Sounds of Tokyo 3: The 5 o’clock music

Everyday at 5pm, this song plays out of loudspeakers across Japan. I have heard two stories to explain it. First, the tune is used to test the emergency address system, in which case, I can only hope that the actual warning is less soothing. Second, the daily broadcast is supposed to be a reminder for workers and school children to head home, in which case, it is only played out of cruel irony. No Japanese salaryman worth his salary is finished at 5, and for kids, dusk is simply the time to switch from regular day-school to evening cram-school classes. No one is taking the nursery rhyme literally in my neighborhood:

The sunset is the end of the day,

The bell from the mountain temple rings.

Hand in hand lets go back,

The crows go home together too.

After the children are back home,

A big round moon shines.

When the bird dreams,

The brightness from the stars fills the sky.


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