Soundtrack of a megacity
Seven weeks in Tokyo - Susan Kolac-Lang, Human Resources, has already told us how she experienced her time as a trainee at the company headquarters. Read here what else impressed her in her everyday life in the metropolis.
"What do you miss most over here at Tokyo?," I was sometimes asked by my Japanese colleagues when I was a trainee with them for seven weeks. Hardly anything, to be honest - I took to this city like a duck to water and absorbed so many new impressions that I didn't even think about it!
What surprised me, however, was once again the intensity of the sensory impressions that Tokyo has to offer. I didn't remember this so much from my first two short visits, whether on a business trip or on vacation. You can imagine that it's not quiet there - after all, almost 14 million people live in Tokyo, and the available space is limited. Expect your auditory sense to be challenged in this megacity, which has its very own "soundtrack": On my way to the office, I crossed large traffic junctions that are secured by traffic lights, zebra crossings and an additional acoustic signal in the form of a "cuckoo" sound. In addition to the virtual birds, there are also real crows everywhere with their typical calls which have literally become a plague in Tokyo, as they attack the rubbish provided for collection.
Emergency vehicles not only use the usual sirens, but also megaphones to ask for caution and apologize for the inconvenience. Whichever store I was in, I was welcomed friendly and loudly with "Irasshaimase! In the shop itself, besides the in-house recognition melody, promotion for two or three products or services is often heard - simultaneously and audibly.
Arrived in the open-plan office, in which about 120 colleagues grouped into 10 islands dedicate themselves to work, the gong sounds at 9:00 a.m. at the start of work, at the beginning and end of the one-hour lunch break, and finally at the official closing time at 5:45 p.m.
No matter how much the colleagues discipline themselves - a certain background murmur cannot be avoided, accompanied from time to time by a "Haai, haai" softly whispered into the pone by a colleague opposite of me, an energetic, loud one by the colleague behind me or an empathetic reaction expressed audibly (“höööööö?!”) next to me, or by handling the metal drawers of the desks. That's where my noise cancellation headphones gave up.
There are particularly lively districts such as Shibuya with its famous giant intersection or "Electric Town" Akihabara, which, in addition to numerous electronics shops, has many cafés, anime shops and pachinko halls - when their doors open, the noise of the slot machines penetrates the street.
A moment of peace in this city - where can you find it? Even the supposedly "quiet little place" is a no-no in this country, because the "Otohime" ("noise princess") is already waiting there - at least in the ladies' washroom: a sensor-controlled device that simulates a murmuring brook so that women can “water the flowers” unheard by others.
So where can you enjoy some silence in this metropolis?
When you are out in daylight, the garden of a temple is a good choice: it is soothingly quiet in the middle of the city, and the landscaped garden provides a pleasant moment of privacy.
But what to do when it is already dark after work? Where you least expect it, silence suddenly reigns: in the subway! It is considered impolite to speak or telephone there. It's accordingly quiet if you're lucky to use a metro line that is not so much frequented. Apparently it is not only me who has a need for a quiet moment – especially commuters with long distances like to use the time for a nap. Only station announcements and the cheerful jingles that characterize the Tokyo subway lines accompany every stop.
As unusual as the soundtrack of this city may be - I love it and have missed it longingly since I returned home after my trainee program!