Sounding out space with the trains of Tokyo
Apropos of M. Nova’s post on the semiotics of heard events, I wanted to briefly namecheck the use of brief, station-specific melodies as orienting cues by JR East (and, indeed, by other Japanese railways).
These jingles, repeated on the platform throughout the interval between the approach and departure of a train, liminally help a passenger perceive that they’ve arrived at their home station. They tend to the upbeat, in the candy-colored Japanese mode, but many have an undercurrent of weary-salaryman melancholy that I don’t believe I’m projecting onto them.
Don’t believe me? You can buy CDs of the jingles here and have a listen for yourself. Sometimes the otaku impulse is a wonderful thing. (I should also note that these melodies also feature prominently in the notorious Boxes & Arrows piece that set me off last year. And the less said about that, the better.)