One of the first things people notice when visiting Hiroshima are the streetcars. Chugging through the streets among cars, pedestrians, and cyclists, it adds character to the city. As a tourist, taking the street car was an adventure, but I did notice that it was a bit slow. I was amused with the thought of how a society that is always on the go was able to put up with some of the transportation’s inefficiencies.
During a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, our guide pointed to a wall sized photo of the atomic bomb’s aftermath – a grim image of a city flattened and in rubble. However, in the corner, in an insignificant size, was an upright streetcar. Our guide pointed to that and said, “You see the streetcars around Hiroshima? They aren’t the best, but our city loves them. After the bombing, they were among the first things recovered and were used to transport injured people and important supplies to and from places. So, these streetcars were extremely important to the rebuilding of our society.” How ashamed I felt at that moment for having poked fun at the streetcars’ shortcomings.
Hiroshima has kept the streetcar system around because it is a symbol of the city’s survival, recovery, and strength.
I had known that street cars have been running in this city for decades, as it was mentioned in John Hersey’s Hiroshima. The book highlights that on the day of the bombing, one of the survivors took one street car as opposed to another, which saved his life. However, I didn’t know how prevalent street cars still were in Hiroshima until I visited. And now that I understand its true meaning to the society, I feel it is important for others tourists to know so they understand this vital part of Hiroshima.
How To Use the Streetcars in Hiroshima
The streetcars are part of the Hiroshima Electric Railway system. You enter in the back of the car and exit in the front, paying as you leave. You can pay in cash (fares range from 160-260 yen, depending on your route and destination), or you can purchase a one-day pass from the driver or at Hiroshima Station’s information desk. A one-day pass, including a ferry to Miyajima, is 840 yen. Without the trip to Miyajima, it’s 600 yen.
The main destination you will be looking for is Genbaku Dome-mae, accessible by Line 2 and 6. This is the stop for the Atomic Bomb Dome, Peace Memorial Park, and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
To access the island of Miyajima, take Line 2. Here you you can enjoy the historic village, Itsukushima Shrine (floating Torii), wild deer, and a hike up scenic Mt. Misen.
The streetcar won’t be a fast ride, and it may be a bit bumpy, but as you enjoy the street views, know that you are sitting in the heart of Hiroshima.
Its been more than ten years since I was there but the streetcars of Hakodate on Hokkaido in Japan are very old and very classical. Hope they are still there!
The streetcars in Hiroshima are just one example of how and why Japanese people hold onto their traditions so tight. This was a great lesson for me, not to see Japan as “quirky”, but to see it as a country with purpose.
Hiroshima is a beautiful city that reminds me so much of my home-town of Melbourne, Australia. One of the reasons is the trams (streetcars) as well is the greenry.
I didn’t know that. How fascinating. Thank you for sharing this!