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The Akishima whale

This entry is in the series Along the Tama
Akishima is one of the bedroom towns of western Tōkyō you pass when moving along the Tama River. It's astounding to discover how some inconspicuous places you have rolled by dozens of times are so fraught with history—either dating back millions of years or touching upon tragic events that took place a few days after Japan's capitulation in WWII. The Akishima Whale Excavation Site (アキシマクジラ出土地) is one such historically momentous spot.

First, the science:

Akishima Whale (アキシマクジラ)

Eschrichtius akishimaensis is one of two species of the genus Eschrichtius, with the modern-day grey whale. It is the first and only fossil species of the genus, dating to around 1.77–1.95 million years ago in the Early Pleistocene. The fossils were found in 1961 on the banks of the Tama and brought to the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno. They were later transferred to the Gunma Museum of Natural History for further examination—no wonder the Akishima whale can be found all over the municipality: from manhole covers to the whale monument close to Tachikawa Station.

Akishima whale manhole cover

The city also holds an annual Kujira matsuri (whale festival) and established a Kujira Sports Park, which includes a baseball field.

Then the tragedy:

The very same spot was the scene of a terrible train disaster on 24 August 1945 that entered the annals of history as the "Hachikō Line Train Collision" (八高線列車正面衝突事故).

Hachikō Line Train Collision Memorial

On that day, two trains collided in the central part of the Tamagawa Bridge between Hachikō Line Komiya Station and Haijima Station. Due to the chaotic circumstances in the days after the surrender, the trains were loaded to capacity with commuters, evacuees, and war veterans. The accident occurred in torrential rains and was blamed on miscommunication between the two stations. At least 105 passengers died in the crash, and 67 were seriously injured. Many of them drowned in the Tamagawa, which was swollen due to severe thunderstorms in the previous days. Reportedly, many passengers were washed out in the sea. The exact number of casualties will never be known.

Hachikō Line Train Collision Memorial

The rusty wheels exhibited on the memorial site were retrieved from a sandbank in 2001.

The address is

3-14-10 Miyazawachō, Akishima, Tōkyō 196-0024 - 〒196-0024 東京都昭島市宮沢町3丁目14−10

Access by public transportation is a tad complicated: from JR Tachikawa Station (South Exit), take the municipal bus (#82 or 86 to Seirin Shogakko). It's a ten-minute walk to the Tamagawa from there. There is a parking lot at the baseball field, in case you come by car.


Previous entry in the series 'Along the Tama': Cherry blossoms at Takahata Fudoson


Two shots of Hachikō Line Tamagawa Bridge (八高線 多摩川橋梁 Hachikōsen Tamagawa kyōryō):

Hachikō Line Tamagawa Bridge (八高線 多摩川橋梁)

Hachikō Line Tamagawa Bridge (八高線 多摩川橋梁)

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