We just returned not too long ago from a trip back to Tokyo. Since my mother's passing, I am now making efforts to go there a couple of times a year to be with my father. Not a bad way to go. And April is a lovely time. The weather is mild, often pretty sunny. But because we are now going pretty frequently, I am starting to take note of things that I may have missed when I am too distracted by the big changes. On this trip, the thing I noticed that most was the noise. Japanese people like noise. And all the time. It is probably more prominent in Tokyo but even on TV, we like noise. Let me be specific:
1. If you go to a mall type of place, every store is blasting music. Stores in the US have music too but this is different. Some stores in Japan will play the most annoying, in your face, loud whatever as if this is a challenge for the shoppers to stay there and buy things.
2. Probably the noisiest of them all are the electronic stores. We have several chains of these mega electronic shops that has several stores and sells all things electronic. And apparently, they want to turn on every single thing that they are selling and turn it all the way up and just let them go.
3. Markets. Traditional food vendors bark to call in customers. This is an old tradition. It makes the place lively and each has a very specific pitch of voice they use and what they say. What's funny is that this is now carried through to what we call Depa-Chika (department store basements), where an amazing array for foods are displayed for purchase. And they are high quality up scale foods but people are barking as if this is an outdoor market. Right around rush hour when housewives are out looking for stuff for dinner is the noisiest because they are pushing some specific items that are on sale that day. This noise, I don't mind so much.
4. TV. The majority of tv programs play music in the background, except for news--but even news related shows play music in the background while conversations are happening. And sometimes the level is just high enough that I have to strain to hear the dialogue.
5. Subway stations use to ring this jolting alarm to warn people that the doors are closing. But some time during the past 30 years, they switched it over to some musical tones, and it varies depending on what line you are on or what station. (Or some such thing. There is a whole population of train nerds who can tell you more and better, I am sure).
See, someone already did this for me.
I don't expect you to sit through all 11 minutes.
All of that is part of the culture, but I wonder why? On one hand, we are known for our Zen gardens and quiet spirits yet we can't seem to part ourselves from noise making.
During our stay, we took a side trip to Hakone near Mount Fuji. The place is known for it's view and hot springs. My father expressed interest in taking a small trip, so with my brother's family, we went there for a couple of days. We were having a nice lunch by a lake after taking a boat ride (well, it was called a Pirate Ship--not sure why it had such a theme but one does not refuse a chance to go aboard such things, methinks) and it was casual enough place that you ordered and paid for the food up front and they gave you a pager to let you know when it was ready. But it was a pager that beeped. And every single customer had one. So the restaurant not only was playing some muzak but had a constant beeping coming from every table. And to add to this, my 6 year old daughter kept beeping with each beep she heard. It was one of the most noise annoying meals I've ever had in front of a beautiful lake. Not. Relaxing. At. All.
But then later, we saw this out of our car window and all was restored.