There are over 160 subway systems around the world. Many of them are notable in a variety of ways. For example, the London Underground was first in 1863. The Beijing Subway is the busiest. The New York City Subway has the most stations. But the Japanese subway is definitely the most musical. Metro riders in Japan are treated to hundreds of custom written departure melodies unique for each station. Known as hassha merodi, which literally means “melody for train departure” in Japanese, these jingles have become part of the nation’s culture.
Who Wrote Japan’s Train Station Jingles?
Minoru Mukaiya is the creative genius behind Japan’s train station jingles. His company Ongakukan, creates train simulators. But before his career in the transportation industry, he was the keyboardist in the jazz fusion band Casiopea. The combination of his interests in trains and music created the opportunity for the jingles.
Over the years, Mukaiya has written 200+ distinct melodies for over 110 Japanese train stations. You can listen to many of the departure melodies in this video compilation below.
Benefits Of The Train Melodies
The train station jingles aren’t just for fun. They actually provide several practical benefits.
- Faster Passengers: Passengers know that the doors won’t close while the jingle is playing. It helps them plan their train boarding process and embark faster.
- Visual Disability Assistance: For passengers who are blind or have a visual disability, the jingles help them identify specific stations.
- Neighborhood Culture And Identity: Mukaiya uses different styles and instruments to help create a sonic brand for each neighborhood. For example, the Ebisu station in western Tokyo uses a melody from the Yebisu beer commercials. The beer used to be brewed in the area and the neighborhood is named after the company.