To make the most of my two days in Hiroshima, my first mission was to get my bearings. Armed with a day pass for the streetcars, I walked to the nearest route and rode to the railway station to find my way to the Sightseeing Loop Bus. These are red single-deckers with vestigial commentary offering two overlapping routes which I did in succession. My Japan Rail Pass gave me this for free: the driver simply photographed the pass with a digital camera, but more recently the service has become entirely free [https://www.hiroshima-navi.or.jp/en/information/loopbus].
The red bus tour orientation enabled me to use streetcars for the rest of my day’s travels. The streetcar system is a full-on transport facility, not by any means a heritage operation, though it’s billed as “the moving streetcar museum” because it runs up-to-date low-floor vehicles alongside earlier generations right back to two of the trams that survived the atom bomb, 651 and 652: http://train.sakura.ne.jp/train/hiroden/carphoto/index.html. Indeed, the streetcar company is proud that they had three of these trams back on the road three days after the bomb.
The tram and bus operator is the Hiroshima Electric Railway Co Ltd, known from the Japanese Hiroshima Dentetsu Kabushiki-gaisha as Hiroden for short.
I made use of my streetcar pass to explore the city. I deliberately took a tram to the end of the line at Hiroshima Port, simply to gauge how big the city is. (It has a population of around a million, equivalent to Birmingham.) The ferry terminal provides passenger access to various outlying islands, and indicates that the harbour facility is enormous. Otherwise there’s little to detain anyone.
The journey back in the rush hour was a farce. The older streetcars have seats parallel to the windows, so you sit with your back to the view, gazing at the midriffs of standing passengers. It’s impossible to see where you are; the in-car signage is in Japanese with no indication of the stop-numbers and there was no PA system (which in Japan might be bilingual Japanese/English). I eventually got off at a point which fitted with my mental map and took a tram in the opposite direction back to the point where I could walk back to my hotel. I sense that the only way to deal with the Hiroshima rush-hour is to travel to the end of the line and bag the seat beside the driver.
Rush-hour is rarely fun anywhere in the world. Hiroshima is a tram city, and though the sightseeing loop bus is useful for orientation, there’s no better way of getting around outside rush-hours than with a day pass on the streetcars.