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What Japan Needs - More Anti-Noise Laws

My image of Japan before moving here was that of a polite and reserved culture that treasures quiet and subtlety.  Boy was I wrong.  Japan can be louder than a rock concert held at a jet engine testing facility, and I'm shocked with what people can get away with here.  While the US strictly enforces various disturbing-the-peace laws, Japan either lacks such laws or fails to enforce them.  Either way, Japan would vastly improve itself if only it could attenuate the volume.

Japan needs to ban noisy political vans.
I dread election season in Japan.  Political party vans suited with massive horn speakers stroll through the neighborhood blasting cacophonic candidate promotion and rambling propaganda.  Multiple vans drown each other out so that any single intended message becomes a eardrum-busting stew of noise.  It's the most obnoxious form of promotion and only encourages the local residents to vote for the candidate NOT doing it.  Tell me--how does annoying your voter base forward your political aspirations?

It's a clear case of preventable noise pollution and should be banned.  Furthermore, levy stiff fines on offenders.  I'm all for the freedom of speech, but it has to come with an opt-out option for those that don't want to listen.  As there is no opt-out with a 5000-watt car PA system that puts any red scare era air raid siren to shame, save our ears and make the practice illegal.

Japan needs to fine and/or arrest noisy motorcycle gangs.
Particularly during the warm summer months, motorcycle gangs (暴走族) mounted on 5000-decibel muffler-less noise-makers stream along favorite roads throughout Japan.  I'm baffled at how they get away with this.  In the US, such Japanese-style bikes with mufflers purposely removed would be impounded and/or ticketed.  Accordingly, the rider would be forced to get the bike's sound output fixed or face license and/or vehicle registration suspension.  A motored vehicle creating an excessive level of noise is unlawful to drive in the USA--and rightfully so.

Not so in Japan.  Again this is a prime example of preventable noise pollution that's allowed to continue.  Local law enforcement is either intimidated by or cannot catch the biker gang offenders.  But that's no excuse.  Japan with all its technology shouldn't even have to pull them over.  Catch them on camera and suspend their riding privileges.  If that doesn't work, suspend their medical insurance, pension, etc.  Make them what they are--criminal leeches that should be punished for the unnecessary burden they place on society.  If anyone could pull it off, hi-tech socialist Japan could.

Sometimes I feel like I'm in a Charles Bronson movie--motorcycle gangs rule the streets and the cops are too afraid to care.  So please, Japan, make it illegal and fine and/or arrest them.  If not, I may just turn vigilante and start clothes-lining them off their bikes.  One ample chain pulled taut across the road would do the trick, right?

To Conclude
I wouldn't live here if Japan weren't a good country.  But a few disturbing-the-peace laws with requisite enforcement would get Japan on the road to being a great country.  I know Japan can do it.  I've seen first-hand the banning of noisy live concerts in public places (Osaka's Umeda district & Tokyo's Hibiya Park, for example).  The more profound question is who's harder to shut up--the biker gangs or the politicians?

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  • Guest - pacific Sanctum

    You are totally right. I would ad, Japanese have no clue about pollution and government is sucking up to motor bike manufacturers. In the end , most folks in Japan are 2 stupid to even think about that. In poor countries, noise is prestige

  • Guest - erick

    About those noisy motorcycle gangs, im pretty sure the law forbids them to do that.
    I once saw two policemen on freaking bicycles trying to catch said gangs on motorcycles and even asked me where they went.
    I was so dumbstruck by this sight,I led them to the opposite direction lol

  • Oh my God! You're my hero! It's really unfair you had to pay that fine, and I hope the neighbors pull together a collection for you. Going forward, I recommend more covert tactics. For example, pour a large pet bottle of urine on their bikes while they're in the 7/11. Or just shove a banana in the tailpipe.

  • Guest - J

    Well, I just found your blog entry after a 2 hour interlude with police over noisy bikers in my area. For months the same bike has been tearing up and down the neighborhood. I went out when the riders were parked and asked them nicely to be quite, but they laughed at the 'dumb gaijin' and so I wrote a detailed description of their bike and them to give to police. The bike had no numberplate, btw.

    Anyway, nothing happened, and then today, that one bike came down the street, incredibly noisy, and it parked in front of the 7/11. I went out there. I shouldn't have, but I had it my mind that I would confront them. There were people on the street talking about the bike and the two boys. I confronted them after buying a few token items to stall for time. I took the boys the photo on the bike and one dismounted and walked away. I shouldn't have, but I followed him, and took his photo too.

    The two boys thought it was a big joke and I approached the rider, but he looked at me in that dismissive way that only we gaijin get from people like him. I was angry and told him that I'd report him with the photos. He laughed, and then suddenly I realised I was grabbing his shoulder and either I pulled him off the bike or he fell and ran, laughing mine you, to the 7/11. He called the police. In the end, after they got their whole gang to come (for moral support, naturally; poor babies) I was interviewed and saw my Japan life screeching to an end.

    I negotiated with the boy I had 'assaulted' to pay for the damages to his bike (oh yeah, when they ran, I kicked it over!) and I think for him to tell his gang to leave (at least our part of) the neighbourhood alone. During this time, an old man came out (he'd clapped when I kicked the bike over) and explained to police that I had done what every person living around here had been fantasising of doing. SO, me, like any righteous hero of legend, paid 100,000 yen to settle the matter.

    A small price to pay? I am not sure. That old man might like to get a few yen from the neighbours and put it in my letter box.

  • Guest - Krys

    You make a great point on both cases.
    My first apartment here in Tokyo was mostly wood-based, and any passing vote-for-me-vote-for-me vans would literally shake the walls, in spite of me closing the windows and shutters and purchasing massively bulky headsets.

    Concerning the bikers, I found it rather hilarious that the clothesline idea came to you as well. In that first apartment, such an idea was always on my mind.

    Actually I once heard that such a trap was set by a youth some years ago.
    Sadly it was not a ridiculously noisy idiot that was caught, instead it was a lone female motorcyclist who lost her life (or so I heard).

    Moving on though, another noise-based problem that scores not too highly on the decibel chart is one that I find nevertheless exasperating around the city, especially on public transport. There are plenty of commonly followed public transport "moral suggestions" such as not chatting openly on the phone, keeping your headset volume down enough so as not to share the treble with the rest of the passengers, and even not doing your make-up on the way to work...
    Yet it seems to be perfectly acceptable to clear the back of one's throat or nasal cavity longly and loudly, or otherwise be constantly sucking the individual bits of food out from between one's teeth, right by the next person's ear, and oh yes, longly and loudly once again.
    Although I don't think there should necessarily be a law against this, if they are willing to make cute posters to battle taking a subtle sip of your Sprite whilst on the train, they might as well do one to silence these foul, noisy old men as well. Yes!

    Now I normally have respect for my fellow Japanese for being so reasonable and understanding (in other situations), but it seems as though a few too many are taking advantage of the 'avoid speaking to strangers' culture to be a bit of a public nuisance.

  • Guest - Colin

    I have to agree with you on the politicians (we get them here is quiet rural Niigata also); however, maybe rather oddly I actually like the sound of motorcycle engines (I like good drummers also). Maybe pointing out the damage it does to the engine eventually will wean a few of em off the practice of removing mufflers. But I wouldnt advertise using sea fishing line between lamp posts either; people actually criminalise such behaviour. ;)