Photo/IllutrationShonan Monorail Co.’s suspended-type Shonan Monorail runs from Ofuna Station in Kamakura to Shonan Enoshima Station in Fujisawa, both in Kanagawa Prefecture. (Provided by Shonan Monorail Co.)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KAMAKURA, Kanagawa Prefecture--The Shonan Monorail is on the right track thanks to its official web magazine, which promotes railroad buffs and passengers' fascination with the roller coaster-like suspended transport system.

Despite the rarity of the system, Shonan Monorail Co.’s monorail had remained low profile compared with trains operated by Enoshima Electric Railway Co., dubbed Enoden, running nearby.

However, since its official web magazine “Sora de Buran” (Hanging in the sky) was launched in October 2017, the hanging monorail cutting through cityscapes here started to draw attention from not only railway buffs but also those who love strolling around towns.

A humorous illustration of the upside-down face of a man in a top hat with a moustache set against the backdrop of a blue sky and white clouds adorns the top page of the online magazine with monorail vehicles running from side to side above the iconic visage.

Opened in March 1970, Shonan Monorail was forced to adopt a suspended-type format, which is a rare configuration of its kind compared with the more common straddledtype monorail system. Shonan's monorail line is built along a vast incline with a maximum slope of 74 per mil, stretching 6.6 kilometers, connecting eight stations from Ofuna Station in Kamakura to Shonan Enoshima Station in Fujisawa, both in Kanagawa Prefecture.

The rare suspended-type monorails include the Chiba Urban Monorail, operated by Chiba Urban Monorail Co.; the monorail that runs only 331 meters inside Ueno Zoo in Tokyo’s Taito Ward, which is operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation; and the Wuppertal Suspension Railway, operated by the Eugen Langen Monorail Suspension Railway in Germany.

Hideo Owatari, who has served as president of Shonan Monorail Co. since October 2015, wanted to boost the profile of the monorail by taking advantage of its rarity.

Sora de Buran is one of Shonan's marketing coups.

Playing with words and making a pun, Tamaki Miyata, a travel writer who was in charge of editing the web magazine, named the title of the magazine and created its handwritten title lettering.

Miyata's passion for roller coasters was the impetus for the compelling web magazine, which is filled with a sense of humor.

An admitted roller coaster junkie, Miyata visited the company with the aim of writing about the Shonan Monorail, which runs as dynamic as a roller coaster.

Owatari gladly welcomed Miyata's timely visit and asked him how the company could raise the profile of the monorail.

Miyata proposed setting up a site in which experts in various fields talk about the Shonan Monorail from different angles.

Boasting its concept of “enjoying the Shonan Monorail and the areas along its line in another dimension,” the online magazine is updated almost daily.

In the freestyle web magazine, Junichi Sato, professor of multimedia and photography at Musashino Art University, compared the ride of suspended-type monorails in the world while author Kazuhiko Ota visited an "izakaya" Japanese-style pub in Ofuna, home of a station in which people transfer between Japan Railways and monorail lines.

Columnist Mineko Nomachi shared her discoveries while strolling along the line with her relaxed illustrations.

Satoshi Hachima, professor of public design at the Chiba Institute of Technology, appreciated the beauty of the structure of the chunky bridge piers.

“I ask people who are likely interested in the Shonan Monorail,” said Miyata. “Contributors will write their stories after actually riding the monorail.”

Miyata said that nearly all the people became interested in the project when he talked about it with them.

In addition to its unusual nature of the monorail, its geographical ups and downs, interesting history along the line and other resources convinced Miyata that Shonan Monorail and the areas nearby were a vast trove of topics for highbrows in various fields. This despite not having famous sightseeing spots such as the “Daibutsu” (Great Buddha) of Kamakura, which is located along the Enoden Line.

The web magazine continues evolving as it diversifies its contents to create an interactive format by setting up a page titled “Mono Giri,” which solicits the best jokes or answers in response to the topics related to the monorail.

Another newly set up page called “A field guide of Shonan Monorail virgins” features reports on the first ride of those who had never experienced the thrilling urban monorail, seeking a community-based approach.

On Sept. 13, Shonan Monorail Co. established a sister suspended-type monorail relationship with the Eugen Langen Monorail Suspension Railway, which started operations in 1901.

To celebrate the landmark partnership, Miyata invited people including Sato and Hachima who have ridden the Wuppertal Suspension Railway for a round-table discussion about the suspended monorail in Germany, which was held at Shonan Monorail Co. in Kamakura.

Losing track of time, the monorail freaks gushed about their fascination with the world-famous overhead monorail that intersects with the Autobahn, the highway system in Germany, while swinging in the air.

What had been discussed during the talk will be running on the Web magazine in a serial in six installments with photographs taken in Germany by Owatari.

“In contrast with the past when everyone visits the same tourist spots, people nowadays enjoy sightseeing from their own individual point of view,” said Miyata.

“Offering various angles on the website creates an atmosphere that ‘something interesting is going on’ in the overall web magazine.”

Miyata himself is enjoying creating the website and spreading enchantment of the Shonan Monorail.

To find out more about the Shonan Monorail, visit its official web magazine Sora de Buran (http://www.shonan-monorail.co.jp/sora_de_bra-n/).