The Healing Powers of Ringtones


Japan has a reputation for originating new and pointless technological novelties, and its latest youth fad doesn’t disappoint.

The youth of Japan are apparently currently obsessed with a new selection of ringtones created by a company called the Japan Ringing Tone Laboratory. This isn’t another ‘Crazy Frog’ though.  If it was, I would have shot myself rather than write this post. No, it’s something altogether more interesting, although just as moronic. These ringtones are “therapeutic ringtones”. Yes, forget acupuncture, hypnotherapy or the pleasures of a good sit down: simply play the ringtone on your phone and all your cares and health troubles will float away down the winding river of easy cures, along with your wallet and your self respect. Only in Japan. Well, for now.

The Japan Ringing Tone Laboratory has good credentials. Its head, Matsumi Suzuki, used to work for the National Research Institute of Police Science, where he made award-winning advances in the field of voiceprints. He also developed the now well-known synthetic mosquito noise that is inaudible to the over-60s but apparently annoys the hell out of local good-for-nothing kids who like to hang around outside off-licenses. Incidentally, this can also be found on mobile phones around the world, usually played by good-for-nothing kids who like to hang around outside off-licenses, and playing with their mobile phones.

Suzuki followed up this sterling work by becoming head of the aformentioned Japan Ringing Tone Laboratory, and producing stupid novelty ringtones. Perfectly logical career step, I think you’ll agree.

So what are these “therapeutic ringtones”? Put simply, they’re just ringtones, but with an added (and made-up) therapeutic twist. We’re going way beyond soothing pan-pipes and whale-song here, though. There’s no shortage of conditions and problems they can’t combat. Here’s a brief selection of what they can do:

– Cure a hangover.

– Induce sleep.

– Prevent sleep.

– Scare away crows (apparently Tokyo has a big problem with crows attacking bin bags in the early hours).

– Inspire sluggardly housewives into doing housework (sexism not mine!).

– Improve your skin tone using alpha waves (maybe it’s just the glow from the screen?).

– Alleviate hayfever.

The ringtone for alleviating hayfever is my favourite. It is called the Ohana Sukkuri melody, and it is basically a series of sounds emitted at different frequencies so that, in the company’s words: “people can choose the sound that resonates most to their sinus and causes pollen lodged there to fall from the nasal cavity”.

I love the image of Japanese teenagers holding their chirping mobile phones against their noses in the middle of summer in the hope that pollen will somehow vibrate out of their nasal cavity. Couldn’t they just blow their nose? Jeez, next we’ll be brushing our tongues with our toothbrushes! Ah, no wait..

The ringtone for improving skin tone is apparently a bit of electro-Schubert mixed with woodland noises, while the one intended to rouse bored housewives is a high-energy rhythm. The ringtone intended to induce sleep is basically a lullaby, while its opposite is a dance track. A lot of thought has gone into this, I’m sure. Maybe there’s one which plays Coldplay-style dirges to calm down people who suffer from mania? Or you could have the sound of the Pope’s head being cut off with a rough plank to wake up fainting victims. The variations are endless!

As I’m sure you all guessed long ago, these ringtones are complete tat, and quite frankly I think even the kids buying them know this. It’s just a bit of fun, and harmless I suppose, but I’m feeling in an evil Skeptic mood today, so have no problem deriding this nonsense loudly in an aggressive manner in order to get cheap laughs. Both the Japan Ringing Tone Laboratory and Index, the content provider which sells the tones, fully admit there is no scientific evidence for any of them, yet still throw out euphemistic lines to reel people in: for example, while there is no evidence of the hayfever ringtone’s pollen-shaking power, it is apparently “generally understood” that it will work. That’s ok, then. Yes, let’s bite the bit of made-up anecdotal evidence and run, run like the wind! Therapeutic ringtones worked for me!

We also have Index’s comment that “the number of downloads suggests the ringtones must be working to a certain extent”, as well as authoritative scientific statements such as the one about how the hangover-cure “pulse melodies” are attuned to our bodies’ “medical rhythms”.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Made-up science follows the same patterns the world over, kind of like the way bullshit smells the same no matter what country you live in.

Of course, as I said before, it’s just a fad. Come next year the youth of Japan will have a new distraction, and no-one will have been hurt or damaged by the flash-flood of woo they’ve just experienced, but that doesn’t stop it being as annoying as a fat, naked frog riding a motorbike and making stupid noises. Plus, there’s one important thing you’ve got to remember: it might only be Japan now, but it’s only a matter of time before it makes its way to these shores.

Don’t worry, you could just relax with your new ringtone.

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  1. #1 by Mathew Partridge on March 22, 2010 - 11:08

    I love the idea of a sleep inducing ring tone. What an amazingly self defeating concept that is. Awesome!

  2. #2 by Monsieur Roger LeClerc on March 27, 2010 - 18:42

    Bloody good read. Had me in stitches.
    That anyone would think that ringtones can cure anything boggles the mind, but I think you’re right; It’s just a fashion statement for the youth of Japan. A fad.

    Now excuse me while I, LeClerc, hurries to create a ringtone that can convert Skeptics (with a K) to Believers (without a K).

  3. #3 by Jon d on March 30, 2010 - 06:15

    I’d like to see proof of the pollen removal though I’m pretty sure loud dub reggae loosened some troublesome earwax I had a few years ago, I doubt a ringtone could achieve therapeutic volume levels… Btw Don’t try that at home (or anywhere else)

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