Sound – onkyou おんきょう

By: Rora

Sep 22 2010


Category: Japan

1 Comment

Universal Sounds

Daytime around the apartment, a person is using an electric saw in the distance. Other days there are noises of weedwackers. Airplanes sound overhead. There’s a dog down the street. If I close my eyes, it doesn’t feel too different than anywhere else I’ve lived. Less loud, maybe, but the same noises accumulate in similar patterns. The only thing that can break that spell, when I am sitting around the house, is the bug that sounds like a dolphin. Maybe it’s a bird. But I’ve never heard anything quite like it before.

Local Sounds

The crosswalks here play music when it’s safe to cross the street. There are two tunes: happy and sad. Both are adapted from Japanese folk songs, one of which is Toryanse, an old children’s song. The song accompanies a London bridges style game involving passing by and running and catching. After hearing them a few times, both the happy and sad versions got stuck in my head, and have yet to leave my head, and I wonder if they ever will. I’ll wake up after having the most vivid dreams but already the tune of Toryanse will have replaced them.

This is a video of the “sad version,” to the tune of Toryanse.

Let me pass Let me pass
What is this narrow path here?
The narrow path of the Tenjin?

Please just let me pass
Those without good reason shall not pass
I shall come to give my offerings
for this child’s seventh birthday
Going is fun but returning is scary
Even in my fear let me pass
Let me pass

Japan is a fan of jingles. It may be a country known for silence, but my head is constantly filled with the blips of dangerously catchy sounds I hear every day. Department stores play short 15 second tracks, on repeat, that pop artists will record especially for them. And, when the store is closing, they play “Auld Ang Syne,” not once or twice, but at least fifty times. If you go to the underground shopping mall downtown you are guaranteed to hear the same faux-French song every single time- a loop of 30 seconds of lazy, loungy accordion music perfect for strolling.

This is the second crosswalk song, the “happy version,” also based on a folk song but I can’t find much more information than that.

I’ve been fooling around with the idea of  appropriating all of the jingles and catchy songs that I hear on a daily basis and turning them into songs of my own. The lyrics are the trickier part, but they might end up being based on all of the weird English I see around here, or the very lucky fortune I received at a temple last week. I’m convinced that whenever I cross the street everybody around me is also silently composing their own lyrics in their heads. Maybe not; maybe it’s just thrilling for me because of its novelty. But I’d love to find out how other people relate to all of these songs.  Does it become a part of ones identity, or is it just background noise like the dolphin bug or the electric saw down the street?


One comment on “Sound – onkyou おんきょう”

  1. Thanks for the sounds!

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