[ as of 2020 ]
Population: 720 841 (2017)
A relatively modern city with a small city core and extensive suburbs. Okayama was destroyed in the World War II, and rebuilt afterwards. The city is best known for the 16th-century Okayama Castle, dubbed “Crow Castle” for its black exterior, and for an iconic formal garden Korakuen.
Private operator: The Okayama Electric Tramway
Gauge: 1067 mm
Track length: 9,4 km. (one-way)
Number of services: 2
Number of passenger vehicles: 22
The smallest tramway system in Japan. Most of the system was built in small increments between 1912-1928, thus trams serves the traditional city core only, while the Okayama urban area expanded outward. The last 0,5 km. extension to Seikibashi was added in 06.1946 following the city's reconstruction after the war. Trams survived an extensive project of street widening in the 1950-60s. However, the 0,9-km. long Banchō Shuttle which was a single track with one passing point, was abandoned 05.1968.
The tramway network is operated by the same private carrier since the opening in 1912. The tramway network mostly acts as a feeder to the Main Railroad Station. During peak hours up to 90% of all passengers are railroad commuters, with most passengers commuting to Okayama to work or to study. The Line 1 is operated daily between 6:00-22:30 every 3-4 min. during peak hours, every 5 min. off-peak. The Line 2 is operated daily between 6:30-22:00 every 10 min. at all times. During peak hours trams leave from the Main Railroad Station every 2,5 min. while fully loaded, with passengers allowed to occupy the unused operator's cab in the back. The operation is extremely efficient. The Line 2 is operated with 1 minute layovers at each of the two terminals, which includes changing ends, nevertheless trams operate all day without delays. There are two fare zones. In 2020 the ride within one zone was 100¥ (~0,93$), between zones 140¥ (~1,30$), while the all-day pass was 400¥ (~3,72$). Entry and prevalidation through the rear door / exit and payment through the front door.
The entire system is double-track. All tramway tracks are within the street grid in mixed traffic, however, there is a tramway priority use of the right-of-way with no mixed traffic operation except for intersections, defined solely by road markings. The exception is a 0,8-km-long segment via narrow streets in Kyobashicho and Kobashicho island areas on the Higashiyama Line. The depot is at the end of the Line 1 at Higashiyama. The depot is split in two properties - the maintenance facility on one side of the street, and the additional storage yard located on the other side of the street. Since the system opening, trams used to operate with twin poles, however, these were replaced single poles some time before the World War II, which in turn were replaced with pantographs sometime after the war. The outer segment of the line to Higashiyama passes through the formerly historic area of town, even though newly developed, located on the islands formed by the expanse of the Asahi River. Trams run over two islands connected by three bridges, which gives the ride a special vibe.
A strict fleet numbering system is used for all cars except for 3005 & 3007, where the car class is defined by the year cars were rebuilt or delivered, with the first two digits identifying the year the car was rebuilt, minus the number '10' (hence, for example, car 7001 was rebuilt in 1980).
17 of 22 Okayama trams were rebuilt in 1980-1995 from older cars from the 1949-1959 using new bodies. These cars in turn came from all over Japan following closure of various tramway systems. However, the degree of use of older parts varies, so some cars are considered to be built new. For the 17 rebuilds two distinctive body types were used - the older body type for the 10 cars numbered 7001-7501 rebuilt between 1980-1985; and the modernized body type for the 7 cars numbered 7601-8501 rebuilt between 1986-1995. All rebuilt trams retain all appropriate authentic sounds from the 1950s.
15 cars are required for service during peak hours on weekdays (12 cars for the Line 1 + 3 cars for the Line 2); 11 cars (8+3) are required during off-peak on weekdays and on weekends. One car at any given time usually undergoes a rehab at the depot. One car is parked at the depot's exit at-a-ready as an active reserve. There is an excess of two regular service cars on the property.
The 1953-built car 3007 is branded 'KURO' ('black') since 2004 in association with Okayama's 'black crow' castle. It is the official heritage tram, operated in regular service daily between 10:58-13:55, completing runs specially marked in the timetable. Car 3005 also remains in the original authentic state, painted in colors of the former Nikko system where it originally came from. It is mostly used for special occasions and parties. Car 7001 , the oldest of the Okayama classic rebuilt cars, is branded 'TAMA' for the famous cat in the local railroad folklore. This car operates specially themed runs marked in the timetable. The brand 'TAMA' could be transferred to a different car if the original 'TAMA' car undergoes a long rehab. The low floor 3-section cars 9201 & 1011 are branded 'MOMO' and 'MOMO-2' respectively, which is a word play based on the name of the Japanese folk hero and the word 'sectional' (as 'articulated'). Low floor runs are specially marked in the timetable. The low floor service is provided on the Line 1 six days a week every day except for Tuesday, and on the Line 2 every day except for Friday - the off-days are reserved for car maintenance. Low floor cars could be found in service on days and at times in addition to runs advertised, which is done as a courtesy. The design of the Okayama low floor cars is considered one of the most attractive in Japan.
In 2018 the low floor 2-section theme car 1081 was delivered, designed and painted to commemorate Wilson and Brewster from the British animated series "Chuggington". The car has limited capacity for 34 passengers, and the shoes are not allowed on board. Its is operated 4-5 times daily in special themed service only at premium fares, in 2020 at 3500¥ (~32,53$) for adults 2000¥ (~18,59$) for kids.
Jack May - photos
© 2002-2020 Author: Yury Maller - Usage of material found herein for public display is possible with authors' permission only.
Special thanks: Jack May - photos