Train Station Tunes in Japan

May 21st, 2009 | By | Category: Lifestyle

Did you know that in Japan many train stations have their own tune that is played just be before the doors of the train close?  Call it a signature tune or a theme song…the Maihama Station on the Keiyo line is the stop for Tokyo Disneyland and the tune you hear is It’s a Small Word.  Just a few stops down the same line you will find the Chiba Lotte Marines (a Japanese professional baseball team) song playing at Kaihin Makuhari Station.

While these jingles are instrumental, and usually quite tinny at that, they tend to be catchy and after frequenting the same train station for a while you can’t help but hum along to yourself….

One of the most famous train lines in Japan is the Yamanote Line, a circular route operated by the JR East Japan Railway Company that traverses 34.5 kilometers (22 miles), has 29 stops and provides transportation to approximately 3.5 million riders each day.  Trains depart every two to four minutes in each direction from 4:30AM to 1:20AM daily and it takes approximately one hour to complete a ride around the Yamanote Line.

A ride around the Yamanote Line will take you to some of Tokyo’s best sightseeing spots and will also give you an opportunity to listen to some of the distinctive train station melodies.

Yamanote Line Station Tunes

The Yamanote Line operates on tow tracks around Tokyo and you may see reference to the inner loop and the outer loop, each loop goes a different direction and has a different station tune.  Below is a list of the stations on the Yamanote Line – click them to hear the station tunes courtesy of Japan-Railways (site in Japanese).

Visit Railways in Japan to listen to other station tunes and learn more about railway travel in Japan.  Are you humming along yet?

Be sure to read Getting Around in Japan to learn about your other transportation options, unfortunately many of the others don’t offer musical accompaniment to your travels.

Image Credit:  Flickr, Hamamatucho Yamanote Line Station(2009.4.18) – 2

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11 comments
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  1. really interesting stuff!

  2. Nice blog, Shane. Uguisudani Station (鶯谷駅) on the Yamanote/Keihin Tohoku lines plays a recorded bird call (ho-ho-ke-kyo). Uguisu is Japanese for a type of sparrow known as the whitefish.

  3. My ringtone is the Okubo Sobu Chuo line going towards Shinjuku 😉

    I remember finding a website that had all the tunes in mp3 from all the JR stations in Tokyo. Was amazing. Will try to find it.

  4. I love the train station chimes. It is one of my favorite memories of visiting Tokyo and Japan.

  5. All the tunes are great, especially the one for •Takadanobaba is the Astor Boy opening theme. I’d be humming that tune all the time,it brings back childhood memories. It was the first anime I saw growing up in the 60’s

  6. I am always humming along to the tune at Ebisu on the way to work.
    There’s a list here of the names of some of the tunes (Japanese with some English) : http://www.hatsumelo.com/line1/yamanote.html

  7. Ebisu and Kamata are my favorite.

  8. Had one of those long pointless arguments over whether every station has a tune. I’m going for no, in fact I’m convinced that even on the Yamanote some don’t. Anyone know for sure?

  9. It’s fun to read all of you comments and nice to know that I’m not the only one fascinate by the train station melodies in Japan.

    I think that Alex is right about not all stations having a signature tue. If you hover over the melodies in the link provided in the article you will find that some are the same, even on the Yamanote line.

    As a side note, I suspect that these melodies are how salarymen (and women) are able to identify their station when they wake up from a seemingly deep sleep with a start and hop off the train. :)

  10. Love it. I have ridden trams sooooo many times in Japan (quite frankly, haven’t we all!) and I suppose, subconciously, I may have been aware of this, but I’ve never twigged until reading this. I probably thought someone was being paid to come up with new, catchy tunes all the time, or something..

  11. This is great!! I didn’t realise that so many stations had their own tune. I will have to pay more attention next time I ride the Yamanote.

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