The Jōban Line

I think I'm gonna be somewhat of a romantic today and talk about a railroad mainline in Japan whose name has quite a poetic meaning. Well, the romantic part is really going to be somewhat cheesy but we'll see.

A commuter train on the Jōban Line
Route Map of the Jōban Line
The Jōban Line (常磐線, or jōban-sen) connects Tōkyō to the City of Iwanuma in the Miyagi Prefecture, in northeastern Japan. The line officially begins in Nippori, but most trains originate in Ueno, a major station in Tōkyō. The name Jōban comes from the former Provinces of Hitachi (常陸) and Iwaki (磐城, you have to look at the first character of the names of the two places, apparently when you put them together it's pronounced totally differently and somehow became jōban) which probably sit somewhere near the current Miyagi Prefecture. Interestingly, the name jōban can also literally mean an everlasting rock.

The line can trace its roots back to 1889, long before the former JNR, but has been ever expanding. In its current form, the Jōban Line is approximately 230 miles long and runs parallel to the Tōhoku Line (東北本線 or the Northeastern Mainline) and the Tōhoku Shinkansen (東北新幹線 or the Northeastern High Speed Line). It uses the usual 3 ft. 6 in. cape gage found on Japan's vast non-high speed railroad network and spans over two electrical systems (similar to Continental Europe, Japan has a mix of electrical supply systems to the catenary system, which requires trains to be multi-modal). Today, the Jōban Line is owned by the East Japan Railway Company.

What used to be a station after the devastating tsunami of 2011
Being a coastal railroad mainline through the Fukushima Prefecture, the Jōban Line is a victim of the major earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Portions of the line in the affected areas have been washed out and remain out of service today. Plans to rebuild and relocate are in place and work has been commenced, but the complete reopening of the Jōban Line is not expected until 2017.


Andy in Germany said…
I must admit to being a little cynical about the rebuilding: the Shinkansen across the Fukushima Prefecture was rebuilt within weeks, but somehow this line isn't important enough. There's a strong feeling among people in Japan that this region has basically been abandoned by the government.

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