This looks like a job for Semisonic!

One peculiar aspect of life in Japan that people discover soon after moving here from abroad is that there’s a special culturally accepted song that is played by all kinds of stores about 15 minutes before their designated closing time. It’s a soft tune that is meant to gently nudge customers into realizing they better haul ass so the staff can get home on time.

The song is called “Hotaru no Hikari” or “Light of the Fireflies” and has often been played at graduations because it deals with studying very hard and under difficult conditions such as the only light being that of the fireflies. So, it has an inherent feeling of closure as well as suggesting that it’s late at night.

This song will probably raise the eyebrows of Westerners, because…well, give it a listen if you haven’t heard it before.

“Hotaru no Hikari” was written in 1881 by Chikai Inagaki and it copies the musical score of “Auld Lang Syne” note for note. Luckily for Inagaki, associations like JASRAC weren’t around at the time to enforce such blatant copying and it went on to become a beloved Japanese song. In fact, it even survived a Western music ban during WWII because it was deemed wholly Japanese by that point.

Even today, you can still hear it played in countless shops across the county. Major 100-yen-store chain Daiso, however, has announced that they will part ways with “Hotaru no Hikari” in the near future. The discount store says the increasing number of foreign tourists aren’t aware that the song signifies the end of business hours and continue to linger in the store.

Instead, they have teamed up with in-store music provider USEN to create a new closing song titled “Good Day – Closing Music.” While crafting the new tune, 150 men and women were surveyed to describe the elements of a closing song. The top answers were that it should be “nostalgic,” “quiet,” and “related to nature.”

▼ This really seems like the job Enya was born to do.

Time will tell if the new song will have any effect, but many readers of the news posed the obvious question: “If foreigners can’t understand the meaning of ‘Hotaru no Hikari’ then how could they possibly understand the meaning of a completely original song?”

Others in online comments just had fun trying to suggest possible alternative candidate songs.

“They should play the fast ‘time’s almost up’ music from Super Mario. Everyone in the world can understand that.”
“The Beatles’ ‘Get Back’ might work.”
“If they play BTS, people will just want to leave anyway.”
“I’d love it if they played the Darth Vader theme.”
“It is funny how only Japanese people are conditioned to leave when hearing ‘Hotaru no Hikari.'”
“Why don’t they just keep the song and play announcements in different languages over it?”
“The original European song is about drinking with friends, so I get why they wouldn’t understand.”

Some stores in Japan are wary of directly making closing announcements because they want to avoid being seen as blatantly telling valued customers to get out soon. On the other hand, what song could be universally used to communicate such an idea in a way that transcends language and culture?

▼ If only Pepper were still around… You never know how precious someone is until they’re gone.

I tried to think of something, but nothing held a candle to the Super Mario idea. Just play that da-dada, da-dada, da-dada arpeggio and gradually speed up the regular piped-in music. Then, when time’s up, play the Booooop! Mario death tune and have a little mushroom guy go around telling everyone, “Thank you! But your product is in another store.”

Source: PR Times, Nikkei, Hachima Kiko
Featured image: PR Times
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