Seventy years ago today, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The city was nearly obliterated, but some structures survived. One is this street car, which is back up and running this year, restored and painted fresh as a symbol of resilience.
Hiroshima is famous for its streetcars. The few that survived the August 1945 bombing resumed service just three days after the attack — an attack that leveled the city, taking the lives of 140,000 people. This particular tram, #653, was finally retired in 2006, but was restored and repainted its original blue and grey to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the bombing, and to symbolise the city’s strength.
Today, there are only three bomb-era trams still in operation in Hiroshima — #653 being one of them.
During World War II, on August 5, 1945, at 8.16am Japan Standard Time, the US military dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in southern Japan. It was the first time an atomic weapon was used against humans. Three days later, in Nagasaki, a second bomb was dropped. Days after that, Japan surrendered, ending the war. Atomic weapons haven’t been utilised by humans for offensive purposes since.
In Hiroshima, some relics of the past survived, like the Genbaku Dome: the skeletal remains of an exhibition hall at the bomb’s hypocenter. It was the only building left standing after the bomb was dropped in that area. But street car #653 also survived, and since June, it’s functioning as public transportation, once again, after nearly a decade of inactivity.
The 650 model street cars were first introduced in 1942. Inside the restored #653, a documentary plays on monitors that shows survivor accounts and details the city’s postwar recovery. Operation runs through August 30.
In the year 2015, Hiroshima is one of Japan’s most thriving cities, and the tenth most populated in the country. When you visit, it’s easy to forget such a vibrant place was the setting of such a horrible disaster. But cherished infrastructure, like the decades-old street cars, serve as a reminder of how a population can bounce back and thrive, even in the face of tragedy.
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