Translated by Hilary Keyes
Writer, translator, designer, weirdo.
A symbol of peace, the blue Number 653 tram runs its circuit in Hiroshima in the hopes of spreading its message of peace and a world without war.
In Hiroshima city there is a street car that not only survived the atomic bombing but has been running about the city since then.
Now, when you ride on this miraculous tram, you can see photos and videos taken immediately after the bombing, as well as hear the testimony from the victims of the attack itself. Intended as constant reminder to the people of the importance of peace, today let's take a ride upon this mobile museum.
2015 marked the 70th commemoration of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which was without question the greatest turning point for the city, and perhaps for the world.
After the bombing 70 years ago, the city underwent an incredible restoration and, even now, the people of Hiroshima ride on the Hibaku Densha or Atomic-Bombed Train. The Number 653 streetcar offered service around the Hiroshima area at the time and was on its usual route when the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6th, 1945 at 8:15 AM. Though the tram suffered serious damage to its body during the bombing, a mere 4 months later it had been fully restored and the citizens of Hiroshima were able to ride this streetcar until 2006.
Number 653 became a symbol of Hiroshima's revival and was cheered on by the thousands. This same Number 653 tram was lovingly restored to how it looked in 1945 by former employees of the Hiroshima Electric Railway and people who knew the train after the bombing. As a result, in 2015 Number 653 with its vivid blue paint once again began running around Hiroshima city.
This endeavor, known as the "Hibaku Densha Special Service Project", was fully planned and carried out by the Hiroshima Electric Railway and Chūgoku Broadcasting, Hiroshima's regional TV and radio stations. The impetus behind this project was to show the passengers on the Number 653 the "calamity of the bombing" and "the enthusiasm of Hiroshima's survivors" all the while traveling around Hiroshima city.
In 2015 alone, more than 1000 people from all across Hiroshima city were able to ride this special service train. This project was even featured on British TV by the BBC and was awarded the "Atomic Bomb Revival Remembrance Special Award", from the 14th Annual Japanese Railroad Association.
The route of this streetcar passes by different spots with significant connections to the atomic bombing of the city. Upon leaving Hiroshima, the course begins. Starting from Hatchōbori where Fukuya department store (which was heavily damaged by the bomb) stands, it then passes by the Genbaku Dome (Hiroshima Peace Memorial), then to Hiroden Nishi-Hiroshima Station (at that time called Koi Station), before returning to Hiroshima Station. A journey taking roughly 90 minutes to complete, on the Number 653 you can even experience riding along a section of the tracks between Koi Station and Nishitenmachō which were repaired and in use a mere 3 days after the bombing.
Within the restored tram are large TV monitors that screen "The Stories of the Atomic Bomb Victims" and "Revival Vignettes" giving personal histories of the event. The images are synced to the scenery you pass by outside, "Hiroshima's Townscape", so that you can compare Hiroshima then and now. Passengers on this mobile museum can gain a greater awareness and deeper understanding of the effect the atomic bomb had on the city and its people.
US President Obama's historic May 2016 visit to Hiroshima marks the first time that the standing American president has visited this city. Once again, Hiroshima gained global attention not only for its rebirth from the atomic bombing but for its 70 year long campaign of world peace.
It is through this restored city that the blue Number 653 runs today. This summer (2016) marks the 71st commemoration of the bombing and for 5 days (August 7th, 9th, 12th, 13th and 20th), the Hibaku Densha will run once more. If you would like to take a ride on the Number 653, you must make a reservation through the Chūgoku Broadcasting website (Japanese only).
*The schedule for November will be available online in September.
Approximately 40 minutes of the video that plays within the Hibaku Densha has English subtitles in order for non-Japanese speakers to be better able to understand the effects the atomic bomb had on the city and people of Hiroshima. Continuously aiming to spread the message of a future without war to everyone, the atomic-bomb surviving blue Number 653 still runs its route around Hiroshima city.
71 years have passed since that world-altering day in Hiroshima and it is hoped that, by riding the Hibaku Densha, its passengers will truly understand the importance of peace around the globe.