I often run into simple reminders about how close this society is to being under military rule. This past weekend was the summer festival in our neighborhood. I was away and couldn’t attend and unfortunately, for everyone else here, it was rained out. They did prepare for the festival, and in doing so the people in charge flicked some switch at the community center to enable the PA system that is usually muted. Apparently someone forgot to flick it off.
I came home the day after, and had a chuckle at the 6pm recorded announcement from the megaphone just above my house, bellowing that all children and seniors should return home for the evening because it was getting late. The 9pm announcement, bidding everyone goodnight and telling us to go to bed, was a little less funny as it woke of of my kids.
The PA system is connected to city hall, which runs these announcements as a service for the neighborhoods…and each neighborhood can choose to keep it turned on or not. I guess the decision is made by whoever is in charge of the neighborhood that year (households take turns each year being the ones in charge). I’m guessing that my town isn’t the only town that provides this service, and I also guess that there always hasn’t been the option to switch it off. Well, ok, both aren’t a guess, I know them to be true.
Before the person in charge had a chance to switch off the feed, the morning announcements were run: 6am the chimes went off, and at 6:30 Radio Taiso (morning exercises to an audio recording that must have been styled during the war years and has never been updated – listen here) pierced my ears for about 15 minutes. For one day, I felt like I was living in a barracks, being told when to eat, sleep, and get up. Not such an inconvenience, as it was only one day…but…it gave me a shake to think that such a military rule is only a flick of the switch away. In fact, it’s running each and every day, underlying the communication routes and cultural infrastructure. It’s not quite communism, but reminds me that Japan isn’t quite democracy either.
As bad blood heats up between Japan and China lately, I wish some of these old leftovers from decades past would just go away. Some of these guys here, and some of their ideas need to advance, for the sake of everyone. Both countries are determined to have that switch ready, rather than just get rid of it.