Many areas of rural and semi-rural Japan have a public address system operated by the town council. Multiple loudspeakers are installed on tall poles that are strategically located to ensure that all houses that fall under the council’s jurisdiction are covered. This is the one nearest our house:
The system serves a number of purposes:
- It is used to relay announcements in emergencies – such as during the landfall of Typhoon 15 in September when the system kept us notified of the water level of a major river that runs nearby. Several years ago when I was living in a much more rural part of Japan (in northern Shiga Prefecture) the system was used to warn us when bears had been spotted about the town.
- Much less usefully the system is used to play “music” at noon and at 6pm. Town councils are seemingly oblivious to the fact that Japan practically invented the modern electronic wristwatch.
- Finally, it is used to broadcast announcements about civil events, often at a very uncivil 6.45am on a Saturday morning. Any hypothetical interest I have in attending a council event on a Saturday would quickly evaporate once I am woken up at 6.45 by a loudspeaker imploring me to do what I have already decided to do, albeit now with an hour less of sleep.
So in order, these three different purposes are: practical, unnecessary and annoying.
Some of my friends who live in more rural areas actually have loudspeakers installed in the kitchens of their homes so that messages can be delivered from the town council directly to their brains. The speakers can’t be switched off, nor can the volume be adjusted. The messages are broadcast anytime the council feels like it. This helps councils to enforce a suitably flamboyant style of mourning with respect to the recent and unfortunate passing of our Dear Leader. Is anyone else reminded of a crazy little country on the other side of the Sea of Japan?