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Schoolchildren in Japan take virtual ride on A-bombed Hiroshima streetcar

Students experience a virtual ride on an atomic bombed streetcar through a livestreamed video during an online school trip in Ikoma, Nara Prefecture, on Feb. 16, 2021. (Mainichi/Takao Kitamura)

IKOMA, Nara -- Elementary schoolchildren in this western Japan city virtually rode an atomic bombed streetcar running through the city of Hiroshima on Feb. 16 as part of a "school trip."

    Some 155 students in the sixth grade at Ikoma Municipal Asukano Elementary School virtually traveled on Hiroshima Electric Railway Co.'s Type 650 No. 651 streetcar, which suffered damage in the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing but is still running.

    While an increasing number of schools in Japan are making online trips due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, taking a real-time virtual ride on an atomic bombed streetcar is reportedly a first in the country.

    The "journey" took place using tablets that were distributed to each student at the school. The children watched the cityscape of central Hiroshima including the Atomic Bomb Dome, which is currently undergoing restoration work, for about 40 minutes on a video livestreamed from a Hiroshima Electric Railway employee's smartphone.

    Guides included Kazuaki Tanida, 28, of the railway's general affairs division, who explained that although many employees had been killed by the atomic bomb, surviving employees and residents removed debris on tracks, and the company managed to resume streetcar operations just three days after the bombing. "You are on a streetcar that symbolizes Hiroshima's recovery," he explained.

    "I was sad to hear that many people were killed by the atomic bomb in the city while I was watching the video showing Hiroshima," said 12-year-old student Aiki Hamada. "I thought we mustn't start any more wars."

    (Japanese original by Yusuke Kato, Nara Bureau, and Akari Terouchi, Hiroshima Bureau)

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