Okinawa Monorail
another Monorail Society Exclusive!

Photos and text by Kim Pedersen (except where noted)

Page One of Six

On April 17, 2003, videographer David M. Ice and I were treated to a sneak preview of the new Okinawa Monorail. Naha is the largest city on the island with a population of 300,000 in the city and surrounding area. The system will opened in August of 2003, but thanks to the folks at Hitachi and Okinawa Monorail, we got this early sneak preview during testing.

The builders of the Okinawa Monorail have cleverly rounded the edges of pylons, and the result is remarkable. The track is the same width as that of the famous Tokyo-Haneda Monorail, but the new pylons look "friendlier" with the soft edges and tapered t-supports. Note the clever way that conduit runs beneath the guideway, then artfully bypasses pylon/beam attachment points. (photo by David M. Ice)

After a two hour flight from Tokyo-Haneda Airport, we arrived at Naha Airport. After a wonderful traditional Japanese meal, courtesy of Hitachi, we took a cab ride to follow the entire 12.9 kilometer monorail line. I still remember the look of astonishment on our taxi driver's face as his crazy American passengers would leap out of the cab to capture images and video as test trains would pass. As you can see here, the monorail follows river canals in the downtown area of Naha. Monorails following rivers was first pioneered over 100 years ago in Wuppertal, Germany. It worked well then, it works well now.

Where needed, longer spans of beamway are made of steel rather than pre-stressed concrete. This pylon is one of many that show the transition between the two types of track.

Leaning out the taxi window, I managed to get this shot of a steel beam span crossing a road. Dual steel tracks in Japan are more bridge-like with cross beams between the beams. The straddle bent that supports the track is also steel.

Here comes a train! No passengers on board, just drivers being trained. Not much sunlight when this was shot, tropical clouds puffy crossed over us throughout the day. Still, you can see how the lines of the monorail train, track, supports and station blend well with the modern urban setting. Next Page...

Okinawa Monorail - Photo Essay page ONE / TWO / THREE / FOUR / FIVE / SIX

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