Subscribe via RSS

Kyoto City Tram (WWII Era Japanese City Maps)

Did you know that Kyoto used to have an extensive street-car network? I sure-as-hell didn't and was very happy to find out. This all started due to the post: Early Showa period Kitakyushu tram on JNSForums. Yes, the post describes Kita-Kyushu... well west of Kyoto, but further down Kitayama-san posted the link to the US WWII Military Maps. My eyes then opened wider than before...

Japan City Plans 1:12,500 (U.S. Army Map Service, 1944)

First and foremost, a VERY large thanks to the Library at the University of Texas at Austin. In the archives exists a set of maps of Japanese Cities that was used for military activities against Japan during WWII. These maps are of high quality and provide a snapshot of the layout of towns in Japan during 1945-46. Specifically of interest to me was the city map of Kyoto South.

I was busy inspecting the Umekoji roundhouse to the west of the main station when I saw (what looked like) a moat ... built of railway track. A square border exists on the map, and since Kyoto was the ex-capital, I initially thought it was a fortification. It then became apparent, after looking down the very west 'wall' that it was, indeed, a tram track. There was a specific gap that had the small note: "PROJECTED CAR LINE".

Note: There's maps of a lot of different cities in Japan. Check out the index here. Some notable maps: Kyoto North, Sapporo, Sasebo, Toyama, Nagasaki, Wakayama and Ichinomiya (with good overview of Nagoya). Nagoya actually gets a lot of maps: north-east, south-east, south-west and north-west. The mines in Ogaki get a map and so does Yokkaichi... these are the areas I've visited before around Minoakasaka and Tomida.

There's a lot of data in those maps. They mainly cover industrial/factory areas so that they could've done real damage to Japan's industry. Osaka doesn't seem to get a mention! The closest the maps get are Suita (OK, that's really close), Otsu and Seta, Yokkaichi and Wakayama.. but I'm repeating myself.

Tokyo gets a whole index.

Kyoto City Tram (京都市電)

From the wikipedia article, the Kyoto Municipal Transportation Bureau ran the 京都市電 Kyōto Shiden Tram Network up until 1978. Ridership reached a peak in 1946, a second peak in 1955 and then progressively dropped towards 1978. The network was then closed in stages.

Studying the WW2 maps showed where the network was at the time. Intriguing, I had never known there was ever an 'outer loop' tram line of Kyoto. Tracing this around, I then found there were lines flowing south-east as well, down to the river adjunct with Inari Station and also south down to Station.

In the map below, you can see the alignment horizontal from the road that stops on the left. It seems there was also a bridge over the canal, but the maps I've seen show that the terminus was on the west bank (Just below the Neko Cafe TiME!!)


And down at Chūshojima, you can see where the trams veered east from their north-south direction into the station. The road indicates where the tram line was. The station building (where the blue station symbol is) was actually the tram terminus.


Umekoji still has a running example

At Umekoji roundhouse in Kyoto, it turns out there's still a functional example with it's own tram line. The museum is to be expanded in the near future, but I assume that the tram-line will survive.

From the shot below, you can see the line running from the south-west clockwise around to the north tip of the precinct.


There also seems to be a lot of preserved street cars around the museum. They're listed as "Umekoji Park", so I don't quite know if this is in the precinct or in the park to the east. I'll find out and update this when I visit the museum next. Read further down to see where the surviving rolling stock are located...

Did they ever finish that projected car line?

Check the map out here, you'll see that the US surveyors indicated that there was a strip of track that wasn't completed at the time. This map was created in 1944 from a miriad of sources. Check the bottom-right of the map to see who they used to create it.


The line is known as Nishiōjisen (にしおおじせん) 西大路線. There are two maps referenced on the main wiki page: the first one seems to indicate that this missing track is between 4th and 7th blocks (Nishiōji Shijo - Nishiōji Shichijo) and the second one doesn't show the outer loop at all!

The wiki page for the actual line indicates that trams were running from the June 3rd, 1935. The line was then extended further north with the connection from 7th to 9th blocks operating from December 12th 1938. If the maps were created in 1944, then their intelligence could have been quite wrong?

Other surviving rolling-stock

Further References

旅鉄おとーはん has a nice gallery here: 懐かしの京都市電ギャラリー. There is also a page with a map of the Kyoto Tram network!
むーさん has a great set of pages with random tram networks from Japan (it seems to be a quiz): 宮さんの全国路面電車アトランダム № 1. "No. 4" is a shot from Kyoto. Also here (No. 3) and then a whole page with shots of the network from 1961.


Declining ridership saw the end of this network... just another city to lose another form of transport. Sydney, Australia is a prime example of this! Will have to check out a few of the old alignments when I'm in Kyoto next.