Japan has a reputation for being a quiet and respectful place and, on the whole, it generally is whether you are enjoying the peaceful respite of a tranquil temple or even just sitting on the train. However, on closer inspection there are a fair few examples of Japanese people going against the typecast of them being shy, quiet and reserved. Time then to be ever so picky and make a list of these everyday sounds as Tokyo Fox yet again pigeon holes the local mannerisms and cultural aspects!
Here then, in no particular order, is the Tokyo Fox top 10……annoyingly noisy Japanese sounds!
1. Shop Touts – Staff stand outside trying to drum up business by shouting at the top of their voices about the discounts available in their stores and on occasions some of them even have a megaphone to shout down to annoy the passing pedestrians. Shoe shops seem to be the worst offenders and their workers are often given little step ladders to stand on just to draw more attention to themselves.
2. Variety TV Shows – Naturally Japanese TV is not geared towards foreigners but those of us with Japanese wives or girlfriends sometimes have no choice but to sit through these ubiquitous terebi shows featuring annoying celebrities, shouting presenters, screaming girls and gasping audiences which are all topped off with silly sound effects and over-the-top reactions. TV has never been so dumbed-down as it is over here. Sadly, there’s no respite during the adverts either which are just as awful with all those horrible high-pitched female voices trying to sell you products in the least imaginative ways but what’s worse is that the stations turn the volume up a notch or two during these breaks. More details here
3. The Emergency Services – The sirens may be louder back in Britain but what annoys me more here is the running commentary from one of the fire fighters in the back of the engine as they race through the streets to get to their destination as fast as possible. Isn’t the siren (which absolutely everyone recognises!) enough for people to know they have to make way for this important service without the (usually) indecipherable words being shouted out from within the vehicle. This even seems to happen at night when the roads are fairly empty!
4. Election Vans – There always seems to be some kind of election campaign going on whereby these vehicles (sometimes with white glove-wearing ladies waving from the windows) tour the streets of your neighbourhood pumping out messages which can interrupt whatever you’re doing. It’s a very old-fashioned way of campaigning but with so many other kinds of campaigning restricted this is one such option to supposedly get people to vote for you despite the unimaginative speeches which tend to feature very little information on policies.
5. Sniffing – In the western world blowing your nose in public is ok but sniffing is frowned upon. It’s the opposite in Japan! Neither are particularly joyful to listen to but having to listen to someone constantly sniff their horrible snot back up their noses every minute or so can be very grating when it continues in your presence. One can usually be a bit more tolerant of kids (who don’t know any better) doing this but Japanese adults really should know better.
6. Station Announcements – If you happen to be standing on the platform waiting for your train in the wrong place then you may be nearly deafened by the public address announcements bellowing out at you from above. This could easily be forgiven if it was important information about delays or whatever but usually it’s just informing you of the most obvious unnecessary information.
7. Slurping – It’s actually customary for Japanese to make a slurping sound when eating their noodles. It’s supposed to heighten the taste and by bringing lots of air in with the noodles you can eat them hotter and improve the flavour. All fair enough I suppose but knowing that still doesn’t make it any less annoying to hear someone really putting all their effort in to sucking up those noodles.
8. Pachinko – These parlors are everywhere. They’re unbelievably loud, popular and smoky places with people often lining up outside hours before opening in anticipation of spending their whole day off sat in front of what is basically an ultra modern pin-ball game. The amount of electricity wasted on these sad places must be ridiculously high but they’re not going to disappear anytime soon as this industry provides revenue which is way greater than all of the legal casino’s of the world put together.
9. Local Government – Regular announcements on public loud speakers can happen anytime between 7am and 10pm and includes all manner of fairly trivial matters which very few probably listen to. Warnings to old people in particular to be on alert regarding fake calls saying a relative is in trouble and needs money wiring urgently have been doing the rounds in recent times. Other such vital reporting can include changes to refuse collections or city hall being closed the following day due to it being a national holiday. Useful for some but for many others it’s just pure unnecessary noise.
10. Karaoke Boxes – Of course you don’t usually go to these places for a bit of peace and quiet but there are the odd ones who do use these rooms for other reasons such as a cheap nights sleep! Everyone thinks they can sing amazingly well when they have a microphone in their hands but few actually can pull it off and as you walk the corridors of these places you can often hear some Japanese person murdering Aerosmith (‘Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing‘ is one of the most popular English songs in Japan) in a thick katakana accent.
Bonus: Advertising Trucks – The sole purpose of these noisy trucks is to just drive around the most populated areas of Tokyo. They usually just have a giant photo of a boy-band or squeaky-voiced J-Pop girl band on both sides with their latest hit being blurted out at high volume. Irritating and bad for the environment. It’s even worse of you’re unlucky enough to be stuck in traffic next to one!