Yamanote line

Yamanote line in Tokyo – 山手線

The Yamanote line 山手線 is one of the busiest and most important train lines in Tokyo. It is a 34.5 km loop line covering some of the most important landmarks in the city and every train takes between 59 and 65 minutes to run a complete loop.

Origin of the name

Yamanote 山の手 (literally mountain hands) traditionally refers to the hills section inside of the city located west of the Imperial Palace. Although the Yamanote area cannot be defined exactly, in the Edo period it was comprised of the following areas of Tokyo: Yotsuya, Aoyama, Ichigaya, Koishikawa and Hongō.

The Yamanote Japanese word is formed by the kanji (mountain), the kana (no) and (hand), but when referring the the train line, the word loses the genitive particle の, making it ambiguous to pronounce: 山手. It can be pronounced as やまて (yamate) or as やまのて (yamanote).

History of the Yamanote line

At the beginning, the Yamanote line only connected Shinagawa to Akabane, both in the traditional Yamanote area. That’s the reason it got this name. After few years, the Yamanote line continued expanding, until it reached the circular loop as we know it today.

Construction of the Yamanote Line


  • 1885 – Yamanote line is created the 1st of March, between Shinagawa Station in the south and Akabane Station in the north
  • 1903 – The upper section between Ikebukuro station and Tabata station is created. Both stations already existed at that time.
  • 1925 – The loop is completed, connecting the Kanda and Ueno stations.

Important stations

The Yamanote line has a total of 29 stations. Some of the most important ones are:

  • Shibuya – It’s the fourth busiest rail station in Japan. It serves an average of 2.4 million passengers per day.
  • Shinjuku – Being a major connection hub, it’s the busiest train station in the world. The station is used by 3.64 million people per day.
  • Ikebukuro – It’s the second busiest train station in the world. Used by 2.71 million passengers every day.
  • Ueno – It’s the station to reach the Ueno park and many Museums in the area.
  • Tokyo – It’s the busiest station in Japan in terms of number of trains. It serves more than 3000 different trains every day.
  • Shinagawa – Connects with the Tokaido Shinkansen line.

Geisha in Tokyo

Did you know there are still Geisha in Tokyo? Kyoto is not the only city where you can spot one.

Geisha 芸者 are traditional female Japanese entertainers skilled at different arts. Every year in mid April in the Asakusa district there is an Oiran Dōchū 花魁道中 (procession of courtesans) and if you are lucky enough to be around in this time of the year, you should try to go.

There, it is possible to see not only geisha in Tokyo but also Hangyoku 半玉 (apprentices), Oiran 花魁 (courtesan), Kamuro 禿 (Oiran’s child assistant), Wakai-mono 若い者 (man doing different duties in the pleasure quarters) and even a male Geisha!

Yes, there are also few male geisha in Japan. They are called taikomochi  太鼓持ち. The one in the previous picture is called Eitarou 栄太朗 and resides precisely in Asakusa, Tokyo.

They all belong to the Matsunoya Okiya 置き屋 (Geisha house)

Cat tongue – 猫舌 – nekojita

One of the things you notice the first time you go to Japan is the high temperature of some of the foods and how Japanese people seems to not care about something being really really hot.

As a foreigner you often have to wait a while until the food gets a reasonable temperature so it doesn’t burn your mouth. And this happens even in summer! It’s not uncommon to see, for example, in a ramen restaurant how Japanese people enters, orders, eats and leaves in just few minutes.

In Japanese people unable to eat really hot food are called 猫舌  (ねこじた nekojita). It literally means cat’s tongue:

猫 (cat) + 舌 (tonge) = 猫舌 nekojita: inability to take hot food

Apparently cats have a very  sensitive tongue, so people with sensitive tongues are also called nekojita. Are you a 猫舌 nekojita?

Why Japanese People? Or how kanji are crazy nonsense

One of the first things most people try to do when studying kanji is try to find patterns to help them memorize and understand how they work. But that’s not always easy…

大  太  犬

We have the kanji for “big (dai). If we add a small stroke and it becomes “fat person (futo). A fat person is big, so more or less, it can make some sense. But if we move this small stroke up, it becomes “dog (inu). Now, how can this make any sense?

一  二  三 四

Numbers are some of the basic kanji everyone tries to learn first. One , two , three . See the pattern? Not so difficult, isn’t it? Ok, let’s continue. Four . Makes no sense…

角 + 䖝 = 触

Some kanji are formed by two different smaller components. For example  horn + insect = to touch. I personally don’t see any pattern on how you can relate an insect with horns with touch. Would you touch an insect with horns? I would definitely not…

That’s what the popular Atsugiri Jason tries to show in this popular funny video. It’s in Japanese with English subtitles.

The last kanji he writes is the one for depression . It has so many strokes (29) that he becomes depressed after trying to memorize it.

Have you ever thought Japanese kanji are crazy nonsense?

Animated Ukiyo-e 浮世絵

Ukiyo-e 浮世絵 is a genre of Japanese art based on woodblock prints produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries. Although it was considered cheap because it could be mass produced, it has created some of the most famous iconic Japanese paintings.

Some user in gifmagazine has created animated versions of some of the most famous Ukiyo-e scenes. While they keep the original simplicity, the animation adds a very interesting and original touch. What do you think?

You can find more in 瀬川三十七 Gifmagazine page.

Compressed gifs taken from PixFans