SPACIA Kinugawa 3: Shinjuku to Kinugawa-Onsen by JR East-Tobu Railway Through Service Limited Express Train

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The SPACIA Kinugawa 3 is a rare through-service limited express train jointly operated by JR East and Tobu Railway, crossing into each other’s companies tracks for the train route. It is one of just four trains daily which works on such a cross-line service, and in those, one out of three which heads to Kinugawa-Onsen. With most rail passes, the Limited Express SPACIA Kinugawa requires an additional fee due to the unique arrangement, but my JR TOKYO Wide Pass covers it fully.

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The Limited Express SPACIA Kinugawa departs from Platform 5.

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Heading down to Platforms 7 and 8 first before continuing down to Platforms 5 and 6.

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Heading down to Platforms 5 and 6 from Platforms 7 and 8.

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Some construction going on in this passageway.

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Coin lockers are available for storage along this route.

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My train information for the Limited Express SPACIA Kinugawa in the passageway.

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Signs along the platform tell you to move ahead where the train stops, probably due to the long platforms while the train is only formed of 6 cars.

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The most frequent train using these platforms is the Narita Express for Narita Airport.

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About 10 minutes to departure, the Limited Express SPACIA Kinugawa arrives at Platform 5 for the cleaners to tidy up the train first. This is Tobu 100 series Set 108, one of three sets in “iki” blue livery. Only sets 106, 107 and 108 can be used on JR East lines as they are fitted with additional JR East JR ATS-P signalling equipment.

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The exterior of Car 6 with the SPACIA Compartment logo.

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The destination sign of the Limited Express SPACIA Kinugawa, though the destination hasn’t been changed yet.

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A unique shot of a non-JR train in a JR station in downtown Tokyo.

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The station sign of Shinjuku Station Platforms 5 and 6.

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Boarding the Limited Express SPACIA Kinugawa.

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My seat on board the Limited Express SPACIA Kinugawa.

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The legroom on board the SPACIA Tobu 100 series.

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The footrest can be folded out to form an even bigger space. You do need to remove your shoes to use it for courtesy.

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A fold-up table is available at the window seat.

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An additional fold out table under the armrest is also available.

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The overall interior of the SPACIA Tobu 100 series Ordinary Car.

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Seats have an additional side headrest similar to some Green Car seats.

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Some door opening information for Kasukabe Station on the Tobu Skytree Line which my train will not be travelling on.

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A public wash basin is available in the toilet area of the coach.

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The western-style sitting toilet available on the SPACIA Kinugawa.

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The Japanese-style squatting toilet available on the SPACIA Kinugawa.

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My JR East Reserved Seat Ticket for the Limited Express SPACIA Kinugawa 3, to be used together with my JR TOKYO Wide Pass.

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The Limited Express SPACIA Kinugawa train is manned by JR East staff on the JR East sector.

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Passing by the Tokyo Shinkansen Center near Tabata station.

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Heading parallel to the Shinkansen tracks towards Omiya.

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Making a brief stop at Omiya.

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Stopped beside the Green Car of the Utsunomiya Line and Takasaki Line E231 series EMU.

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Crossing with a EH500 hauling a freight train.

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The Tobu Noda Line branching off from the Tohoku Main Line alignment.

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Heading on north.

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Approaching Kurihashi Station.

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The JR East Kurihashi Station.

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The SPACIA Kinugawa makes a brief stop for a crew change before crossing over to the Tobu Nikko Line from the JR East Tohoku Main Line here.

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The Tobu Kurihashi Station.

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Crossing over to the Tobu Nikko Line.

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Leaving the Tohoku Main Line.

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Heading on the Tobu Nikko Line.

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Approaching a rather majestic looking railway bridge.

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Crossing over the Tone River.

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Nice outskirt Japanese houses here.

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Heading on through the Japanese countryside.

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Making a brief stop at Tochigi Station, interchange with the JR Ryomo Line.

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Departing from the elevated Tochigi Station.

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The Tobu Utsunomiya Line splitting off.

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Passing by the Shin-Tochigi Depot.

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With the train rather empty, I decided to explore the SPACIA Compartment car.

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The builder plate of the defunct Alna Koki Co., Ltd..

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The 1991 Blue Ribbon Award plaque inside the 100 series SPACIA EMU. The Blue Ribbon Award is presented annually by the Japan Railfan Club for being the most outstanding train design of the year.

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The access door to the SPACIA Compartment. The Green Car sticker seems like a bit of a misnomer as the SPACIA Compartment is higher than Green Car and Green Car passes are not valid for the SPACIA Compartment – a separate SPACIA Compartment ticket is required.

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Looking down the corridor of the SPACIA Compartment.

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The interior of the SPACIA Compartment which seats 4 people.

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Luggage racks are available in each compartment.

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Compartment controls can be found by the door.

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The view of the SPACIA Compartment when seated.

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A thin table is fitted in the middle of the SPACIA Compartment.

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The view out of the SPACIA Compartment.

The SPACIA Compartment is pretty luxurious for this 2+-hour journey. If you can afford it, I think it would be a good experience to ride on it through the countryside.

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Heading back to my Ordinary Car seat after the small exploration.

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Approaching Shimo Imaichi Station.

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OHA 14 505 Dream Car (オハ14 505「ドリームカー」) is parked at the end of the SL Taiju Exhibition Hall and Turntable Square.

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The locomotive shed of the SL Taiju Exhibition Hall and Turntable Square.

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Making a brief stop at Shimo-Imaichi Station with the rake of the SL Taiju resting in the SL Taiju Exhibition Hall and Turntable Square.

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The SL Taiju locomotive C11 207 resting on the turntable at the SL Taiju Exhibition Hall and Turntable Square.

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A local train bound for Tobu-Nikko arrives just after my Limited Express SPACIA Kinugawa arrives, acting as a relay for passengers heading to Tobu-Nikko.

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Departing from Shimo-Imaichi.

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Splitting off the Tobu Nikko Line to head onto the Tobu Kinugawa Line.

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Taking a sharp right curve.

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The view towards Nikko.

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Crossing the Daiya River.

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Approaching Daiyamuko Station.

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Crossing with the Limited Express Revaty Aizu at Daiyamuko Station.

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Not something I was expecting to cross on the SPACIA – a level crossing.

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Continuing northwards.

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Entering into Kinugawa-Onsen area.

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Crossing over the Kinugawa River.

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A lot more rural scenery and level crossings on this single-track line.

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Approaching Tobu World Square Station.

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Making a brief stop at Tobu World Square Station.

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The next stop is Kinugawa-Onsen which is the final stop of the Limited Express SPACIA Kinugawa.

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Getting ready to disembark.

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Arriving at Kinugawa-Onsen Station.

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The conductor steps off the train to check on passengers alighting.

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Heading up the platform to the station exit.

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The train’s destination sign changes to “Not In Service” at Kinugawa-Onsen.

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The logo of the SPACIA Tobu Limited Express by the side of my train.

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A vending machine decked out in SL Taiju livery.

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The logo of the SPACIA Tobu Limited Express and Nikko Moude Spacia by the side of the “Nikko Moude Spacia” gold/black livery train.

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Platforms 1 and 2 are assigned for terminating and departing trains for the Tobu Nikko Line and Tobu Skytree Line.

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I guess this is the SL Taiju’s platform too?

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My Tobu 100 series “iki” blue livery at Kinigawa-Onsen Station.

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The Tobu 100 series “Nikko Moude Spacia” gold/black livery at Kinigawa-Onsen Station.

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The two SPACIAs at Kinugawa-Onsen Station Platforms 1 and 2.

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The Tobu 100 series “Nikko Moude Spacia” gold/black livery at Kinigawa-Onsen Station.

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Shortly after closing the doors, my Tobu 100 series “iki” blue livery heads north towards a siding.

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Normal passengers can head out of the station through the ticket gates.

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However, with the JR TOKYO Wide Pass, use the manned lane by the side.

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The station hall of Kinugawa-Onsen Station.

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A turntable is located right in front of the station for the SL Taiju locomotive to turn around.

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Seems rather new and purpose-built just for people to take a picture of the steam locomotive in action.

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The view of the small town around the station.

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The facade of Kinugawa-Onsen Station.

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Across the station, there is a Tourist Information Centre for you to pick up some information about the area.

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An English map of the Kinugawa area is available.

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If in further doubt, there is also an information counter to ask questions from the staff.

Overall, a rather pleasant trip with the Limited Express SPACIA Kinugawa on this cross-line journey. While the train is 29 years old with some original design in the train showing the dated facilities, the condition is kept immaculate with seats that are slightly more comfortable than regular Ordinary Car seats especially with the bigger footrest and side headrests.

The JR TOKYO Wide Pass also offers great value to travel on the Limited Express SPACIA Kinugawa as reservations on this line is fully inclusive in the pass, whereas most other passes require a surcharge to be paid to use Tobu’s tracks – even the ever-popular Japan Rail Pass.

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