Ride a Really Old Tram (Japan's Chin Chin Densha)
Taking a ride on a quant, old worldy tram (otherwise know as chin chin densha) is one of the lesser known ways to see an older Japan. What's more, it's not only an experience in itself but also one of the most time and cost-effective things you can do. If you're exploring a city, the chin chin densha takes you from A to B in your travels for around the same cost as any other kind of public transport. The ticket that you want to get is a day pass and this way you can hop on and off the tram, all day to your hearts content until you have seen everything there is to see.
While the tram lines themselves are historic the tram cars can vary. Some have a wooden floor out of which protrudes some long metal stick that I assume is a gear stick, (although I haven’t looked this up) and they transport you straight into some studio ghibliesque world. Others are quite so old but still pretty nostalgic with carpeted interiors styling patterns and colours that you defiantly wouldn’t catch in any designers catalogue today. Finally, there are the newly renovated we even saw panda tram making its way around the city.
Now, It's all very well talking about this, but once you know you want to try a chin chin densha how do you actually go about it? Catching public transport in a foreign country can be daunting and things are often a little different to what you’re used to. Not to worry though, it’s easy to get the hang of and below is a beginner's guide to help you on your way. The tram I caught most recently and have photos for is the Tennoji tram, so specifically this is a walkthrough for that tram, but I have also ridden on a couple of trams in other cities and the process was very similar, so I hope that this can still help you whichever city you're tram-hopping in.
You can either buy your ticket from the office at a terminal station, or you can buy one from the tram driver if you are getting on mid-route, either way, you want to ask for a 'Teku Teku Kippu' whish is a 1 day pass, allowing you to hop on and off all day with only one payment (as you can see, we paid ¥600 per adult ticket).
Once you have your ticket you need to validate it by scratching off that day's date. Actually, I made a mistake, I thought it was the 14th February when it was only the 13th (what a mistake to make)...anyway no one ever examined it too closely and no questions were ever asked!
Once you have your ticket all you need to do is keep it safe, get off the tram whenever you want and catch whatever tram you want again later, just show your ticket each time you enter.
So now you know how to use the tram, maybe you want some ideas for your trip. Below is what my friends and I did on our journey, we took the Tennoji tram from it's terminal in Hamadera all the way to the terminal in Tennoji and back again (it's called the Hankai Tramway and is the oldest tramline in the country).
Embark: Hamadera-Ekimae station, opposite Hamadera park
STOP 1 - SHUKUIN
STOP 2 - BACK TO GORYOMAE
STOP 3 - AYANOCHŌ
STOP 4 - SUMIYOSHITORIIMAE
STOP 5 - EBISUCHŌ
STOP 6 HAMADERA-EKIMAE
Before there were many cars on the roads Japan had a vast tram system 41 routes just in Tokyo and more in other cities across the country. Since then, however, their popularity has been in decline and now only a few lines are left, they are in:
- Two in Tokyo
- Two in Toyama
- Osaka (the one above, it is also the oldest)
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