If there is one thing that Hiroshima is more well known for than the special Hiroshima Okonomiyaki, it must be the hodgepodge fleet of streetcars servicing the city day in and day out. Unlike other cities of similar size in Japan, it was not technically possible to build an underground railway here due to the myriad streams and rivers crisscrossing the city and the poor soil conditions of the relatively few patches of dry ground. Instead the city for a long time relied on a system of streetcars operated by the Hiroshima Railway company, Hiroden for short. The streetcars are slow and not very comfortable but they do the trick of transporting people from one end of town to the other economically and conveniently. Theses days a couple of lines even go quite far out of the city into the neighboring towns and villages.
The Hiroshima streetcars are especially well known by streetcar lovers all over the world for the myriad of makes and models that traffic the system to this day. The oldest cars are almost a century old and the newest just a few years young, making for a very interesting mix of vehicles. You never know what kind you will be riding until it turns up at your stop! About half the cars are articulated, double-cars, while the rest are ordinary single cars like the ones we sometimes see in other parts of Japan.
During the war electricity was rationed and very few of the cars were running on that faithfull day of August 6th, but all of them suffered considerable damage. Most amazingly, the plucky 651 which was very close to the nuclear bomb detonation is actually still in service! When the bomb dropped, all 81 people onboard were killed instantly and only one person survived, but it wasn’t long until the 651 was repaired and put back into service. I missed getting a shot of it myself, mostly because it is only occasionally put into use in the morning rush hour traffic, but if you are in Hiroshima on August 8th, you will be sure to see it as it is always put into traffic on that day. I have borrowed a couple of photos of it from Wikipedia, which you can see at the end of this post.
Sorry for the terrible photos, it was raining almost my entire visit to Hiroshima. I hope for more sunshine the next time I visit!
One of the things that makes Yokohama one of the most interesting cities in Japan right now is their great use of the city’s prime oceanfront location. There is a great network of sightseeing boats, cruise ships and sea taxies crisscrossing the harbor and if you feel like you need to save your legs while sight seeing or want to try something else than a train or subway ride back to Yokohama station, then the Sea Taxi might be worth checking out. It is not that much more expensive than other public transportation and certainly cheaper than a normal taxi (although not cheaper than a rental bike or bicycle taxi).
I went on the little Sea Bass, the speediest sea taxi in Yokohama bay to save me from walking all the way back to a station and then get on a train back to Yokohama station. At 580 yen (children half price) the ticket price was not too much, especially considering that the night time view of Yokohama from the ocean is pretty sweet.
The Sea Bass commutes from Yamashita Park – Pier Akarenga – Minatomirai Pukari Sanbashi – Yokohama Station East Exit. On the way you will see all these destinations and more. In the last two decades there has been massive development in this area of Yokohama and I see new buildings every time I pass through, for example several new upscale apartment houses and a brad new commercial center at the east end of Yokohama Station. Well, brand new for me at least! You also get a good view of the Japan Coast Guard ships anchored at harbor and the opportunity to spot a lot of other ships and boats coming into or out of the harbor. In winter this ride was pretty chilly but it is fantastic in summer!
One of the first thing you’ll notice when visiting Tokyo is that in the evenings, more than half of the traffic on the roads are usually taxis. Tokyo taxis are parts of the visual make up of the city and I know many photographers and tourists who have a soft spot for the mostly yellow, green and red taxi cars! They’re a given for any collection of “the” Tokyo tourist photo collection!
A fun thing you can do with almost any camera to get some interesting travel photography is “tracking traffic”. I took these photos outside Tokyo’s Ikebukuro JR station a while ago of the traffic zooming past the station. Tracking shots like this are really easy to do but sometimes tricky to get just right. What you do is move the camera to follow the car or object, blurring the background but (hopefully) keeping the moving object razor sharp.
I set the camera to 1/10s, f10, and ISO 500 for this fairly bright city street. Then I waited for a car to come into my viewfinder. I follow the car with my camera and while moving, press the shutter, keep following (or tracking) the car and don’t stop until the picture is done. Repeat, try different settings, and enjoy!
No photoshop was used to alter these images.
Probably the biggest and most famous temple in Kawasaki city right on the south western border with Tokyo is the Kawasaki Daishi. It is a huge temple complex divided into several different parts, one of which is dedicated to traffic safety and cars! The temple building itself is a modernistic almost south east asian looking building in the middle of a huge parking lot where cars are staged in group depending on their order of taking part in the ceremony. Once an hour monks hold a ceremony praying for the safety and good fortune of the cars and their passengers and most people who have their cars blessed do so once a year. The ceremony itself costs 5000 yen but it is customary to give an additional donation to the temple when you return. Cars thus blessed gets a small bumper sticker that looks quite neat. You can see it on the temple’s home page. I was very lucky with the weather this day!