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Photo: Sanga Park/DreamstimeRanden Tram
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Photo: Bankoo/DreamstimeEnoden Line
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Photo: Aaa187/DreamstimeHiroshima Electric Railway
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Photo: Kuroten/Photo ACTokyu Setagaya Line

Explore Japan's top cities on these 10 cool old-school trams

From Hiroshima to Sapporo, these streetcars make for a fun and ideal way to discover the city at street level

By Kaila Imada
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Travel to any major city in Japan and you’re bound to end up on a subway or two, but we just can’t get enough of the country’s trams. Known as romendensha in Japanese, some of these streetcars have been around since the 19th century and are a great way to get around without missing the sights and sounds of a city. 

There are still a handful of classic tram lines remaining across the country – you'll find them in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, as well as Enoshima and Sapporo. And let’s not forget Hiroshima, which has turned its streetcars into moving museums. Here are some of our favourite trams in Japan.

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Riding the rails

Toden Arakawa Line Sakura Tram
Toden Arakawa Line Sakura Tram
Photo: Christopher/Photo AC

Toden Arakawa Line

Tokyo's Toden Arakawa Line, also known as the Sakura Tram, runs from Waseda Station, through Ikebukuro and Sugamo before reaching Minowabashi Station. It’s the only line left of the capital’s once extensive Toden tram network and is a great way to explore some of Tokyo's lesser known neighbourhoods. Its affectionate nickname comes from the picturesque cherry blossoms that line the streetcar tracks, especially around the Kanda River in Waseda, making this tram a popular mode of transport come spring.

Tokyu Setagaya Line
Tokyu Setagaya Line
Photo: Kuroten/Photo AC

Tokyu Setagaya Line

Connecting the Sangenjaya area to Shimo-Takaido, this convenient tram runs through the Setagaya neighbourhood passing popular spots such as the trendy Shoin-jinja area. The line is also home to the Kofuku-no-Manekineko Densha, otherwise known as the Cat Tram, a streetcar that’s decorated with lucky cats, just like the statues found at the nearby Gotokuji Temple.

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Enoden Line
Enoden Line
Photo: Bankoo/Dreamstime

Enoden Line

Short for Enoshima Dentetsu, or Enoshima Electric Railway, this is a scenic tram line located down in Kanagawa, just south of Tokyo. The route runs between the cities of Kamakura and Fujisawa along Sagami Bay, giving you breathtaking views of the ocean. The streetcar has been around since 1902 and features 15 stops including some of Kanagawa's must-see attractions like Enoshima island and Kotokuin Temple, home to Kamakura's giant bronze Buddha.

Randen Tram
Randen Tram
Photo: Sanga Park/Dreamstime

Randen Tram

The Randen Tram is Kyoto’s last remaining tram line and has been running for over 100 years. Travelling between Shijo Omiya in central Kyoto and Arashiyama, it's a great opportunity to see the city from street level, including stops at three Unesco World Heritage sites: Ninnaji Temple, Tenryuji Temple, and Ryoanji Temple. Of course, riding all the way to the end of the line is a great opportunity to explore Arashiyama and its iconic bamboo forest, too.

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Hankai Tramway
Hankai Tramway
Photo: Cowardlion/Dreamstime

Hankai Tramway

The Hankai Tramway operates Osaka's two tram lines: the Hankai Uemachi Line between Tennoji and Sumiyoshikoen, and the Hankai Line, which runs between Ebisucho and Abikomichi. Both lines converge at stops from Abikomichi to Sumiyoshi and are a great option if you're looking for Osaka landmarks such as Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine, Myokokuji Temple and Hamadera Park.

The tramway has been around since the early 1900s and as a result, you'll see a number of old-school trams from the 1920s still running alongside more modern streetcars.

Hiroshima Electric Railway
Hiroshima Electric Railway
Photo: Aaa187/Dreamstime

Hiroshima Electric Railway

Hiroshima is home to 35 kilometres of active tram lines – the largest tram network in the country – which doubles as a great tourist attraction. Currently there are six active tram lines in central Hiroshima running 26 different types of streetcars including old trams brought from across Japan and Europe. 

The eclectic mix of trams, some of which date back to the 1940s, means every journey is like stepping into a museum. Known as Hiroden by locals, the trams can get you just about anywhere you want to go, including Hiroshima Peace Park, Hiroshima Castle, and even Hiroshima Bay.

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Kumamoto Shiden
Kumamoto Shiden
Photo: Mongkol Phurahong/Dreamstime

Kumamoto Shiden

Like Hiroshima, Kumamoto’s tramway is a symbol of the local area and one of the highlights of visiting the city. In operation since 1924, there are currently two main tram routes running across five lines. The two routes converge at several stops including Shiritsu-taiikukan-mae Station, which is where you'll find Kumamoto’s Suizenji Garden and Izumi Shrine.

Okayama Electric Tramway
Okayama Electric Tramway
Photo: F11photo/Dreamstime

Okayama Electric Tramway

Okayama is home to two main tram lines: the Higashiyama and Sekibashi lines. The tram is one of the easiest ways to get around and it connects Okayama Station to most of the city’s main attractions. Hop off at Shiroshita and you'll be able to walk to both Okayama Castle and Korakuen – one of Japan’s three great gardens – in a matter of minutes. Plus, each ride will only cost you ¥100, making it an affordable way to see the city.

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Hakodate City Tram
Hakodate City Tram
Photo: Nuvisage/Dreamstime

Hakodate City Tram

A convenient way to explore and get around Hakodate is by using one of the city streetcars. Originally opened as a horse-drawn tramway in 1897, there are now only two tram lines left in the city and they follow a similar route, diverging at Mt Hakodate.

The only thing better than seeing Hakodate’s famous European-style architecture is doing it from a tram. Must-see attractions along the line include the Mt Hakodate Ropeway, the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse, the historical Goryokaku Fortress and Yunokawa Onsen.

Sapporo Shiden
Sapporo Shiden
Photo: Kikujungboy/Dreamstime

Sapporo Shiden

Sapporo is home to an active tram line that loops around the city’s central Chuo ward from Nishi-Yonchome Station towards the entertainment district of Susukino. The streetcar also reaches Nakajima Park and the Mount Moiwa Ropeway.

Nishi-Yonchome Station is close to Odori Park, where the famous Sapporo Snow Festival takes place, and Susukino Station is a must stop for foodies as there's a plethora of restaurants offering Sapporo's speciality: miso ramen.

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