The Naka-Meguro Train Crash Memorial

As part of my research for the article on modifications are made to public transportation accidents, I have visited a number of memorials around Japan. Not all of these became a part of that study due to specific parameters of the study (detailed in the article). One of those not included is the memorial for the Naka-Meguro Train Crash (sometimes referred to as the Hibiya Line train derailment and other names) (営団日比谷線中目黒駅構内列車脱線衝突事故).

A summary of what happened can be found on Wikipedia. The key points are that at 9:01 on 8 March 2000, the rearmost car of an eight-car TRTA Hibiya Line (now Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line) train from Kita-Senju to Kikuna derailed on the tight curve immediately before Naka-Meguro Station. The derailed car was then hit by the fifth and sixth cars of an eight-car Tobu Railway train travelling in the opposite direction from Naka-Meguro to Takenotsuka. Five people were killed and 63 were injured. I was actually in Japan that day and was finishing off breakfast as the first TV news reports came in about what had happened. I don’t remember much else about what I did that day, but I do remember watching in disbelief at the scenes being shown on TV.

I first tried to visit the memorial in September 2017, but was unable to due to it being modified (which was interesting in relation to my aforementioned article). I then managed to visit on 15 July 2019. Both times, rather than going to Naka-Meguro station, I walked from Ebisu station which is only around 10 minutes away.

The memorial is marked by the yellow star pointer just to the north-east of Naka-Meguro station (bottom left corner of the map)

The first thing that I noticed when I got to the memorial site is that it can still be locked off and that it was staffed. The person that day was on a call so didn’t talk to me, other than to encourage me to go in and to also sign the visitor’s book. As for the memorial, compared to many other memorials I have been too, it’s quite open and, being next to the railway line, is rarely ever quiet. Whereas the memorial for the Shigaraki train crash (which I will write about in another post) has trees around it, this open offers a very good view of the line – and of course of the memorial from trains close to the station.

There is a plaque (just off to the right of the above photograph) with some details about the crash, the need to remember and learn from it.

There is also a plaque with the names and ages of four of the five victims

I haven’t been back to the memorial again since 2019, but went close as I walked along the Meguro River in January 2020, which I did in relation to one of the settings of my novel, Tokyo 20/20 Vision, which also mentions the accident.

Thinking about the memorial, although it wasn’t included in my article about modifications are made to public transportation accidents, I wonder whether the modifications fit with the model that I developed in that article. In the article I noted the three key things that are needed are local approval (the need for good links between the bereaved and the authorities in the place of the memorial who need to be mindful of the location of the memorial itself), co-ordination (of both groups representing victims’ interests and funds for the modification) and for there to be a trigger (likely to be related to the bereavement process and possibly ‘dark tourism’). That the memorial is on land seemingly owned by the railway company, local approval does not appear to be an issue. It is also largely out of sight from the local housing and the entrance is quite subtle, not making it obvious what is inside.

The entrance in 2017

Given the smaller numbers of victims compared to some accidents I have studied, the co-ordination of people may have been relatively straight forward (though I wonder why one victim is not named in the plaque). I don’t know about the funding, but based on the main plaque, it looks like it came from the railway company. In terms of the trigger, the renovation was being done in 2017, but I don’t know when the planning started. Did it start in 2016 – which would fit with the 7th anniversary (using the Buddhist counting system)? I suspect that ‘dark tourism’ has not played a role. While it looks like the modification may fit with the model I developed, there would be things to check if there was an opportunity.

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