and 2100 Yen, but this is still much less than a taxi.

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