Did you know that this year marks the 100th anniversary of municipal transport in Nagoya City? Let's take a brief look at how transport has changed in Nagoya over the last century.
1922 - The beginning of municipal transport
The (then) newly-opened Otsu-machi Line (July 1924)
Photograph: The Asahi Shimbun Company
August 1, 1922. On this day a hundred years ago, the Electric Bureau (電気局), precursor of today's City of Nagoya Transportation Bureau, was established. Some readers may be wondering if that was really when municipal transport began. You may even be aware that there were streetcars in Nagoya before this time. So let's first take a look at the origins of municipal transport.
Going a little further back in time, jinrikisha (人力車 / rickshaws) and horse-buses were popular modes of transport until the mid-Meiji period. When the national government-operated Tōkaidō railway line, connecting Shimbashi (Tokyo) to Kobe, was completed in 1889, anticipation mounted for the arrival of streetcars (市内電車) in Nagoya. This finally happened on May 6, 1898, when the Nagoya Denki Tetsudō Kabushiki-gaisha (名古屋電気鉄道株式会社 / Nagoya Electric Railroad Company) began operating its first streetcar route, a 2.2km stretch joining Sasashima (笹島, the original Nagoya Station site) and Kenchō-mae (県庁前, the site of the prefectural office at the time, near the current Naka Ward Office).
The company expanded its routes, and the streetcar developed to become a popular way for residents to get around. Dissatisfaction with the high price of streetcar fares was one factor behind a movement to municipalize streetcar operations. In response to public demand, the City decided to make the streetcars a municipal operation. In 1922, the City of Nagoya took over streetcar operations from Nagoya Denki Tetsudō Kabushiki-gaisha, and municipal transport began. The streetcar service continued to grow after municipalization, and by 1926 some 271,000 passengers used the streetcars each day. In 1955 the record for daily passenger numbers in the postwar period was reached during the golden era of Nagoya's streetcars. As buses and the subway came to fulfill the main roles of Nagoya's municipal transportation, streetcar operations eventually ended on March 31, 1974.
1930 - Municipal bus operations begin
The familiar blue and white livery appeared around 1980. All current buses are low floored, making it easier for passengers to get on and off, and use a start-stop system to reduce energy consumption.
Identifiable by their distinctive blue and white livery, Nagoya's municipal buses service a network extending into every corner of the city, consisting of some 163 routes and 1,465 stops and covering around 769km(as at end of March 2022).
One of the first municipal buses. The front and sides bear the Electric Bureau insignia.
During the late Taisho and early Showa period (1920s), as streetcars served as the keystone for transport within the city, private bus operators began to spring up. The City of Nagoya began its bus service in 1930 to supplement the streetcar service. Initially, the municipal bus service had 4 routes, covering 22.6km. The City then gradually bought out the private bus operators, among whom a fierce competition for passengers had unfolded, in the interests of serving the welfare of residents through stable management of bus operations, and subsequently expanded municipal bus routes. Operations were improved as the city developed, so that in 1960 the number of bus service passengers outnumbered that of the streetcars; the bus had become the main mode of public transport.
The green and cream livery, circa 1975. There is currently one municipal bus sporting this retro color scheme.
Around 60 years later, with the development of the subway network and the further improvement of bus operations to connect with subway services, municipal buses, together with the subway, continue to support the lives of residents.
1957 - The subway opens
The first section of Nagoya's subway opened in 1957. Demand for transport had increased in the period of recovery and reconstruction after the war, and the opening of the subway was a much-awaited event. On November 15, after a 9:00am completion ceremony in the Nagoya Station concourse, a departure ceremony was held on the subway platform. The first train for Sakaemachi (now Sakae) departed amid a storm of applause and cries of 'banzai!' The first section to open was the 2.4km stretch of the Higashiyama Line between Nagoya and Sakaemachi. When general service began at 14:00, the throng of people waiting to take their first subway trip poured into the carriages, and the train filled instantly. The crowded conditions are said to have continued until late into the evening.
Nagoya's first subway cars had a vibrant Winsor yellow livery, chosen by the late artist Sugimoto Kenkichi to increase visibility in the underground darkness. Winsor yellow is now the Higashiyama Line color.
In time, each of the subway lines would begin operation and be extended. With the completion of the section of the Meijo Line connecting Nagoya Daigaku and Aratama-bashi stations in 2004, Japan's first subway loop line began operation. In 2011, the section of the Sakura-dori Line between Nonami and Tokushige was completed, bringing the length of Nagoya's subway to 93.3km, servicing 87 stations on 6 lines (as at end of March 2022).
Opening of each subway line
|Year||Line||Initial operating sector|
|1957||Higashiyama Line||Nagoya - Sakaemachi (2.4km)|
|1965||Meijo Line||Shiyakusho - Sakaemachi (1.3km)|
|1971||Meiko Line||Kanayama - Nagoyako (6.0km)|
|1977||Tsurumai Line||Fushimi - Yagoto (8.0km)|
|1989||Sakura-dori Line||Nakamura Kuyakusho - Imaike (6.3km)|
|2003||Kamiiida Line||Kamiiida - Heian-dori (0.8km)|
With its ability to move large numbers of people at high speed, and connections to the municipal bus network and railway lines operated by other companies, the Nagoya City Subway is a vital transport service for not only residents of the city, but also residents of the surrounding areas.