Tokyo’s train stations use theme songs to put a jingle in your squashed journey

Written by
Joyce Lam

Originally posted March 25 2015

Once upon a time, a simple bell was used to signal train departures in Japan. This evolved into an electric buzzer, and later a computerised melody – first used in Tokyo in 1989 at Shinjuku and Shibuya stations. But have you noticed that the melodies are actually sometimes based on popular songs? Here’s a list of eight to look out for (listen to them and other station jingles here). Now if only they’d hire some station DJs…

Ebisu Station (Yamanote line)
Remember that old classic film The Third Man? Well, at Ebisu Station your journey is made all the more pleasant by the very catchy theme song: ‘The Third Man Theme‘. The song became well-known in Japan after being used in an advert for Ebisu beer (the area was named after the beer). Taste the beer for yourself at Yebisu Beer Museum or drink like a local at Ebisu Yokocho.

Musashi-Koganei Station (Chuo line)

Especially apt if you’re visiting the area for cherry blossom viewing, this station plays a version of ‘Sakura Sakura’, a popular Japanese folk song. Tamagawa Aqueduct in Koganei was once famous for the sakura trees that lined the water channel, and Musashi-Koganei Station was built especially for people who came to view the flowers every spring. Hence the theme song. These days, you can view the cherry blossoms at Koganei Park.

Komagome Station (Yamanote line)
The Yoshino sakura species originated in the Komagome area, so this station has also chosen to woo you with ‘Sakura Sakura’, although its rendition has a much faster arrangement. This year, we suggest an evening visit to Rikugien, only a two-minute walk from Komagome Station, for the magical cherry blossom lightup event.

Kamata Station (Keihin-Tohoku line)
Kamata was once home to a thriving film industry (which it is apparently trying to revive). To commemorate the once famed Kamata film studio, this station plays the theme song from one of the studio’s most popular movies, ‘Kamata Koshin-kyoku’ (‘Fall Guy’). The movie was awarded Picture of the Year at the Japan Academy Prize ceremony in 1982 and Mitsuru Hirata won Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film at the 4th Yokohama Film Festival in 1983. The song is a reprise of ‘Song of the Vagabonds’ from Rudolf Friml’s 1925 operetta The Vagabond King. Want to explore the area? Check out our Kamata area guide.

Takadanobaba Station (Yamanote line)
As the ‘birthplace’ of Astro Boy, a flying robot character created by Osamu Tezuka in 1952, Takadanobaba has claimed the theme song from the manga series. The original plan was to use the song for only one month in April 2003, the month and year of Astro Boy’s ‘birth’, but fans loved the idea so much that the station extended the project indefinitely. Check out our Takadanobaba area guide.

Maihama Station (Keiyo line)
The station that takes you to Tokyo Disneyland… Watch the video below to see the train conductor trigger the departure melody, which is ‘It’s a Small World’. The second video takes you on the ride itself at Disneyland, song included.

Oimachi Station (Rinkai line)
And now for something a little more classical. As your train departs from Oimachi Station, you’ll hear the distinct melody from Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’. The reason behind the choice? Shiki Theatre Company (‘shiki’ means ‘four seasons’) is just a five-minute walk from the station. Check out our Oimachi area guide.

Koenji Station (Chuo line)
Every summer, Koenji Station plays theme songs from the Awa Odori Festival which it hosts in August…

Want to hear more? Take a trip around the Yamanote line and its melodies here. Or watch this guy whistle his way through them…

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