Hankyu Railway (sometimes also called “Hankyu Corporation”) operates a 138.4Km-long, 1435mm-gauge, wholly-electrified (1500V DC) network made up of three independent main lines, the Takarazuka, Kyoto and Kobe Main Lines, named after their terminuses opposite Osaka. Each “Main Line” also comes with it’s own set of branchlines, and the ensemble of the two is often referred to as a “XYZ Line Network”.
Founded in 1907 as the Minoo-Arima Electric Tramway by Ichizo Kobayashi, a former banker turned Railway Tycoon, the company opened the current-day Takarazuka and Minoo lines in 1910.
To increase ridership on it’s trains, the railway began to develop entire “new towns” along it’s line, made up of attractive large western-style houses. To further boost ridership, an hot spring resort was developed at the line’s terminus of Takarazuka, followed by an amusement park, Japan’s first indoor pool and the Takarazuka Grand Teather, wich became the home for the internationally- famous Takarazuka Revue troupe, established by the railway itself.
In 1918, the company renamed itself as the “Hanshin Kyuko Railway”, whose “Hankyu” contraption remains the official name to this day. The Kobe and Imazu Lines opened in 1920, with new housing developments being built by the railway here as well, such as the Nishinomiya Baseball stadium, wich opened in 1937. To attract even more passengers, a department store was also opened in 1929 at Hankyu’s Umeda station, the terminus from wich all the railway’s lines originated from.
In 1943, during wartime, by order of the Japanese government, Keihan Railway was merged into Hankyu, forming the Keihanshin Kyuko Railway. After the war, Keihan Railway spun off from Hankyu Railway, but the latter held on to the Shin-Keihan Line (wich had been built by Keihan railway in the 1920s), becoming today’s Hankyu Kyoto Line.
Today, Hankyu Railway is the head of the gigantic Hankyu-Hanshin-Toho Group, a financial conglomerate wich was formed in the early 2000s with the merger of the already-well developed Hankyu-Hanshin Group with the Toho Group (yes – that one! – the movie company!).
Even before the merger with Toho, the Hankyu-Hanshin group already included countless other businneses: among those, there are several smaller railways, such as Hanshin Railway (wich has been owned by Hankyu since 2006), the San’yo Railway, the Kobe Electric Railway (or “Shintetsu”), the Nose Electric Railway, an endless list of bus and taxi companies, numerous real estate companies (wich manage the properties built by Hankyu along it’s lines), H2O Retailing (wich owns the high-end chain of Hankyu Department stores, wich evolved from the one that opened in Umeda in 1929!), the Hanshin Tigers professional baseball team (from Hanshin Railway), the Takarazuka Revue teathre troupe, the Osaka FM radio station, Hankyu Travel (a travel agency with numerous overseas offices) and the KansaiTV television network.
With the high-end residential developments built by Hankyu along the Takarazuka and Kobe Lines being highly sought after, Hankyu Railway has established a reputation for being “upper-class” and “luxurious”. Hankyu is well aware of that and understandably strives to preserve it in evry way possible.
To preserve such “high-class” image, Hankyu Railway actively designs trains to be the most similar-looking possible between them, both for exterior design and for the interior as well – even the lastest 1000 Series trains from 2014 still have the same mahogany-like interior paneling and olive-green velvet-like seating upholstery as they were introduced on the 2000 and 2300 Serieses of 1960!
The signature deep-maroon color of the trains has also remaied unchanged since the days of the Minoo-Arima Tramway. Some proposals to change the company color to something more modern were made in the 1980s and were immediatly and, some would say, brutally hushed. No one has attempted to do a similar proposal ever since.
Hankyu was the one that pionieered businness diversification among railway companies in Japan. Tokyu Corporation’s Keita Goto was so impressed by Hankyu Railway that he regularily travelled back and forth to Osaka to learn new businness strategies, wich were eventually successfully applied in Tokyo as well, making Tokyu Corporation one of the most powerful railway companies in Japan.
Kyoto Line network
Kyoto Main Line – trough-services with the Osaka Municipal Subway Sakaisuji Line
Limited Express services
Local, Rapid and Express services
Senri Line – trough-services with the Osaka Municipal Subway Sakaisuji Line
Takarazuka Line network
Takarazuka Main Line – trough-services with the Nose Electric Railway
Minoo Line – trough-services with the Takarazuka Main Line
Kobe Line network
Kobe Main Line – trough-services with the San’yo Railway