The Hidagawa Bus 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. To fit with the parameters of that study, I wanted to include a memorial to a bus crash. I have written other posts about the Kan’Etsu Bus Crash Memorial and the Karuizawa Ski Bus Crash Memorial, but it wasn’t possible to include either of these in the study (primarily due to them having occurred relatively recently). As I continued to search for one that would fit, I was surprised to come across the Hidagawa Bus Crash (飛騨川バス転落事故) – surprised as, first, I realised that I must have driven past the memorial at least twice when living in Japan in 1993-4 and, second, due to the scale of the accident and yet not having heard of it before.

Currently there is no English summary on Wikipedia, but there a Japanese page. The key points are that on 18 August 1968 that a fleet of 15 sight-seeing buses were travelling along route 41 towards Mount Norikura. As they passed through Shirakawa township in Gifu prefecture, two of the buses were caught up in a landslide and heavy rain. The two busses overturned and fell into the Hidagawa (River Hida) below the road. Of the 107 people on board the two buses, 104 were killed. It remains Japan’s worst bus accident.

I visited the crash site in June 2018 while in Japan for a workshop on Contents Tourism (which led to my chapter in a book on the subject). I took the shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya and then an express train (bound for Takayama) from there to Shirakawa (not to be confused with Shirakawa-go, also in Gifu). The actual station is called Shirakawaguchi. There isn’t much in this little town – so I suggest you take food with you rather than plan to eat there. From the station, I walked to the crash site. For much of the route there is no proper pavement, so you have to be alert to the passing traffic (including many dump trucks) and one local person stopped their car to check that I was OK and knew where I was going (I was close the crash site by this time… it would have been helpful if he’d come earlier or when I was returning as it was a hot day, with some sudden rain & I was recovering from limited sleep after getting food poisoning the day before) and to ask me to be careful.

The memorial itself (as marked on the map above) is called Tenshin Shiraguku Monument or Tenshin Shiragiku no Tou (Tower of the Divine White Chrysanthemum) and was established in time for the first anniversary of the accident.

Compared to many memorialisation sites it struck me how open the site is. Essentially, upon first glance, it looks like a lay-by, albeit with a tower. Having said that, like with Irei-no-Sono for the JL123 crash, for example, there is nothing particularly about the name (or its design) that immediately associates it with an accident and so fits with some other aspects I discovered when doing research for my aforementioned article.

The view approaching from the north
The view from the south

The memorial tower…

The main memorial stone…

Like with many accidents in Japan (e.g. the JL123 crash) the memorial (on the rear) has the names of the victims.

The site continues to be relatively well looked after. Near the memorial, there is some information (in Japanese only) about the accident itself.

There are no indications that the site has been modified in any way since it was first established and so was recorded as such in my article looking at where modifications are made to public transportation accidents.

The crash and crash site was inspiration for one of the scenes within my novel FOUR.

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