One thing you may have noticed while using the train networks in Japan is the number of melodies and jingles played at train stations as trains are about to leave. These are known as hassha merodi (発車メロディー) which can be translated as “melodies for train departure”.
These jingles were first used in 1989 at Shinjuku and Shibuya stations, but have now spread throughout the Tokyo train network. While many are generic melodies at the stations, many of the melodies are a nostalgic nod to Japan’s past popular culture, and there is many a story that can be discovered at various stations. Below are a few examples to listen out for:
Ebisu Station (JR Yamanote line, Tokyo)
One of the most well-known station jingles is at Ebisu. This theme became well known in Japan, as it was used as an advert for Ebisu Beer (the area was named after the Beer). The original melody is in fact a track from the film “The Third Man”. The Ebisu beer museum also allows you to try some of the Ebisu Beer yourself!
Takadanobaba Station (JR Yamanote Line, Tokyo)
This was where Astro Boy was born, a flying robot character created by Osamu Tezuka in 1952. A jingle version of the anime series melody plays in this station. Originally the melody was only to be used for one month in April 2003 (the date of Astro Boy’s “birth”) but became so popular that the melody still continues until this day.
Kanda Station (Tokyo metro Ginza Line, Tokyo)
The jingle at this station plays a part of the song “O Matsuri Mambo” by Misora Hibari, one of Japan’s legendary singers. Misora Hibari initially became famous as a post war singer up until her untimely death in 1989. One of her most famous and up tempo songs was “O Matsuri Manbo” – “The festival Mambo”, where the song’s opening lyrics mention an old man who grew up in Kanda. As an additional touch, platform 1 and platform 2 of the station play different parts of the song.
Osaka Station (JR Kyoto Line, Osaka)
Osaka station plays one of the most famous songs from the Kansai Region “Yappa suki ya nen” (I guess I really do love you). This was a hit song in 1986 by Yashiki Takajin, and is sung in a strong Kansai dialect. Certainly, a karaoke favorite and one you will be reminded of if you visit this station!
Aomono Yokocho (Keikyu Main Line)
This song plays the famous song “Jinsei Iroiro” (There are many things in life) originally released by Shimakura Chiyoko in 1987. The song is a wise story on love, loss and growth, almost like a mother comforting her daughter after her first heartbreak. It’s a popular song with older Japanese people who will be very familiar with it. Shimakura Chiyoko was considered a “goddess of Enka” and was born nearby this area in 1938. This remains one of her most well-known songs, and she appeared on Kohaku Utagassen, Japan’s famous end of year annual song extravaganza 35 times.
As you can see, there is many a story behind all of these station melodies, and there are many many more waiting to be discovered. Whether you decide to do a crazy tour to discover all the different melodies, or whether they provide mild amusement as you make your journey throughout Japan, these melodies are sure to brighten up your day!