Sonic Japan: Studies in Sensory Anthropology

Sound blog and sound maps featuring recordings from Japan

Latest sounds

Activists at Shibuya Crossing
This is a recording of Shibuya Crossing, taken while standing outside Shibuya station about to cross the road to Sakuragaokacho. This is a popular site, world famous for the pedestrian crossing , where thousands pass each day. Surrounded by three large screens attached to the buildings overhead, we first hear the sounds of right wing propaganda from the loudspeakers attached to the vans owned by the right wing political groups called the '_Uyoku dantai_' . These vans are called _gaisensha_ and are used to stage various protests against North Korean, China or communism in general. Walking on, we are immersed in the sounds of Shibuya crossing, the music and advertisements from the large screens drowning out other sounds. The vans' political messages are lost, as they trail in the distance. (2014/09/26)
Kendo Training in Kobe
Kendo practice combines silence and intense noise. After a few quiet minutes of zazen (seated meditation), training involves paired practice with bamboo training swords (shinai). In this clip, bodies advance and retreat up and down the wooden floor of the hall, the space punctuated by loud yells and shouting noise (kiai) that correspond with the running up to and the implementation of each strike. This particular training hall (dojo) is located at Kobe University. It is a warm April afternoon, at the beginning of the academic year, the sky outside is bright with cherry blossoms (sakura). The recording is taken from the side of the dojo and a new ‘fresher’ (member of the club) sits there and watches the senior students (senpai) with great interest. Later, during a break in the class, he joins in conversation with the seniors. Loud bursts of laughter replace the sounds of training in that space. Recording by M. Maekawa, description by T. Kohn and T. Maekawa (2016/04/15)
Truck drivers
Urban Japan is made up of many narrow and winding streets as well as major arterial roads. Truck drivers often have to navigate difficult manoeuvres when making deliveries in residential areas. Unable to turn around in many areas, the driver must back out of narrow streets to move to the next delivery. Working in pairs, drivers assist each other sonically to back out into narrow streets: here, you hear one driver shouting rhythmic 'hei hei hei' to prompt the driver to continue backing out safely into the street. (2013/09/28)

Latest Posts

Imagining Sonic Flaneurs from the Past

Mon May 16 2016 by Carolyn Stevens

Recently, our book Sound, Space and Sociality in Modern Japan was reprinted in paperback. In the introduction (co-authored with Sonic Japan team member Joe Hankins), we wrote:

"[T]he notion of the public gaze has been much discussed in social theory...Social theory as generated by Western scholars has prioritised the visual;...>>

Shakuhachi - Distant Cry of the Deer

Fri May 06 2016 by Richard Chenhall

The shakuhachi is an end blown flute that has a long history in Japan. Most famously, it was connected to a group of mendicant Buddhist monks in the Edo era, called Komuso, or the “Priests of Nothingness”, who played the shakuhachi for alms in search for enlightenment. While much of...>>

Sonic Practice as Commercial Enterprise in Urban Japan

Tue May 03 2016 by Carolyn Stevens

The Journal of Musicological Research has just published an article arising from the Sonic Japan project, part of a special issue on street music around the world.

Street music in Japan is often associated with the performance of one’s shōbai, translated as one’s trade, business, or occupation. An examination of...>>