TAKAOKA, Toyama Prefecture--Though he won't technically be "born" for another hundred years, the city of Takaoka has already begun celebrating the birthday of futuristic robot cat Doraemon, the title character of one of Japan's most popular anime and manga series.
The city government teamed up with Fujiko Pro Co. to introduce a special Doraemon-themed tramcar on the Manyo Line to coincide with his birthday, set to fall on Sept. 3, 2112. The talking blue cat holds a special place in the hearts of Takaoka residents, as the series' creator, manga artist Fujiko F. Fujio, was born in the city.
Operated by Takaoka-based railway company Manyosen, the tramcars on the Manyo Line are normally known for their red bodies, but one of the latest low-floor, light rail vehicles was redecorated in Doraemon's signature blue color. A red line with a yellow bell runs across the body of the tram's two cars, reminiscent of Doraemon's collar.
Fujiko Pro President Yoshiaki Ito and Takaoka Mayor Masaki Takahashi celebrated the launch with a ribbon-cutting ceremony held Sept. 8 at Takaoka-Ekimae Station.
"The electric tramcar was designed to express our love for Doraemon. I want everyone to enjoy it," Ito said in a speech at the event.
Organizers pulled out all the stops in designing the special tramcars. The doors are painted to look like Doraemon's "Dokodemo-door," one of the futuristic gadgets he brings to the present and which leads to anywhere the user wishes to go.
Inside the cars, passengers are greeted by Doraemon, schoolboy Nobita Nobi and other familiar characters painted on the blue ceiling, seeming to fly through the air with the "Take-copter" flying device featured in the series.
The interior also features "life-sized" drawings of Doraemon and other characters, along with more of his futuristic gadgets, and the straps are wrapped in Doraemon-themed covers.
The tram makes about 10 round trips a day between Takaoka-Ekimae and Koshinokata stations, and is equipped with a global positioning system (GPS), so its whereabouts can be tracked on cellphones and other devices at any time.
About 2,000 one-day tickets good for unlimited rides have been issued to celebrate the operation. The commemorative tickets are available at the railway operator's office, inside the tram and elsewhere. An additional 1,500 tickets will be issued for the January-April period next year and again for the May-August period, the company said.
Children from Nomachi Nursery School, who were invited to the ceremony, performed the Doraemon Ondo dance in front of the tram. When the preschoolers boarded the tram, they were excited to see Nobita, his good friend Shizuka and other characters painted on the windows.
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