Kagoshima City Tram: one of the main transportation methods in Kagoshima
Let’s find out more about Kagoshima City Tram at Kagoshima Transportation Bureau
Riding the Kagoshima City Tram
Unique trams by Kagoshima City Tram!
>The sightseeing tram, ‘Kagoden’ is popular for its retro appearance!
The chartered tram for event use, CAFE TRAM KAGOSHIMA C6
Designed by University Students: White Bear & Black Pig tram, ‘Denden’

The trams running through the center of Kagoshima City, have been loved by citizens and travelers for over a century since their birth. It is very close to the hearts of Kagoshima citizens and ridden by most travelers during their sightseeing trips to Kagoshima. Although the trams are very familiar to both locals and travelers, how they are maintained to operate safely is not so well-known.  The special tram cars with varying specific purposes and characteristics are also not a widely known topic.

Today, I will mainly report on the maintenance shop tour offered to the public by the Kagoshima Transportation Bureau, the special charms of the trams, and how to best enjoy them.

Kagoshima City Tram: one of the main transportation methods in Kagoshima

Kagoshima City Tram, running through the city

Kagoshima City Tram, running through the city

The Kagoshima City Tram is rarely affected by rush-hour, and runs at 5 to 7 minute intervals except in the early morning or after midnight. The fare is reasonable at around 170 yen for adults and 80 yen for children (elementary school and younger) per ride. The line operating between JR Kagoshima Station and JR Taniyama Station takes about 40 minutes, and another line to JR Kagoshima Chuo Station takes about 30 minutes. The total distance is 13.1km. Since these 3 JR stations are all prime stations within Kagoshima City, the trams are valued by travelers to the city.

The operating hours vary depending on the stop and the destination. For example, Kagoshima Chuo Station Mae Tram Stop operates between 5am and 10pm. Take care to not miss the last tram!

Kagoshima City Tram: a history of over a century

The tram cars built in 1960

The tram cars still in use, built in 1960 (both)

The tram first ran in Kagoshima in 1912. At that time, it was operated by the private company, Kagoshima Electric Tramway (鹿児島電気軌道株式会社). In 1928 it was taken over by Kagoshima City and thus became the City Tram.

While the oldest tram cars still in use were built in 1955, the newest ones were built in 2019. Both old and new tram cars showcase various shapes and are running energetically every single day!

Although the latest models are spacious and barrier-free, the oldest ones, built between 1955 and 1962, do look cute with their round shape and round headlight.

The routes have changed depending on the era

The table of the running area

The running route has changed depending on the era

Although the Kagoshima City Tram currently runs between JR Kagoshima Station and JR Taniyama Station, it used to travel a longer distance. With the growing number of cars, and increasing traffic jams on national roads, they stopped the service of 2 lines in 1985, that covered a total distance of 6.1km. 
On the other hand, the construction of new lines is being worked on. Currently, they are considering extending the line to Kagoshima’s northern port pier area. Once this is realized, travel will be much more convenient for citizens as well as tourists.

Find out more about Kagoshima City Tram at Kagoshima Transportation Bureau

The maintenance shop of Kagoshima Transportation Bureau

The maintenance shop of Kagoshima Transportation Bureau

Since the Kagoshima Transportation Bureau is aiming for transparency to citizens, it offers free access to their Document Exhibition Room, as well as provides tours through the tram maintenance shop. Because these types of tram facilities are quite rare in Japan, it is often the case that people in the same industries come for a tour. At times, it is also incorporated into the itineraries of inbound tours.

Here, I will briefly show you the Document Exhibition Room and the features of the facility tour.

The Control Tower of Kagoshima City Tram, Kagoshima City Transportation Bureau

The building of Kagoshima City Transportation Bureau

The building of Kagoshima City Transportation Bureau

Kagoshima City Transportation Bureau is located in Uearata-cho, 6 minutes from Kagoshima Chuo Station by the city tram. Gett off at Kanda tram stop (in front of the Transportation Bureau), and across from the pedestrian crossing, you will see the entrance to the building. On the ground floor, there is a ticket office and machines for purchasing a monthly/yearly pass, an IC boarding pass, a one-day boarding pass, and related merchandise. The Documents Exhibition Room is on the 3rd floor. If you would like to access to the room, please apply at the reception first.

Learn the history of Kagoshima City Tram in the Document Exhibition Room
The Document Exhibition Room of Kagoshima City Tram

You can understand the history of the city tram at the Documents Exhibition Room

In the Document Exhibition Room on the 3rd floor, models related to the Kagoshima City Tram and Bus are exhibited. You will be able to see rare exhibits, such as the parts used for the old trams, the signages of the tram stops, tickets and pamphlets from decades ago, and a diorama of the original Transportation Bureau that was closed in 2015.

Looking out of the window, there is a service shop for the city trams, where you will see the departure and arrival of trams from the workshop.

Overlooking the tram base from the window

Overlooking the tram base from the window

【Basic Information of the Document Exhibition Room】
Address:3rd Floor Kagoshima City Transportation Bureau Building, 37-20 Uearata-cho, Kagoshima City
Phone:099-257-2111(General Affairs Section, General Affairs Department)
Hours of Opeation:9:30~16:30
Closed:From December 31 through January 3rd
Note:From Monday through Friday, signing the admission ledger and receiving admission approval are necessary.

The Maintenance Shop tour: Look for the Rare Tram Cars

The inside of the maintenance shop for the trams

The inside of the maintenance shop for the trams

A guided tour offers you the chance to see inside the maintenance shop for the trams. Unlike admission to the Document Exhibition Room, an appointment is required beforehand to go on this tour, but the tour itself is free of charge. The prime feature of this tour is to be able to observe the process of tram maintenance, and see the trams that are rarely seen in town.

The tour guide, Mr. Masumitsu

The tour guide, Mr. Hirofumi Masumitsu

The tour guide who will show us around the maintenance shop is a transportation staff member of the tram operation department, Mr. Hirofumi Masumitsu. He told me the purpose of the tour is “ to promote usage of the tram by having users become more familiar with them.”  With his gentle speech and detailed explanation based on his abundant knowledge in a long career in this bureau, you will get to learn the deeper charms of the tram!

The tour aisle on the 2nd floor of the maintenance shop

The tour aisle on the 2nd floor of the maintenance shop

Most of the maintenance shop tour is conducted from the aisle on the 2nd floor. This allows enough distance from the tram cars undergoing maintenance and the machines, so the tour won’t disturb the process. More than anything, it is safe! Not only that, but you can also command a great view.

The process of grinding down the wheels

The process of grinding down the wheels

The tour itself focuses mainly on the inspections and maintenance of the trams. Just like automobiles require periodic maintenance and inspection, the trams also require inspection as designated by law. In the tour, you can safely observe the process of maintaining the removed base wheels detached from the body, and how they regrind the iron wheels with a machine.

The water sprinkler tram

The water sprinkler tram in operation at night

One of the features of the maintenance shop is the chance to see rare trams. One of these examples is the water sprinkler tram loaded with a 6-ton water tank and sprinkler. Its task is to sprinkle water on the grass beside the tram road truck, and it is mainly in operation at night after the trams have shut down. Even the citizens in Kagoshima city rarely see this sprinkler tram.

The lawn mowing Tram

The lawn mowing Tram

This yellow box, the lawn mowing tram, is obviously different from the other trams, and is quite rare in the world.  Its task is to mow the lawn as it’s being pulled by the sprinkler tram. This tram is also in operation during the night, so you will rarely see it.

Other than these rare trams, you will also see trams such as the Hana (flower) Tram that only runs for a few days a year, and charter trams that can be rented out for events. Even if you are not a tram-fan, why don’t you visit the facility as a part of your Kagoshima sightseeing?

【Basic information for the Facility Tour】
Address:37-20 Uearata-cho, Kagoshima
Phone:099-257-2116(The Transportation Staff, The Tram Operation Department)
The Tour Schedule:Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10:30~11:30 / 14:00~15:00
(Excluding Saturdays Sundays, Statutory holidays and from December 29 through January 3rd)
Maximum capacity per tour::20 (consultation required, first come, first served)
Tour Fee:Free
How to Apply:Phone, FAX, or mail, by the morning, of 2 days prior to the tour date
 ※In the case that 2 days prior to the tour date falls onto the holiday, then the previous business day 
 ※Hours of reception: Monday through Friday, between 8:30 and 17:00

Riding the Kagoshima City Tram

After you enjoy learning about the city tram at the Transportation Bureau, let’s actually get on the Kagoshima City Tram. That being said, there is nothing difficult about getting on them. I will tell you some basic points to remember when riding the Kagoshima City Tram.

The first point to remember is the tram stop.

The tram stop of Kagoshima City Tram

The tram stop of Kagoshima City Tram

Since the tram stops of Kagoshima City Tram are located in the middle of the roads, except for some exceptions, you need to use the pedestrian crossing for boarding. The platforms of the tram stops are narrow, so take caution when walking by those passengers leaving the train. If you have luggage such as a big suitcase, it’s especially important to take extra caution and not get in anybody’s way.

The second point to remember is to check your destination.

The fare system of the city tram requires that we pay the fare for each ride, so make sure not to get on the tram heading in the opposite direction. 

Check the destination in the route map

Check the current stop and the destination

Most of the stops are lined face to face with the tram tracks in between. However, even if you realize that you are on the wrong side of the tracks, you are not supposed to go across the tracks to get to the other side. Instead, please use the pedestrian crossing.

Prepare the change

Don’t forget to prepare change!

The last point to remember is the method of payment.

When using the Kagoshima City Tram, you can use the IC boarding pass called Rapica. Please remember that they won’t accept other kinds of IC cards such as Suica or PASMO. Therefore, I suggest you prepare some small change, or purchase a one-day pass at the Transportation Bureau ticket office beforehand, if you travel to Kagoshima. Of course, purchasing Rapica is a great option as well.

For the locations of ticket offices where you can purchase a one-day pass or Rapica, please check the Kagoshima Transportation Bureau website.(http://www.kotsu-city-kagoshima.jp/ticket-summary/ticket/)

Unique trams by Kagoshima City Tram!

Kagoshima City Tram owns 58 trams in total. In this section, I will show you the especially unique ones among them!

The sightseeing retro tram, ‘Kagoden’

The appearance of Kagoden

The retro appearance of a new model tram, Kagoden

The first tram to show you is Kagoden, that was made in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Kagoshima City Tram. The design of the tram is based on the wooden tram running between the Taisho Era and the 30s of the Showa Era (i.e. 1912-1955). Not only the tram body, but the walls and poles are also painted to look wooden, showing off an antique appearance.

The inside of Kagoden

The retro interior of the tram

Unlike regular trams, Kagoden generally runs only on holidays (Saturday, Sunday and Statutory holidays) for sightseeing travelers. It starts from Kagoshima Chuo Station at 10am, and takes a route through various sightseeing spots over the course of 110 minutes. On Thursdays and Fridays, it runs like a regular tram on the regular route.

【General Information of Kagoden】
Operated on:Saturday, Sunday and Statutory holidays
The departure time:10:00〜
The duration in operation:Approximately 110 minutes
The departure/destination stop:Kagoshima Chuo Ekimae Tram Stop
The fare:340 Yen/Adult 160 Yen/Elementary School Student and younger (One-day pass can be also used)

The chartered tram for event use, CAFE TRAM KAGOSHIMA C6


The special tram for chartered use only

CAFE TRAM KAGOSHIMA C6 is the special tram for chartered use only. Based on an old car built in 1960, the tram was repainted and specially equipped with counter tables and counter chairs. The interior of the tram is so attractive, you would think you were in a bar.

This tram is used for parties, such as a Shochu event, or a music Event, while running through Kagoshima City. Other users are tourists who choose to enjoy a relaxed style of sightseeing within the city.

The interior of the Café Tram

The counter tables and counter chairs are characteristics of the tram

【General Information of CAFE TRAM KAGOSHIMA C6 】
The operation date & hours:Accommodated based on request
The route:Accommodated based on request
Maximum capacity:24 people
Facility:Counter tables, Counter chairs, mic, CD player
Fee:26,800Yen/ Round trip 13,400Yen/ One-way Trip(Half price, if the majority of users are elementary shool students or younger)

Designed by University Students: White Bear & Black Pig tram, ‘Denden’

White bear tramcar of Denden

White Bear & Black Pig tram is based on the image of a white bear

The final tram I will show you is the White Bear & Black Pig tram, ‘Denden’. The interior is an ordinary tram and it runs on a regular schedule, but it is popular because of the cute and attractive design!

In fact, this tram is designed by university students of Kagoshima City. It was born as part of the regional vitalization project, called Kagoshima Machi Meguri Promotion Project in 2011. Originally its main motif was of the polar bear in Kagoshima City Hirakawa Animal Park, which was then crossed with the design of a black pig, a specialty of Kagoshima. The final design incorporated both in an even split, as shown in the photograph.

The black pig side of Denden

The opposite side of Denden is an image of black pig

This Denden tram can be charted as well. (It is utilized the under the same condition as CAFE TRAM KAGOSHIMA C6 )

Take the Kagoshima City Tram for a sightseeing trip in Kagoshima city.

The Kagoshima City Tram has run for over a century. It is an ideal mode of transportation for tourists as well as citizens, due to its accurate operation schedule and reasonable fare. When you visit Kagoshima, be sure to incorporate the tram into your travel plan!

If the schedule allows, I recommend you take a tour of the maintenance shop or charter the tram. Please enjoy the tram according to your style and schedule!