This light railway that used to run across Okinawa had narrower tracks, and its train cars were smaller. This train line, called the Okinawan Prefectural Railways, was often affectionately referred to as “Kēbin,” the Okinawan pronunciation of light railroad.
The lines themselves were only in use for a short 30 years, from 1914 to 1945. However, there are many people in the older generation who remember riding on these lines in their youth. Of course, you would think everyone would get on the train at the station, but the more rambunctious were known to hop on the train as it was moving between stations! People would catch the train on their way to school, and there are even some love stories which found their beginnings on the trains.
By looking at the old train lines, you can decipher the old routes of travel and the distribution of the population at the time. The first station to open was Yonabaru Station. Yonabaru Station was located by the wharf, where goods from the northern and central parts of Okinawa would be delivered. The Yonabaru Line would be used to carry the charcoal and lumber produced in northern areas to their final destination of consumption, Naha or Shuri, and in return, the trains would carry everyday goods back up from the capital. The freight that traveled from Kadena Station would be filled with heaps of sugarcane. Most of the lines were used to carry sugarcane at the time. The most popular stations used by pedestrians were Naha Station, Yonabaru Station, and Asato Station, which many students used during their morning commute.
Unfortunately, the Kēbin Lines were destroyed during the war and no efforts were made to restore them. The areas where these lines used to run have now been converted into roads. The Yui Rail Lines were created in the 21st century, but before then most people had to rely on the bus or their own vehicle to get around.