Our first MINIPOST: Tokyo train tunes.
Traveling on a Japanese commuter train at rush hour is BRUTAL. More and more people cram into the car at each stop. Eventually there are so many passengers packed in every inch of space that you no longer need to hold onto anything to stand up. It’s extra stressful if you’re remotely claustrophobic or feel self-conscious about your body. And don’t even get me started on how miserable it is with a suitcase!
In the past, a harsh buzzer sounded every time the train was about to leave a station. Studies showed that it made riders even more tense. In 1989, JR East (one of the major rail operators) commissioned Yamaha and composer Hiroaki Ida to create hassha melodies—short, pleasant melodies that would replace the nerve-jangling buzzer. These tunes are still in use, with each station having its own distinctive song.
Each hassha is exactly seven seconds in length. Studies have shown that this is the optimal amount of time to reduce both passenger anxiety and “rushing incidents.” Gradually the other train services (including the Tokyo Metro) followed this example. Overall, this has increased rider safety and mental health. But be beware—the hassha are major earworms. You’ll find yourself humming them for weeks after you leave Japan!