Tokyo Metro, the main subway operator in Tokyo, has teamed up with local radio station Tokyo FM to offer its passengers new entertainment content that changes every day and is themed around its train lines. Smartphone users can download the Listen!WONDERGROUND app for free and listen to the daily content. Every day sees fifteen minutes of new material available, much like a podcast, only the content has been curated to be relevant to Metro lines and stations in terms of the choice of songs and even interviews with local people.

The programs change on weekends and consist of several different segments, including “Tokyo-esque” music, and “stories” and introductions to “hidden” sites along the nine Metro lines. Available for Android and iPhone users, Listen!WONDERGROUND can also be enjoyed on a regular computer of course.

Although essentially only audio, the service also includes graphics and images, and presumably in the future Tokyo Metro could update the content to feature video. The same content is also introduced daily on a certain rush hour time radio show on Tokyo FM.

Use of mobile phones in Japan while riding public transport is frowned upon other than for silently browsing sites, games or sending mails. Having full conversations or making calls is a taboo but passengers are still always keen to pass the time with their phone. This new campaign keeps them entertained while remaining courteous to other passengers (presumably people will use earphones).

The three main mobile providers in Japan announced in February 2011 that they would be cooperating with Tokyo Metro to install antenna in train tunnels so that passengers would be able to use their phones to send emails, rather than have their productivity curtailed by the lack of signal. Amidst fears that this would lead to “impolite” situations of people talking into devices while riding the subway, this kind of new service keeps them entertained and engrossed more passively instead.

This site-specific solution to keeping passengers entertained also does not break social rules, which is very important for mobile services in public spaces. The content and service could be expanded further, offering tie-ups with brands who have flagship stores at certain stations, or become more LBS-centered to offer new platforms for local businesses to interact with passengers through coupons.