Hachikō Line derailment 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 Hachikō Line derailment (八高線列車脱線転覆事故).

A summary of what happened can be found on Wikipedia. The key points are that it took place on 25 February 1947 between Komagawa and Higashi-Hannō stations on the Hachikō Line. It was, at the time, the worst railway accident to occur in Japan. A Japanese Government Railways (JGR) passenger train hauled by a Class C57 steam locomotive travelling in the “down” direction derailed on a sharp curve, and four cars rolled over into a field. 184 passengers were killed and 495 were injured. It was later determined that the derailment had occurred due to a combination of excessive speed, and that the high casualty rate was due to the overcrowded wooden passenger cars, which were already worn out by overuse during the war.

I visited the crash site in July 2019 while I was based in Tokyo teaching a short course at Musashino University. Having hired a car for a couple of days to go to a number of other crash sites and memorials (including one on the same railway line), it was relatively easy (only the last part was trickier due to the small access under the line itself) to access the crash site and memorial using Google Maps. If you don’t have a car, it should be quite easy to walk from Kōmagawa station in Hidaka (western Tokyo).

The memorial is marked in the centre of the map with the orange place marker with the star

Compared to many of the memorials that I have been to, this one is relatively modest, looking much like the gravemarker that you would find in many Japanese cemeteries.

There is no information about the crash and no list of those who were killed in the accident.

It is only when looking at the back of the memorial that it becomes clear that it was established in 1979 – the 33rd (according to the Buddhist counting system) anniversary of the crash. As noted in my article about modifications are made to public transportation accidents and other research on the JL123 crash, the 33rd anniversary is a particularly key one. As with the model discussed in the aforementioned article, I would suggest that the fact that it was established so long after the crash it likely to tie in with the bereavement process and that in Japan religious practices and the never-ending bereavement process overlap.

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