People used the terms shiden or romendensha (streetcars) for many years, but have started using toramu (tramways) more recently. Modern toramu incorporating the latest technological advances give the impression of being completely new vehicles. Huge panorama windows in a streamlined body design create an open feeling, while low-floor barrier-free interiors are fully air-conditioned. And performance is good with high operating speeds and almost silent running. Trams run through busy city centres and shopping malls so they must have conspicuous designs and colours that are easily seen by pedestrians and car drivers while making them attractive to ride. In Japan, the carriages of heavy railways are often difficult to identify because they are usually silver due to extensive use of stainless-steel materials, but trams come in a of various colourful designs.
One drawback of trams is the unattractive overhead trolley wires, which definitely detract from the cityscape and also hinder the passage of high-sided vehicles, including parade floats during Japan's popular summer festival season. Electric wires also interfere with firefighting ladders and increase the risk of electrocution when brought down by earthquake damage. One way of eliminating trolley wires is to use hybrid tramcars with a combination of an internal combustion engine driving a generator, and storage batteries. Such an approach produces some exhaust gases but these can be reduced by switching to LPG fuel instead of diesel. The ultimate solution is to use non-polluting fuel cells that can easily be recharged or refueled at the tram terminus or yard. I am hoping such advances will revitalize our city centres with a pollution-free, safe and charming transport mode for the future.