MANILA--Japanese visiting the Philippines may think they are still in their home country if they board or see a certain train, airplane or ship that rekindles nostalgic memories.
These older vehicles were once familiar sights across Japan, and now in retirement, have been pressed back into service in the Philippines.
One is the super-express sleeper train that ran between Ueno in Tokyo, and Kanazawa, the snowy capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, for about 40 years until last year under the name Hokuriku (northern land).
In September last year, 10 dark-blue passenger carriages of the train were offered to the Philippine National Railways (PNR) by East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) free of charge. It would mark the first time since the 1990s that the PNR has operated a sleeper train.
Today, the former Hokuriku train is operating on a 377-kilometer route between Tutuban Station in Manila and Naga Station in the Bicol region in the southern part of Luzon island. The railway operation had been mostly suspended since 2004 due to a series of typhoons. However, it resumed in late June this year, and the sleeper train has since been running on the railway.
When the railway operations were suspended, buses carried the passengers. However, there was a strong demand for resumption of the railway.
PNR General Manager Junio Ragragio said that the friendly people of Bicol prefer trains to buses because they can walk around on them and can chat with other passengers.
The PNR currently possess 34 train cars. Of these, 28 were once used in Japan.
In Japan, the Hokuriku ran at an average speed of 70 kilometers per hour. In the Philippines, however, it is running slower. Even after the expected completion of railroad reinforcement work, it plans to travel at a speed of 60 kph.
Meanwhile, YS-11 turboprop airplanes that disappeared from the Japanese private airline industry five years ago are today flying over Filipino skies. One YS-11 was bought 13 years ago by a flight school in Manila from the Japan Air System, which has since merged with Japan Airlines.
The plane is currently flying about 30 hours a month carrying flight school students from Manila to their training area in Malaysia's Sabah state.
The school's principal, Geronimo Amurao, 72, puts his trust in the YS-11, saying that the plane has not caused any major problems. The principal, who has worked as a pilot for more than 20 years, added that his school plans to use the YS-11 for at least 10 more years.
YS-11's were exported overseas for the first time in 1965. At that time, many were sent to the Philippines, and many airlines used the planes until recently. Now, however, those planes have been replaced by midsize European and U.S. aircraft.
But many of the pilots who flew the YS-11 turboprops still have affection for them.
According to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., which is in charge of after-sales services, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are currently using 16 YS-11's. In addition, two YS-11's are being used in the Philippines, and one each in the United States and in Greece.
Meanwhile, in the seas off the Philippines travels the SuperFerry No. 20, with a plain wooden god figure residing on a shelf on the bridge. The statue is polished, and a small flame is lit next to it.
The ship's captain, Filgen Yurong, 47, said that as the god has protected his vessel, crew members pay their respects to it.
The ship, now owned by the Manila-based company SuperFerry, had been sailing between Osaka and Oita prefectures in western Japan until January last year under the name Sunflower Kogane.
Today, it is sailing the 1,800-kilometer route between Manila on Luzon island and Davao on Mindanao island through Cebu island along with SuperFerry No. 21, which used to be named Sunflower Nishiki in Japan.
More than 90 percent of the ferries and freight vessels in the Philippines were once used in Japan.
Raffy Sanvictores, SuperFerry vice president, said that as the used Japanese ferries remain in good operating condition, it is usually not necessary to repair them.
However, ferries sometimes sink in the Philippines, and in some tragic instances, several hundreds of passengers and crew members die.
"Navigation in rough sea areas and acceptance of many more passengers than the limits onto the vessels have led to the accidents," said Masahiro Uesono, who has worked in the Philippines as a marine affairs expert with the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
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