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Thread: Do you find life in Japan noisier or quieter than other places where you have lived ?

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Arrow Do you find life in Japan noisier or quieter than other places where you have lived ?

    Everyone has a different sensibility to noise. However, I have noticed that this sensibility can also be influenced by cultural factors (or just the environment in which one grew up). For example, in some parts of Germany it is prohibited by law to have a shower between 10pm and 6am (or something like that) so as not to disturb neighbours trying to sleep. Some cities even forbid dogs from barking between these hours !

    Recently some Japanese told me that they found that "foreigners were noisy". I don't know how they could talk about "foreigners" as if they were all similar, but that's typical of Japanese people to see "foreigners" as one monolithic group. Whatever. I was quite surprised by this assumption, as I personally found the Japanese to be among the noisiest people in the developed world after the Americans, and maybe the Italians and Spaniards.

    In fact it is not that simple to determine which society tends to be the most noisy, even having lived in the countries compared. The reason is that there are many sorts of noises, and some people can withstand very well some particular noises, but be very irritated by others.

    Here are some kinds of noises which I found more annoying in Tokyo that what I used to be :

    - Drunk people talking loudly in the streets almost every evening (about from 8pm to midnight), and especially and Friday night. One of the reasons is that I live in a lively district with lots of "nomiya" (drinking places) and "izakaya" (pubs).

    - People in restaurants, especially izakayas. I was brought up with the idea that restaurants were civilized places to discuss quietly (i.e. the image people usually have of French restaurants). In Japan it is closer to the concept of Roman orgy with loud laughing and people collapsing as they try to make their way out. It's probably cultural as the average Japanese behaviour in most TV shows is similar (lots of shouting and loud laughing).

    - Vans, trucks or cars passing around advertising something in loudspeakers. They also exist where I come from but are not as frequent or as noisy. In Tokyo they pass almost everyday around my house. Everyday a different one : used electronics, vendors of ice cream, gyoza, ramen or yaki-imo, nationalists in black vans, and this week politicians campaigning for the local elections (the worst ! Today I thought they were shouting in loudspeakers just at my window, but they were still 50m away !).

    - Ambulances, police, etc. Never understand why ambulances had to perforate people's eardrums when they are supposed to be caring about people's health. The major problem is that in Tokyo I hear them almost everyday, sometimes up to 4x a day. (=> see article 90% of ambulances dispatched in Tokyo are for non emergencies )

    - Pachinko parlours. They sometimes make me jump out of my skin when someone open the door while I am passing by. I can't believe that people can actually stay inside these places without going permanently deaf. Maybe that is why I find Japanese people so noisy, given the incredible number of pachinkos everywhere (at least 5 big ones only around my station).

    - Neighbours. Walls are usually very thin in Japan and not noise-proff at all. I can hear everytime one neighbours open or close their door, have an argument, watch TV, etc. And I don't even live in an apartment ! It's not that annoying, but I am definitely not used to it.


    Other noises which I don't mind in Japan :

    - Cars. There is usually less horning than in Europe (and not just Italy).

    - Music, jingles, annoucements, welcome message, etc. in big electronic shops, dept. stores, stations, etc. Noisy, but not annoyingly so.

    I'd like to remind people that, although I grew up in the countryside, I have lived in several big cities (London, Berlin, Rome, Barcelona) before coming to Japan.

    The above mentioned noises for Tokyo are worse than what I have experienced elsewhere. Italian and Spanish cities suffer a lot from cars horning, but at least there are no loudspeakers everywhere or pachinkos.

    As for people talking loudly in public places, the Americans (well a representative portion, not all) can be notoriously noisy. I remember a few times in Japan when someone "shouted" to order a drink in a cafe (well, they probably talked normally by their standard, but so loud that everyone, including me, turned to watch), and everytime they were Americans (I could tell from the accent, corpulence and dressing style).

    To those who have lived or stayed long enough in Japan, how would you compare "noise" in Japan with what you were used to where you grew up or lived before ?
    Last edited by Maciamo; Jul 4, 2005 at 11:27.

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  2. #2
    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Recently some Japanese told me that they found that "foreigners were noisy". I don't know how they could talk about "foreigners" as if they were all similar, but that's typical of Japanese people to see "foreigners" as one monolithic group.
    I don't mind being a "foreigner" and I don't even mind being viewed as part of a monolithic group all that much.

    But it seems to me the question "Do you find life in Japan...." requires us to swing the generalization pendulum to the opposite extreme of the arc and define "Japan" as "the little corner I am in". And the "....at home" portion seems to indicate that "home" is not (or can not?) be Japan.

    I know that's not what you meant, and that your full post clearly makes your point. I just wanted to take a look at the underlying meanings/assumptions included in text we dash off hastily on the way to somewhere else.

  3. #3
    Economist in Residence lonesoullost3's Avatar
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    When I visited Japan I was actually surprised at how quiet it was. For example, take the subways, shinkansen and train. Even then the trains were full, I thought I was breaking the silence when I was talking under my breath to my dad! In the main streets of Tokyo, even the noise from cars is quieter than I thought it would be. I'd definitely agree that the Pachinko parlors are insanely loud. I think part of the reason why I thought it was quiet was because I took into account the population density. For 20 million people in the area of Tokyo it's very very quiet.

    Of course, you sound like you have much more experience in Japan than I do - I only had the chance to visit for five days.
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    Junior Member DoctorP's Avatar
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    I grew up in the countryside, so I am particular to more quiet conditions. I will say that I find Japan much louder than LA and San Diego or even Atlanta. IMHO many Japanese are much louder than Americans, but we Americans tend to be more rude. (which makes us stand out more)

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    Five times to Japan. ArmandV's Avatar
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    Some sections, like Shibuya, are noisy. There's lots of music and different noises coming from stores. I found Shibuya crossing to be especially noisy. Still, in rural areas, it is as quiet as Kansas.

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    Economist in Residence lonesoullost3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArmandV
    as quiet as Kansas.
    hahahaha. That's one to add to the book of similes.

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    Villain Iron Chef's Avatar
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    I live on the outskirts of Fukuoka now and there are only two real things that irk me to no end.

    1) Nearby (about two blocks away) is a home that has a rooster for a friggin' pet! Having such pets in a residential zone is against the law in my State back home. Damn thing`s sole purpose is to apparently annoy the **** out of me and me alone (apparently). Morning, noon, day, or night this bird just will not stop... Would be a shame if something misfortunate were to happen... say in the middle of the night. 8-p

    2) Punkass wannabes who think they are cut out to be Bosozoku on their little 250cc scooters (not even a real bike no less...) cruising up and down "the gut" trying to impress their buddies. I don't know who's worse, these kids or the no-brain cops who trail behind them at a leisurely pace with full sirens blaring at 3am. Oy vey... pull'em over or let'em go already, sheesh.

    Aside from that though, it's definitely much quieter here in Japan than back home (for the most part).

  8. #8
    Five times to Japan. ArmandV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lonesoullost3
    hahahaha. That's one to add to the book of similes.
    You must be from Kansas.

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    Your Goddess is here Ma Cherie's Avatar
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    Yeah, it's fairly quiet here in the midwest.
    I would think it'd be noisy in Japan, since alot of people seem to live in citites.
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    Anjin Brooker's Avatar
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    Much noisier!! All the announcements and jingles used to drive me crazy.
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    Regular Member Pararousia's Avatar
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    I was only there 9-10 days but there wasn't anything particularly noisey that caught my attention except for the duck-size crows! We have lots of song birds around here, and I didn't hear a single song bird while I was there. In fact I think I only saw crows, pigeons and one other small bird. Those crows are gigantic!

    My only other comment is that we were in a bedroom separated from the rest of the house by rice-paper(?) walls. I was very well aware of how sound carried throughout the house! Insulated walls, as in my house here in the U.S., are a good thing! *L*

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    Regular Member misa.j's Avatar
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    Yeah, noise is everywhere.

    I think it has something to do with how Japanese don't like to leave things alone as the way they are; just like how they fill up the empty spaces with the display shelves in a tiny coffe shop.

    One of the worst noises I remember is the very dramatic song that was played through a speaker for half an hour every Wednesday night when the truck from a co-op came to sell stuff to people lived in a Danchi near my apartment.

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    Villain Iron Chef's Avatar
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    Reminds me of the yaki imo van that trolls my neighborhood at night. I've got that recording burned into my brain now...

  14. #14
    Economist in Residence lonesoullost3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArmandV
    You must be from Kansas.
    Nope, California , but I've driven through Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa....there really isn't anything there but corn and wheatfields. Haha

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    Quote Originally Posted by Iron Chef
    Reminds me of the yaki imo van that trolls my neighborhood at night. I've got that recording burned into my brain now...
    Ah...the yaki imo van..."Yakiimo...Yakiimo..."
    During first month in Tokyo when I heard that van, I thought that the driver was singing the song. Later in the same day (and in a different part of Tokyo) I heard the same song, and thought, "God he really gets around!"

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    Maciamo, this is so bizarre because I was just mentioning this very obversation to a friend of mine.

    From the "duck-size crows" (Pararousia) to the "punkass wannabes" on their 250cc scooters (Iron Chef), this place is damn noisy. And living in Shibuya, all that noise seems to be amplified.

    Here's my list:
    - The "IRASHAIMASE!" and "ARIGATOUGOZAIMASU!!" upon entering and leaving all manner of shops. It's the way they shout it that puts me off-guard.
    - The constant reminders to be safe, be it at the aiport, train station, revolving doors (I later learned the reason for the last one).
    - Loud Techno or Hip-Hop Music blaring out of the shops

  17. #17
    Japaustralian jieshi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iron Chef
    I live on the outskirts of Fukuoka now and there are only two real things that irk me to no end.

    1) Nearby (about two blocks away) is a home that has a rooster for a friggin' pet! Having such pets in a residential zone is against the law in my State back home. Damn thing`s sole purpose is to apparently annoy the **** out of me and me alone (apparently). Morning, noon, day, or night this bird just will not stop... Would be a shame if something misfortunate were to happen... say in the middle of the night. 8-p

    2) Punkass wannabes who think they are cut out to be Bosozoku on their little 250cc scooters (not even a real bike no less...) cruising up and down "the gut" trying to impress their buddies. I don't know who's worse, these kids or the no-brain cops who trail behind them at a leisurely pace with full sirens blaring at 3am. Oy vey... pull'em over or let'em go already, sheesh.

    Aside from that though, it's definitely much quieter here in Japan than back home (for the most part).
    I live in a pretty similar area on kyushuu as well. Only difference is, the rooster in my street is across the road from me (aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah). My street is generally really quiet, so quiet that if someone is walking along or making the slightest noise, you are going to hear it. Then you move away from my house into the main town. For a samll rural city, I am actually really suprised at the amount of noise that is made. But noise doesn't bother me too much, I adjust quickly and don't let things bother me
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    I jump to conclusions mad pierrot's Avatar
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    And I live in a small town in Wakayama, to boot.

    What gets me is the damn music they play all day long on the shopping street. It's the same awful, rehashed elevator music all week long. Combine that with all the loud kids on bikes, the stupid yaki imo truck song, the public service announcements, stray cats mewling at night, the ridiculous amount of summer cidadas, door to door salesmen yelling at the top of their lungs so the old people can hear them, and all the kids who yell "Ora, gaijin ya!" when they see me.


    No peace and quiet in my neighborhood.

    Now, here's what makes my life hell. I live directly across from a large elementary school. Right in front of the playground, in fact. Of course kids are playing there at every hour of the day, all days of the week. This means everytime I leave my house, or look out of my kitchen window for that matter, I get greeted by a chorus of "Joe-Sensei YA!" I stopped wearing just underwear in my house because of that. Next, because it's such a small town I live in, I see my students everywhere. At the supermarket, train station, etc. This wouldn't normally be a problem. Except my students aren't normal. They like to sneak up on me and Kancho me. Either that or scream at the top of their lungs and point at me. I almost dropped a quart of milk once after a kid screamed behind me.



    It was cute the first few times but 2 years later it's driving me nuts. I can't even take a sh*t in piece anymore.

    -------------------RANT OVER---------------------------------

  19. #19
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mad pierrot
    What gets me is the damn music they play all day long on the shopping street. It's the same awful, rehashed elevator music all week long. Combine that with all the loud kids on bikes, the stupid yaki imo truck song, the public service announcements, stray cats mewling at night, the ridiculous amount of summer cidadas, door to door salesmen yelling at the top of their lungs so the old people can hear them, and all the kids who yell "Ora, gaijin ya!" when they see me.
    You've just described my neighbourhood in Tokyo. The worst in the list are no doubt the yelling salesmen. Not only is there lots of deaf "baba" around my house (about every inhabited house), but what really piss me off is when they come ringing at my door, and I can't even ignore them as they see the light inside and ring again, and again. Then when I fnally go open the door to see what's the emergency, they all make a strange face and say in an embarassed air "aah, gaijin da !" (oh, that's a foreigner !) and walk away without even bothering to say what they came for ! The stereotype of the polite Japanese certainly does not apply to door-to-door sales people ! :

    It was cute the first few times but 2 years later it's driving me nuts. I can't even take a sh*t in piece anymore.
    After 4 years, you'll have an idea of how I feel some days. Add to this stupid policemen who stopped me to check my bicycle registration or alien registration card (7 times in total) for absolutely no reason, old grandmas in my neighbourhood who still look at me with evil eyes as if I had raped and murdered their daughters and was going to do the same to them in a fit of dementia, just to be asked by the next friendly people I meet if after 4 years in Japan I can use chopsticks or sleep on a futon.

    The problem is that it never stops, anywhere you go in Japan. I've come to realise that these smalls things acted on the life of a foreigner in Japan a bit like lifting a dumb-bell that is just right for your strength. The first 10 or 20 times you lift it, it's very easy to bear. Then you start to feel your muscle aching, and at every new flexion of the arm the pain becomes more intolerable until it becomes a torture. The idea is to take some "rests" and start again once we have recovered. Maybe that is why I have just spent 6 weeks outside Japan, and it did feel better afterwards. But right now it feels like the day after exercising, when your muscle ache when doing nothing and you shouldn't try to lift more weights until a few days if you don't want to tear a muscle.

    --------end of rant--------

  20. #20
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    Japanese NOISE is always grating and of a treble or high treble sound (shouting through loudhailers (same as N. Koreans do ..by the way!) everything is in the upper register....from squealing Avextrax artistes to those KAWA...iiii television presenters who annoy us everyday because they think they are still working in some Ginza "mizu-shobai" where you must speak with such an excruciatingly high voice. Jeezus Japs ...bring it into the lower register a bit....will ya?

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    On Sunday there is a sad truck which comes SHOUTING at 8:00 AM and the sightly retarded truck owner leaves the loud hailer repeating and repeating while he picks up old junk ("steleo Ampu, Air con, Bi-shikkuru, Commpuutaa, Terrebbee, etc.) are these people truly retarded or WHAT? There is a time for business and there is a time for rest.
    Last edited by Maciamo; Aug 18, 2005 at 12:06. Reason: offensive

  22. #22
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    Japanese cities are definitely pretty noisy places during most hours of the day. Recently in Sapporo, the sound trucks have been starting to become rather irritating since now the good weather is here, they literally park next to Odori Koen (the main park in the center of town) and blare out some kind of propaganda for about 1-2 hours during lunchtime. It's particularly annoying that just when you get a chance to take a break from work, and want to sit in the park and enjoy a peaceful lunch in the sunshine you have it ruined by having to listen to the amplified ranting of some politician or other on a daily basis.

    Some noise I like though. I haven't lived in Tokyo for a couple of years, but when I did, I found the pumping music, shouting waiters and constant tannoy announcements in places like Shinjuku/Shibuya made the place really come alive and gave it a feel almost like you've stepped into anime!
    Last edited by Maciamo; Aug 18, 2005 at 12:07.

  23. #23
    The Wonderer Nebiki's Avatar
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    I've read the some of the rural parts of Japan are rather quiet and undeveloped. Is this true?

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    Absolutely. People often talk as if there are two Japans. The city and the country. The country is much quieter and sometimes feels like it's from a different era. However, it still seems that you're never more than about 10 minutes from the nearest Lawson!

  25. #25
    JREF Resident Alien Pachipro's Avatar
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    Now back on subect. I lived in the suburbs of Tokyo and my apartment was a 7 min walk from the train station. When we visit, it is to the same area. Other than a snack that opened up across the street, and the paper thin walls, it was, for the most part, pretty quiet when I had my own place; away from the hustle and bustle of the area around the train station.

    There are plenty of sounds I look back on with fond memories.

    Those huge crows cawing in the morning.

    The sound of a motorcycle delivering papers at 2 or 3 in the morning.

    The song the driver of the kerosene truck always played: "It's a small, small, world we live in...." Jeeze, that song stayed in your head all day!

    The song that the driver selling clothes poles played: "Somewhere over the Rainbow"

    The yaki imo guy: Yakiii imo, ishi yaki imo." These are sweet potatoes cooked on rocks.

    The volunteers walking around the neighborhood on winter nights yelling, "Hi no yoooooji," Be careful of fires, and slapping two sticks together.

    The distant ambulances and police cars screeming through the night. There seemed to be at least one a night.

    The occassional car speeding down the narrow streets at night making the apartment shake.

    What I really didn't like was the jets from Atsugi US Navy base that screamed over the area in the mornings and shook all the houses. The sound was really irritating, especially when it continued for two or three hours.

    I always enjoyed the noises and sounds around the station and in department stores.

    The sounds of the waiters in the Izakaya or aka chochin yelling out their orders to the kitchen, "Dai Jokki icho onegaishimasu," One large draft beer!

    But compared to where I live in the states, Japan is a much noiser place, and I really don't mind it. Here the department stores, malls and restaurants are so quiet by comparison. Too quiet.

    To think of it I really can't come up with any noises that irritated be about Japan other than the jets.
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