From the Beginning of Streetcar Service to
Hiroshima Electric Railway During War

Pre-War Kamiya-cho Intersection (1938, courtesy of the Hiroshima Municipal Archives)

■The Beginning of Streetcar Service in Hiroshima City
As the popularity of laying streetcar tracks increased across the country, in 1909, the founder of Osaka’s Ōbayashi Corporation, Yoshigorō Ōbayashi, applied to lay streetcar tracks in Hiroshima on behalf of an organizer. On June 18, 1910, Hiroshima Electric Railway Co., Ltd., was born, and on November 23, 1912, streetcars began running for the first time in Hiroshima City.

There were four lines at the time: the Main Line (Hiroshima Station to Aioi-bashi Bridge), Seitō-gawa River Line (Kamiya-cho to Taka-no-bashi Bridge), Miyuki-bashi Bridge Line (Taka-no-bashi Bridge to Miyuki-bashi Bridge), and the Tokiwa-bashi Bridge Line (Hatcho-bori to Hakushima). Two weeks later, on December 8th, an extension of the main line from Aioi-bashi Bridge to Koi was opened. Five years later, in 1915, the Ujina Line (Miyuki-bashi Bridge to Ujina) opened.

On August 2, 1917, the company merged with Hiroshima Gas, Co. Ltd. to create Hiroshima Gas Electric Railway Co., Ltd. In November of the same year, the Yokogawa Line (Sakan-cho to Yokogawa Station) opened. In 1922, after the Miyajima Railway Line (Koi to Kusatsu) opened, lines were gradually extended, and in 1931, all lines were open, including one that went all the way to Miyajima-guchi. In addition, the company aimed to increase Miyajima Line passengers with the development of housing complexes and summer resorts in Raku-raku-en, a town located right next to the streetcar line.

■ Hiroshima and Streetcars in Times of War
As the Second Sino-Japanese War continued, on April 10, 1942, one year after the Pacific War began, the train and bus divisions of Hiroshima Gas Electric Railway Co., Ltd., were divided under a national policy on industry controls, giving rise to Hiroshima Electric Railway Co., Ltd. As the war raged on, passengers on the inner city streetcar lines and Miyajima Line increased dramatically.

At the time, there were many munition factories located along the streetcar lines, making the streetcars indispensable to the workers who supported the munitions industry. Even when times were tough, such as when there was a shortage of workers due to men being shipped off to war, or when there was an extreme lack of supplies, Hiroshima Electric Railway worked hard to ensure transport capabilities by introducing larger carriages and opening/extending lines.

In June 1944, to transport workers to industrial areas in the off-shore areas of Kannon and Eba, the Eba Line (Dobashi to Funairi-Minami-machi (current Funairi-Minami)) opened at the official request of the military. In December of the same year, the Hijiyama Line (Matoba-cho to Minami-machi 3-chome (current Minami-machi 6-chome)) opened to strengthen transport capabilities from Hiroshima Station to Ujina Port. During the construction of the Hijiyama Line, there was a shortage of construction materials. To combat the shortage, they removed rails from a portion of the Miyajima Line from Hatsukaichi (current Hiroden Hatsukaichi) to Miyajima (current Hiroden Miyajima-guchi) and turned it into a single line, so they could use the rails for the new Hijiyama Line. With the completion of the new line, the streetcar network was complete and it remains much the same today.

Newly built 650 series large carriage used for strengthening transport capabilities (Near Tōkaichi, 1943).

Group photo of Year 1 Class 1 of Kasei Girls School in Spring 1945 (Courtesy of Satoko Sasaguchi)

■The Intensifying War and the Hiroshima Electric Railway Kasei Girls School
When the Pacific War began in December 1941, a large portion of Hiroshima Electric Railway employees were sent to war, creating a dire labor shortage. In order to ensure transport capabilities, the Hiroshima Electric Railway Kasei Girls School, a vocational school for girls 14 and older who had graduated higher elementary school, was established in April 1943. There, girls spent three years studying and working: they took classes in the morning or afternoon and spent the free half of their day working on streetcars and buses. However, in early 1945, under the intensifying war, the labor shortage became even more dire. Classes were rarely held, and instead, the girls spent their days working. During a critical driver shortage, the seniors of the school stepped in as streetcar drivers.