Sunday, June 15, 2008

One of those Japanese Sounds

Many countries have different sounds. I remember when I was in Indonesia, the sound of the Muslim call to prayer. In Japan, there is the sound of the roast potato man driving through the streets selling his wares. The garbage trucks sound like ice cream vans and then there's the awful noise created by politicians driving through the streets before election day.

One that freaked me out the first time, and still does to this day is the air-raid siren. At least that's what it sounds like, and it's probably what it used to be.

It just went off here a few minutes ago. It means that there is a fire in town somewhere. Many of the firefighters in Japan are volunteer, so the siren is rung to call them to the station.

In a town I used to live, they used both the siren and loudspeakers that are permanently rigged around the city. At four in the morning the siren rang and someone announced the location of the fire. It was a bad one, a restaurant near my house. Then again, at five, the siren rang again and we were all woken up to be told that the fire had now been extinguished and thank you to the firefighters. Thanks, but I would have rather slept and found out at a much more reasonable hour.


Shari said...

The sound that I most associate with Japan is the 5:00 pm tune that plays telling kids that it's time to head home from wherever they are. It always sounds melancholy to me.

I first heard it when I visited Japan for a vacation and it was at a point in the day when my husband (then my boyfriend) was in the middle of his teaching day at work while I waited for him in the apartment (I stayed for a month, but he only had a week off so I spent 3 weeks puttering around while he was at work). I always felt the loneliest and most isolated at that time so I get just a little depressed any time I hear that music.

It's also one of the few sounds to which I can't locate an analogous situation in my own culture.

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

Actually, it's funny which towns or cities have which sounds. One city I lived, played the 8am song. For the first few days, I thought it was someone's really loud alarm clock or something. I might have been telling the kids to go to school.

I'd forgotten about the 5pm song. We don't have it in this city, but did in one other city I lived in.

Japan has also ruined Auld Lang Syne for me. We now know it as the "piss off, we want to close" music.

A few times, I thought of buying a digital recorder, I'm going to miss some of these sounds when I go home.

Anonymous said...

When i was staying with yasu's grandma in Aomori, they have a 6am wake up call every morning, even on sundays, which really pissed me off because the speaker was only a couple of houses away and sooo loud! I usually put the pillow over my head and rolled over but grandma got up every morning with the siren.

If i lived there i don't know how long it would be before that siren got vandalised in the middle of the night... haha.

tornadoes28 said...

The air raid siren at 12 noon anouncing to the city that it is lunch time. I don't know if they have this in bigger cities but they have it in the small city of Otawara in Tochigi.

Also, the train station chimes are a japanese sound that I like.

davidfromoz said...

Thank you for the sounds of Japan post Melanie. Its a nice blog you have here.

I really should find a way to record some Japan sounds.

The motivational music and speech that accompanies the morning exercise routine at the factory where I work will be burned into my consciousness forever.

I think the bird sounds that play at the train stations deserve a mention too.

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

Hey azumarisan - 6am! Yep, that wouldn`t have lasted long if I lived there. Just think of all the poor shift workers!

Hey Tornadoes - I haven`t heard the 12 o`clock one, but it seems that different towns have different ones at different times. I`m sure they all believe that theirs makes sense.

Hey davidfromoz - Nice to `meet` you! I remember the first time I saw factory workers doing the morning exercises in their hardhats. Such a funny sight. I really wanted to get a video tape to record it. The bird sounds at the train station are lovely aren`t they.

billywest said...

I think if this country had to endure one full day of quiet, no sirens, no vans driving by with announcements, 97% of the population would die of loneliness.

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

Ohhhh Billy, I can't imagine a quite day here, that could be scary, very scary.

Juddie said...

Ooooh natsukashiiiii!

I remember the strangely perky but irritating 'kids go home' tune, the 12 o'clock lunch time siren, and in the first little village I lived in, a man used to walk around at 8 o'clock every night clapping two wooden sticks together to remind people to turn off their gas and send their children to bed.

The cacophony of electioneering loudhailers also used to wake us early on Sunday mornings.

Two other very Japanese sounds that I do love are the frog synphonies that used to lull me to sleep (from the rice fields outside my house), and the particular throbbing call of cicadas - totally different from Australian cicadas and a little more melancholy. A perfect summer soundtrack!

I like your idea of recording everyday sounds. I've been inspired by Nick Penny's Audio Diary, which you can link to from the 'Good Life' section of links on my blog.

Thanks for snother great post!

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

Hey Juddie, that's a great collection of sounds! I love the cicada sounds here too! They are different to the Aussie ones. I'm glad you said so, I always thought they were, but wasn't sure.

Anonymous said...

Wow, am I ever glad I found THIS post! I hear a pretty good amount of daily sounds from where I live in Osaka as well! A lot of it comes from the High School about a block away (I can peek right into the yard from my 5th floor apt!), but I still hear the garbage truck music, political loudspeakers passing by...Even the recycle truck has its own song! Once in awhile I'll hear the truck telling you to get your butt downstairs and drop off your old electronics to be fixed up and sent to China, too, and once there was even a very noisy advertising assault by AIR by way of a little prop plane flying over the neighborhood! All I could think of was, "Man, if I were back home, someone would be suing over this for disturbing the peace!" This is a great blog, btw! I may start my own and you'll be the first I link to! I'm in a dumpy inner-city area of Osaka, where I'm probably the only gaijin for miles around. In only 4 months, I've seen plenty, but LiveJournal just doesn't seem to be the place to share it. ^^