Thursday, August 26, 2004

Noise Pollution: “Big Sister is Nagging You”

Anyone who has been in Japan during election time knows that if Japan has any noise pollution laws, they aren’t enforced at all. Huge speakers blaring out messages across entire neighbourhoods seems to be an acceptable means of advertising, soliciting, and delivering propaganda. I know that the so called “nationalists” (anti-foreigners) have been at it down at Gaijin-mura on the Pacific coast of Miyagi prefecture over the summer. That is an extreme example. Friendlier, but almost as annoying, public announcements are regularly boomed out of enormous speakers in almost every small municipality in Japan. In George Orwell’s Oceana there was Big Brother. Here in Japan we have the eternally nagging “Big Sister,” a woman’s voice that tells all the "good boys and girls" when to get up, brush their teeth, go home, etc.

This is one set of Kazamaura’s public announcement speakers. This morning I was awakened at 5:30 a.m. by a seemingly routine announcement. I couldn’t hear it clearly, but it probably wasn’t important enough to wake everyone up at 5:30 a.m. for. In my village we’re told when a bear has been seen, when the fishery union’s flags have gone up (i.e. it’s time to “stop harvesting seaweed”), and when a local bureaucrat is going to miss work for a week because he’s sick. That’s over and above the daily morning and evening announcements. To make matters worse, the junior high school across the street has its own set of speakers, and I get "announced at" by those, too. And to think, the fool things were originally installed to inform and direct citizens during natural disasters. In elementary school we used to keep a journal called the ハテナノート ("Question Mark" Notebook). We wrote entries in it about things in the world that puzzled us. I wish I had one of those right now.