A lot of the traffic lights in Tokyo have an implemented melody for the blind. This melody is called the Toryanse song. Someone told us that this song was played at temples to chase the bad ghosts away. We were wondering if the song used at the traffic light still represented the same meaning and if so, are the ‘bad ghosts’ replaced by the ‘bad cars’?
Interviews at the intersection near Ikebukuro Station, Tokyo, December 2, 2010
“I do recognise the melody, but I don’t know the name of the song or the lyrics.”
Young man who works as a shouting vendor for a shop near the intersection (age 18).
“The meaning of this song is: ‘you can walk’, ‘you can pass’ or ‘please, walk this way’. It is a children’s song. It is used everywhere in Japan, but only on intersections that are extremely noisy and where the surrounding traffic and cityscape are dense. In suburbs or quiet cities, such as Kyoto, bird sounds, cricket sounds or other electronical sounds are used. The lyrics of the song refer to a shrine. It is possible that a traffic light with this sound is placed here, because there is a shrine nearby.”
Policeman (age 30).
“Of course I know this song, it is very popular throughout the country.”
Grandfather with grandchild (age 68, 7).
“I have heard this melody before, but I don’t know the meaning of the song.”
Schoolgirl (age 17)
“I know the song, but I don’t know the name or the meaning.”
Woman (age 25)
“I know the melody, but I don’t know the name of the song. It means ‘it is ok to walk.”
Businessman (age 46)
“I know this song only form the traffic lights.”
Woman (age 40-something)
“It means ‘you can walk’.”
Businessman (age 53)
“The name of the song is Toryanse. It means ‘please, walk’ or ‘you can walk’. Hearing this song reminds me of my childhood. I heard it very often when we were playing. My daughter also knows the song, but doesn’t know it from playing. I don’t know whether young children still know this song.”
Woman (age 59) and daughter (age 26)
The PR section of the police explains that the Law for Promoting Easily Accessible Public Transportation Infrastructure for the Elderly and Disabled Persons (Traffic Barrier-Free Law) was enacted in 2000. The Law for Promoting Easy Mobility and Accessibility for the Aged and the Disabled (New Barrier Free Law) was enforced in 2006. Local governments such as cities, wards, towns and villages were authorized to decide focus areas for improvement and make a basic plan. The requests resulting from these plans are always honored. This is why the number of traffic lights with sound signals is increasing. Scientific research has proven that the new bird sound is easier to distinguish for blind people than the Toryanse song that was formerly used. The police do not remove the Toryanse sound, but when traffic lights are newly installed, they chose for the bird sound variety. Hereby they don’t make a difference between central or residential areas.
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