Calling All Citizens

Mar 24, 2021Blog, Culture

Calling All Citizens

The very first time one became aware of the ubiquitous Japanese public address system was sitting inside an old farmhouse.

The old black phone started to chime… ding dong ding….

classic black telephone

A voice came from the great beyond delivering a stoic message broadcast directly via the farmer’s very own black telephone echoing throughout the rural farmhouse.

“This is the your local municipal office with an announcement.”

An amazing system of days gone by for sure.

All citizens of any particular neighbourhood, get a direct message from their village, town, or city office via the community public address system.

Now isn’t this a great way to keep the community tightly knit?

As with many things in this digital age, the black telephones have now been relegated to the history of analogue devices.

smart phone garbage heap

However, there are still independent speakers dotting all neighbourhoods throughout Japan, and one can hear the chime before the message from the municipal office echos throughout the land.

One sometimes hear a message about an elderly person with dementia wandering off and becoming lost.

The message asks all of the locals in the area to be on the lookout for a lost-looking elderly Japanese citizen with dementia.

Often there is follow-up announcement thanking everyone for their cooperation, and reporting that the elderly dementia citizen has been found and returned to their home safely.


One recalls just after the pandemic announced in April 2020, there was a quite dystopian-like long announcement encouraging everyone to return to their homes by 17:00 as a rule, and also talked about counter-measures to take against the pandemic.

One believes these message bring a peace of mind (安心 anshin) to the Japanese, a very important feeling for Japanese to be sure.

One also find it delightful when the song Edelweiss comes on the public address system instead of the regular chime, and all know it’s 12 o’clock, and time for lunch.

The community-wide public address system will then chime again at 17:00, where schools children know it’s time to go home.

Unlike where one grew up, where mother would bellow out the front door, “time for dinner.”

One would have to say, the Japanese community public address system is very important not only to disseminate information, but as a reinforcement of the bond to one’s own community.

tightly knit community