HAKODATE, HOKKAIDO – A 26-year-old worker for the Mount Hakodate Ropeway in Hokkaido died early Monday after his legs were caught in cable car gear.
The operator shut down the aerial tramway to rescue the man, Ryohei Narita, and to inspect the equipment, temporarily stranding about 1,000 visitors at the summit of the 334-meter-high mountain, a popular tourist spot thanks to its renowned night view of Hakodate.
The police will investigate to determine if the operator followed proper safety procedures.
According to the company, Narita started to wipe oil off the tramway’s wire alone at around 4:30 p.m. Sunday after a passenger complained of getting a clothing stain from oil dripping from above.
At 5:10 p.m., Narita’s legs got caught between a gondola pulley and a wheel stop, and he suffered a broken hip. He possibly fell from the place where he was working. He was rescued two hours later but died in a hospital early Monday morning.
Most of the visitors at the summit rode down in about 30 taxis called by the tramway operator. The last reached the base of the mountain at around 10 p.m.
Some people made it down on foot.
“There were so many visitors up on the mountain top and not everyone could stay in the observation facility. We didn’t know when we could ride a taxi,” said Tomoyuki Komamine, a 41-year-old office worker from Hakodate who took about 40 minutes to walk down the mountain with five other members of his family.
The view from the mountain has been awarded three stars by the Japan edition of the Michelin Green Guide travel books.