Enka: Departing From Tokyo (1995)

東京発 Tokyo hatsu with Takao Horiuchi. Nice karaoke number from 1995. This was the theme song for the detective series, Inspector Hagure, that I'm sorry to say I never had a chance to watch. The song is about leaving Tokyo for the north.

東京発北国へ Tokyo hatsu kita kuni he "Departing from Tokyo, for the northern parts of the country"

時の針が昔に戻る Toki no hari ga mukashi ni modoru "The needles of the clock return to the olden days"

And there are lots of nostalgic memories and sadness and joy.

Takao Horiuchi has a website too, in case you wanted to know more about the singer and your chances to experience him live during 2010... Born in Osaka, I wonder why he didn't make it Osaka hatsu?


Tom O said…
Marunouchi ok?
Hi Martin,

I am speculating that the reason the song is about departing from Tokyo is because there are 2 night trains from Tokyo to the north.

They were considered glamorous and luxurious in the postwar period! The Cassiopeia from Tokyo to Sapporo is still luxurious (so I have heard) --I didn't take it. I took the more humble Hokutosei, which may no longer be extant. I went in the winter, it was overheated, old, nostalgic, and wonderful.

There used to be night trains throughout Japan but most have been axed. I tried to take as many as I could. It was like going backwards into the past. I'm wondeirng which ones are still operating.

Pandabonium said…
TTT -Both trains are still in operation, website: http://www.jreast.co.jp/cassiopeia/hokutosei/

I've never been, but would love to do that sometime if only I can talk my S.O. into it.

There is third sleeper train - Akebono - which goes to Aomori via Niigata and along the west coast.

I do not recommend the Hokutosei for a romantic trip with your S.O. unless you both are into wabi-sabi post-war style and atmosphere. I love all that myself and was alone, so it was great for me, scribbling down all my observations and thoughts, eating bento food. Also, the train I was on did not have couchettes; instead people were sleeping on futons in one big compartment that was otherwise empty. I stayed in my seat which was not comfortable and slept most of the next day, as a result.

I traveled on another night train that is no longer extant -- the Akatsuki -- which went from Kyoto to Nagasaki. It was very comfortable and had couchettes, soft reclining seats, large bathrooms.

in this eco-sensitive time, I don't know if I would feel completely comfortable taking the Cassiopeia--because I am always thinking about my carbon footprints. But I plan to take it.

The Akebono sounds like it would be a dream trip--that's the one. I want to go on it too.

Something you said in a previous comment has stuck with me -- that our travel modes will be altering considerably in the near future. Maybe the overnight trains will have a come-back--although I have no idea of their comparative energy efficiency compared to planes/shinkansen. I read that their demise resulted from not enough passengers because most have turned to those modes of travel.

Tom O said…
Why not Osaka hatsu?

"Departing from Tokyo, for the northern parts of the country"

There's definitely an evocation there, leaving the big big city for the rather different 'north'. Osaka, being a tad west, would prob be a trip VIA Tokyo to Tohoku. As nice as it is in winter it also maybe reminds him of how he guiltily left for Tokyo - the father wanting him to carry on the farm et. Of course, prior to 'Tokyo' his life had been one of innocence and freedom - but also very very cold in winter. The 'olden days' - left his girl behind and she married a farmer. He goes back...
Pandabonium said…
TTT - thanks for the insights!

Trains are comparatively highly efficient means of public transport. The Shinkansen trains are the most efficient and least polluting of all on a per passenger kilometer basis.

Jet airliners are just a little better than the automobile - the bottom of the barrel - and worse, they leave their mess high in the atmosphere.

What survives the coming decades will be a political decision as well as an economic one. All transport is heavily subsidized (directly or indirectly), so its a question of where we decide to put our priorities.
Hi P,

Thanks for the info on the Shinkansen. Do you know about ships as compared to airplanes? Is that even available to people traveling cross-Pacific and cross-Atlantic as an alternative form of travel.

I just did some looking, and found that 2009 info that says that the Hokutosei is supposed to have couchettes and private rooms.

I had a JR pass and asked the conductor for an upgrade to a couchette but he took me to the big compartment with dozens of futons (and dozens of people) sleeping all together, and I declined. It was the "Nobinobi" (basically carpeted compartments to lie down) according to the site below. So there might have been couchettes and private rooms elsewhere that were unavailable at the last minute.

While traveling with a SO on a romantic trip, a private room I think is best.


I don't think the information in the above is up-to-date as a Wikipedia article lists only 5 operating sleeper trains--with one of them to be discontinued this March.

Here's some background on the "blue" sleeper train: "The first Blue Train was known as the Asakaze. It ran between Hakata and Tokyo beginning in 1956; air-conditioned cars were added two years later. As was the case with sleeper train services in other parts of the world, the Blue Trains acquired a romantic aspect and, at the peak of their popularity in the late 1970s, appeared in many novels. They were often described as "hotels on the move."

The Wikipedia article also has a sad, long list of those no longer extant -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Train_(Japan).

The train is so important in the history of change in Japan. Many people in Japan never left their regions until the postwar period.

Tom has to be right about the song though! I just have a night train fixation and projected my own reverie and nostalgia onto the song because of that evocative photo of the old-fashioned train in the snow.
Pandabonium said…
Ships are efficient for moving freight, but very poor as a people mover. They also have a lot of emissions due to a lack of international agreements on pollution on the high seas. There are some cruise lines that operate sailing vessels.
Tom O said…
And lets not forget those container ships that loss their cargo... Occasionally with strange benefits:

Thanks so much for the info. I have instinctively found the "cruise industry" distasteful and this information helps reveal why.

Sailing -- at least on smaller vessels -- seems more ecologically sensitive.
Pandabonium said…
Fascinating, Tom O.
Martin J Frid said…
Titanic was a case in point. While the first class passengers enjoyed luxury, most of the fare to pay for the journey was paid by the third class passengers. Case in point...
Tom O said…
An eiga was made a little while ago featuring a liaison between 1st class-3rd class passengers. The name escapes me but I believe it was quite successful! ;o)

Kind of relatedly here's a great site to literally explore:


No shortage of money/time its what I'd be doing a lot!
It's too bad those dirigibles were so dangerous -- it seems (I'm just guessing) that they would be eco-sensitive.

Hot-air balloons instead of helicopters?

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