Everyday at 5 p.m., the loudspeakers around town play a charming little tune. At first, I thought “well isn’t that a nice little tune,” but as the weeks went on, I wanted to know what purpose it served. End of the workday? Not likely with all of those salarymen shuffling home at 9 p.m.
My Japanese googling skills are getting better and today I finally found the answer, although the next question is why I was thinking about the 5 o’clock song at 9 in the morning.
Turns out, it really is called the 5 O’clock Chime (五時のチャイム or goji no chaimu) and each city has its own version. It’s actually a daily test of the Municipal Disaster Management Radio Communication Network. Much like the Emergency Broadcast System in the U.S., if you hear the chime at any other time than 5 p.m., trouble is a’brewing.
In Kawagoe, our song is called “Wild Rose” (野バラ or nobara). In addition to its official purposes, it’s also a reminder for Japanese children to head home before dark. During the day, public information announcements are played over the loudspeaker as well, although they’re all Japanese to me at this point.
You can listen to “Wild Rose” in the video below.