Home > Focus on Japan 2007 > The Barrage Begins

The Barrage Begins

April 16th, 2007

I love a lot of things about Japan. I love the peaceful aspects of the country, the general hands-off character to its religious side, the less confrontational interpersonal habits, and the many differences between its culture and my own which provide fascination as well as entertainment. I love some very specific aspects about Japan, including how there are a lot more people in stores who can help you and how far they’ll go sometimes to help you; how Japanese public restroom stalls are fully closed-off and private; I love Mt. Fuji, and I love the shopping streets with their varied little stores. I love the fact that English is supported so well here (and how it is sometimes mangled). I love to just go out and walk or drive in a random direction and discover new stuff.

But there are things you hate, too, just like any other country. And at or near the top of my list is those goddamned loudspeaker trucks. I know I’ve blogged on this before, but a little more depth this time. (And sorry for saturating the page with images, between this post and the recipe.)


In Japanese elections, politicians have a lot of restrictions which seem good on their surface–such as no television advertising, no plastering their posters everywhere and anywhere, and so on. Not that this really stops corruption. And one other thing it does is limit what the candidates can do to gain recognition: ride around in loudspeaker trucks all day blaring at huge volumes. What makes it worse: I’m paying for the damned things. That’s right–candidates get anywhere from ¥250,000 to ¥450,000 (roughly $2000 to $4000) of taxpayer money to pay for the trucks that wake those same taxpayers (including me) up way earlier than we’d like to–and then to keep blaring away, all day long, without a break.

This whole setup just baffles me. I can understand Japanese people not complaining when this happens–that’s simply part of the cultural landscape (although Sachi tells me that people sometimes do complain, like the two older ladies in the office she temps at). But how do these bastard politicians get away with cruising through crowded neighborhoods at 9:00 am on a Sunday morning (like they did last Sunday), blaring away on their loudspeaker trucks at top volume, and not have the locals get so pissed off that they’d at least withhold their votes? Seriously, do they actually gain votes by waking people up like that?

And yet not only is it happening, it is happening in spades. Almost everyone on the ballot is out there. Over the last two days, I’ve been going to the window as often as I can get around to it to snap photos of whoever is being an ass at that moment. In this election, there are two candidates for mayor, and 24 for city council. See the roster below (the main board can be enlarged by clicking on it):

0407-Inagi Councilboard-4500407-Inagi Mayorboard-310

So far, I have caught 16 different candidates rolling up and down the street. In small form (though each pic is in fact 450 x 310 pixels):

In that armada are both mayoral candidates and 14 of the 24 council candidates. As for the other ten, I would bet good money that either I missed them, or they just haven’t gotten around to this neighborhood yet. Almost always, the trucks carry the candidates themselves, and there’s a lot of city to cover. Even so, with 26 candidates running around, they must be very efficient, as there appears to be more than enough time for there to be at least one truck in the area every few minutes–and every so often, two or even three trucks in the same vicinity, as these images of trucks passing each other show:



Nevertheless, they also somehow find time to make their way into each and every parking lot for every apartment building, and cruise through at a snail’s pace whilst blaring away as loud as ever:

Note that the green truck at the bottom right of the above four photos is the exact same truck used four years ago when I first blogged on this annoyance. A lot of the vehicles are perennials, though some of the candidates who always seem to appear have upgraded their vehicles and their loudspeakers.

Oh, by the way, note that I have not taken the trouble to blank out any of the politician’s license plates (though I have taken care to do so for other vehicles). If someone finds a way to use those numbers to harass the politicians in some way, I ain’t losing any sleep over it. In fact, it is a bit of a fantasy of mine to hire a loudspeaker truck for one week, and immediately following the elections, when the candidate is trying to rest and wind down, to go in front of their house, and for one week, from 8am to 8pm, blare out at maximum volume, “GOOD MORNING!! I AM AN ANGRY RESIDENT!! I JUSTED WANTED TO SHOW YOU HOW FREAKING ANNOYING THIS IS!! GAMBATTE KUDASAI!! ARIGATO GOZAIMASU!!” Over and over and over and over again, for a whole week. See how long it takes them to call the police and complain. Not that the police would do anything if a citizen called, but I betcha they’d move their asses if a city councilperson did. That’s Democracy for ya.

And it’s not even limited to politicians: I even spotted an issue truck, apparently not attached to any party or candidate, just screaming on about what issues they wanted talked about. [Late edit: a closer inspection of the mayoral candidate’s truck shows that on the inside of his truck-top facade, only visible from a height, were similar banners to what is seen on the issue truck. Fair game? Or are they breaking some rules here? — later edit: the issue van is back again the next day, with a different facade; I listened more closely, and found that they are campaigning for both “Okada” candidates, presumably father and son.]


And it’s even worse sometimes, when the politicians decide that they like your abode so much, they just can’t resist parking, getting out of the truck, and making a 15-minute long speech, just for you.



This following photo was interesting–it was Fujii, who parked in a local square and made a speech to a crowd. The thing is, it could not have looked more fake. The audience was lined up along the walkway all nice and neat, nobody left for the duration of the speech, and they all clapped on cue–while actual residents just walked by, completely ignoring the little play. Obviously the supporters were bused in in order to make it look like the candidate could draw a crowd.


Obviously, this system isn’t working. Maybe they should change the laws so as to just let people advertise on TV–but only X minutes per election cycle per candidate, at set rates. Subsidize the damn thing with my taxpayer money if you have to. But just get these damned yammerheads to shut the hell up. At least within the walls of my own residence.

image from Mainichi Shimbun

Surprisingly, the politicians actually seem aware that they are annoying the hell out of people: there are at least ten candidates in the region who have joined a coalition of candidates who refuse to use loudspeaker trucks. They still use mics and boom boxes, but otherwise are relatively inoffensive, pedaling around on bicycles to talk to citizens. Much better! I hope to god that all ten candidates run away with victories and it sets off a new trend. Not that I actually expect that to happen. But you can dream, can’t you?

Thank all that is good and holy for one thing: campaign law also says that the candidates can not go around in the loudspeaker trucks before the official election campaign period (usually about 10-14 days) begins. But that one or two weeks can be hell. Forget about sleeping in. I myself have one more full week of this crap to endure before it ends.

Other resources:

Next-day Update: Three more of the politicians so far have added to their names of the obnoxious, making 19 different local politicians out of the 26 running who have no respect for their constituent’s peace of mind. The seven six five four non-offenders so far are Sawaki, Tarao, Harada, Kusuhara, Igawa, Harashima, and one of the Watanabes. [Update: I am removing the people from the list who later show up in their trucks.]

The worst offenders: the Okadas, mayoral challenger Takao and his (apparently) son Manabu, both members of the Japan Communist Party. Their vans are the loudest and most persistent in this area, coming around more than any other candidates, stopping to make speeches and driving through parking lots. They also apparently own the “issue” truck that has made multiple appearances as well.

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  1. April 17th, 2007 at 17:57 | #1

    Your location must be particularly attractive to such trucks. We rarely hear them despite being so close to a very big and well-traveled street. I guess they favor the areas with more residential housing over areas in the center with a bigger ratio of businesses to residences.

  2. Luis
    April 17th, 2007 at 18:04 | #2

    Pretty much so–something I noted in my first post on this four years ago. This is a high-rise area; one pass through must be in earshot of thousands of people.

    In contrast, you’re on a tiny street deep enough in to the neighborhood that even when the politicians’ trucks go by on the major road on their way to other areas, you probably don’t hear them so loudly. I have no shield like you do between me and the street (and just as little between me and the parking lot).

  3. K. Engels
    April 19th, 2007 at 05:07 | #3

    Must be interesting living in a country where the Communist Party actually runs their own candidates, unlike the CPUSA which just says vote for the Democratic Party’s candidates.

    Couldn’t you just find a pair of shobijin to summon Mothra and have her carry off the offending vans. ;p

  4. Jon Nelson
    April 23rd, 2007 at 19:12 | #4

    These trucks go up and down my street too, a narrow residential street in Shiga prefecture. A few times, I have gone out in the street, just before they came down the street, stood in the center and made various hand gestures to get them to shut up. It might have been a coincidence, but after the first time I did this, I didn’t hear any loudspeaker trucks on our street for the rest of the election. In this last election, I missed the trucks a few times and then caught one in time. They turned off their loudspeaker until they had gone past me, and then turned it back on. Oh well.

    I like your idea about renting a truck to serenade a politician’s house. A cheaper method might be to counter-blare a message at them when they come by (with a highly directional loudspeaker, or just press your car horn (if you have a car). But, as with my method of using hand gestures, it is hard to get out on the street in time.


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