Kyoto once had an extensive system of streetcars (trams) up until the 1970's when they were torn up and largely replaced by Kyoto city buses, which before had complemented the trams.
The Kyoto tram network covered an area as far north as Kitaoji Street and as far south as Toji Temple with a line to Fushimi (the first to be built). It extended west as far as Nishioji and as far east as Higashioji and Ginkakuji. (See the old tram map below for routes). At its peak in 1957, the Kyoto tram network covered 76.8km in total with 163 stations.
The Kyoto city tram network was the first such in Japan and began operation in 1895 as part of Kyoto's efforts to reinvent itself following the Japanese emperor's departure to the new capital in Tokyo. It was powered by renewable and clean hydro-electric power generated by the opening of the new Lake Biwa Canal.
The Kyoto city authorities have toyed with the idea of bringing back the trams, which would no doubt be a hit with the city's millions of visitors, but such an outcome is unlikely, unfortunately, such is the dominance of the car in contemporary Japanese cities.
However, the nearest thing to a tram left in Kyoto is the Keifuku Line (Randen) out to Arashiyama.
Visitors to the Okazaki museum area near Heian Shrine can still see a Kyoto tram, which has been converted into a Tourist Information Center, which has brochures on Okazaki in particular and Kyoto in general.
The tram is adjacent to Kyoto Prefectural Library and close to both Miyako Messe and the National Museum of Modern Art.
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