Ken Shimura put Higashimurayama on the map, and now Higashimurayama has put up a statue of him.

Like a number of other train stations in Japan, Tokyo’s Higashimurayama Station has a special chime that plays on its platform when trains are arriving or departing. The tune is Higashimurayama City’s local theme song, “Higashimurayama Ondo” (“Higashimurayama March”), but it’s not familiar only to nearby residents. People across Japan know the song, largely thanks to a cover performed by Ken Shimura, one of Japan’s most popular comedians, who was born and grew up in the area.

▼ The Higashimurayama Station chime

西武鉄道 東村山駅の発車メロディ「東村山音頭」!きょうから復活とのことで さっそく確認してきました。予想通り、多くの国分寺行きが発車する 国分寺線2番ホームが「ひがっしむ~らや~ぁま~ ♪♪♪」でした。

— 10月の列車 (@oct_rain1259) July 14, 2020

However, after nearly 50 years in show business, Shimura passed away in March of 2020 at the age of 70, becoming arguably Japan’s highest-profile loss of life to COVID-19. Recently, Higashimurayama saluted its hometown hero by erecting a life-size bronze statue of the comedian, and we took a ride out to see it for ourselves.

The statue is east to find. Right outside the station’s east exit is a traffic rotary, and on one side of it is a row of three Japanese zelkova trees which were planted in 1977 as Shimura’s cover of “Higashimurayama Ondo” was sweeping the nation. They’ve become known as the “Ken Shimura Trees,” and practically within the shade Of their boughs is where you’ll find the Ken Shimura statue.

One early concept had been to portray Shimura wearing the jeans and …continue reading