Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Simpsonesque elements of noise pollution in Japan

I was once standing on the edge of a beautiful cliff top vista looking out over the Japan Sea coast. It was late morning and I'd been driving for a couple of hours on quiet country roads and just pulled over to stretch my legs. Listening to the quiet forest all around and enjoying the view I nearly jumped over the edge when there was sudden scream of "IRASHAI, IRASHAI" (WELCOME!, WELCOME!) from a loudspeaker the size of a house with the dial turned up to 11. The source, a small convenience store over the road that clearly was aiming to entice business from the other side of the Pacific.

Noise pollution is a general problem in Japan from the stores in Tokyo that compete to sell their wares by shouting through megaphones to any passer by, to the speaker vans that cruise the streets screaming politics from the 1930's, to the gentleman in our neighbourhood who likes to contribute by cleaning the road at 7.00am every Saturday with what appears to be a large empty oil drum and a big stick. 

Talking to my Japanese friends none of them actually appreciate the noise and would prefer to enjoy a little light Zen given the opportunity. Noise in Japan is a good example of technology running ahead of application. Before Google we didn't have information at our fingertips however before mega-speakers we could walk up to each other and politely say "hello".

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