The Disconnect

One of the first things that I noticed on my first visit to Japan in 2006 was how loud everything was. Regardless of where you went, speakers would shout information at you with 100 decibels or more in order to drown out some of the other speakers that would shout information at you. The trains are loud. The traffic is loud. The advertisements are loud. It's no wonder that people generally try to ignore every sound when outside of their home with headphones becuase so much of what is projected at us is not information, per se, but raw, unfiltered, semi-coherent noise.

In North America and Europe, when people want to point fingers at who's to blame for incessant noise, it's generally males in their 20s who receive the bulk of the blame. It's no wonder, either, given the non-zero percentage of young adults who listen to music as loudly as possible and drive cars that scream for attention. There's plenty of young noise-makers in Japan, too. That said, the worst offenders of noise pollution are not only old enough to know better, but generally wealthy enough to have a decent education. I speak, of course, of politicians and political hopefuls.

Every time an election is around the corner, vehicles outfitted with megaphones start making their way around neighbourhoods. The script is largely the same regardless of which person is running for office. It generally goes something like this:


Kato Yuuji Driving Around in a Megaphone Van

If the political hopeful is actually in the vehicle -- which is not always the case becuase any group of minions could drive a whole fleet of megaphone cars, leaving the politician the opportunity to just focus on appearing in high-traffic areas -- then they'll usually be seen waving out the window, their white-gloved hand going back and forth in a manner that clearly shows they're tired and suffering from RSI. Others will try to shake up the standard repeating message by pausing the tape and ad libbing something or other, usually saying which local elementary school they went to or why we should vote for them over the other carbon-copy hopefuls1.

Should I ever run for office in this country, the first order of business will be to outlaw megaphone trucks. These things were introduced in the 20th century as an easy way to broadcast information throughout a community disconnected from the rest of the country by radio-absorbing mountains and have been bastardized ever since.

Of course, should I ever run for office in this country, the second order of business will be to enact strict volume limitations on everything2. There is no excuse for the number of decibels that assault our ears on a daily basis.

What's frustrating is that I am not the only resident of Japan to think this way. None of the neighbours I've spoken to like the megaphone trucks. None of them see the need given that our mailboxes are generally overflowing with political pamphlets and post cards with the exact same message that is broadcasted by the invasive vehicles. Rarely will a person ever go out to meet with a political hopeful as they're driving around and rarely will a megaphone truck stop even if people did want to chat or ask questions. The whole effort is a waste of time and money.

As an immigrant, I've tried to be patient and accepting of the general standards and traditions of this country. That said, there are some things that are simply inexcusable. Noise pollution for asinine bullshit is one of them.

  1. Every person may be a unique individual, but every politician is exactly the same as the next one. Every. Single. One. The same slogans. The same lies. The same track records. The same "scandals". The only difference between a newly elected official and an experienced one is their age.

  2. After these two things are enacted, I could coast for the rest of my term and retire in comfort with a full pension and all medical expenses covered.