TOKYO - Minoru Mukaiya is one of the world"s most played musicians, with millions of people across Japan listening to his songs every day - but most of them don"t even notice.
Mukaiya is a composer of Hassha Merodii or train departure melodies, short jingles that whisk commuters on their way at some of the world"s busiest stations.
Almost no one would know his most famous track by name, a catchy electronic ditty broadcast for departures from platforms three and four at Tokyo"s Shibuya station - the world"s third busiest - but millions have it on their brains for hours after their commute.
Asked how many train jingles he has created, the 61-year-old former keyboard player with the jazz-fusion band Casiopea pauses. He has lost count and an assistant rushes over with a list.
"170? What? I wrote 170," he said, exploding with laughter. "That can"t be right!"
Hassha Merodii is so common now in Japan that locals are unfazed when the sharp twang of an electronic keyboard or an organ"s trill spills out of a loudspeaker but tourists are often thrilled.
Nevertheless, Mukaiya"s work has attracted a cult following. He has more than 34,000 Twitter followers.
Hassha Merodii started when train operators were looking for ways to make their stations stand out and came up with the idea of a catchy jingle.
The songs are capped at seven seconds - the "dwell time" train operators have to cram people into packed commuter trains and still, famously, run on time.
His interest in railways was first kindled as a boy when Japan"s first Shinkansen bullet train glided into Tokyo Station before the 1964 Olympics.
Two decades later, he released one of the world"s first train simulator video games for fellow enthusiasts, amassing a huge following and nabbing the attention of industry stalwarts like PlayStation.
The game was so realistic that train operators started asking Mukaiya to design something similar to teach their conductors and drivers.
He even designed a life-size mock-up of a train conductor"s compartment - complete with control panel - that occupies pride of place in his office.
Staring out to an imaginary platform, he rings a bell - confirming the train is clear to leave - and assumes his position at the wheel, watching the monitor above for the traffic light to turn green before taking off.
When the train pulls into the next station he walks back over to the carriage door, grinning. A makeshift platform projected from overhead, the number 10 appearing at his feet. He has lined up the train doors with the platform exit perfectly.
Agence France - presse