Noisy Japanese apartments

I’m living in my sixth apartment in Japan so I’m a bit of an expert on neighborhood noise. Here’s my list of the seven most annoying noises I’ve had to live with over the last nine years.

7. The food trucks.Japanese food trucks

Late in the evening these guys come round with music blaring from their little trucks, hoping you’ll rush out of your apartment to buy whatever delicacy they’re selling. Not today, thank you!

6. The politicians.Japanese elections

They only come round when there’s an election going on, but they drive you crazy with their megaphones and hand waving. Maybe I’d wave back if I were eligible to vote, but I’m not, so I wish they’d take their smiles and megaphones somewhere else!

5. The neighbors.

I’ve lived next to a guy who would scream every half an hour in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, and now we’re living next to a lunatic mother that screams at her young son, threatening to kill him (we’ve informed the police and she’s on their watchlist). Besides these two, another pet hate of mine is futon-beating. Early in the morning, all the housewives hang out their futons on their balconies and wack them repeatedly to get rid of the dust. The noise echoes between the buildings like a drum – not fun when you want to lie in.

4. The schools.

This would be at no.1 if it were my apartment but this was an experience I had when staying over at an old girlfriend’s place. Being an ESL teacher, I usually start work in the afternoon, and my girlfriend was working the night shift so she had no intentions of waking up early. But at 8am the megaphones turned on just meters from her window playing the loudest dance music you’d hear outside of a nightclub. The elementary school next door was preparing for its sports day. Seriously, it was outrageous noise so I threw on my clothes and stormed over to the school. I walked right in and demanded to speak to the principal. Although I was angry, he seemed happy to meet an Englishman and got me a cup of green tea. He promised to turn down the noise (which he never did) and insisted on asking me questions about the queen!

3. The trains.

My first apartment in Japan was right by Kanayama station in Nagoya. It’s the second biggest station in the city with probably a dozen lines passing through it. When I agreed to take the apartment I was told that the trains wouldn’t run after midnight. They failed to tell me that freight trains wouldn’t stop. So, often in the middle of the night I’d wake up thinking I was in an earthquake, but it was just another train.

2. The airplanes.

Air Show

I’m unfortunate enough to live right by the Kakamigahara Air Force base. Last week was their annual air show so they’ve been practicing all the time. When the planes go over, our apartment shakes and the sound is deafening. Here’s a picture from the air show. If I had taken a photo from my balcony the planes would have been much nearer!

1. The bosozoku biker gangs.

Japanese biker gangs

The undisputed winners of my ‘Most Annoying Neighborhood Noises’ award. These kids ride their bikes and scooters around in the middle of the night at a snail’s pace, revving their engines, often in gangs of twenty or more. What makes the noise even worse is that the police, who are powerless to stop them, tend to follow them around with their sirens wailing! The bosozoku came every night so I made an effort for one month to call the police every time to complain. Did they do anything? Of course not.

If I’ve missed anything, leave a comment!

If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!

8 thoughts on “Noisy Japanese apartments

  1. hey, im headed there sometime soon and thought this was informative, and a funny read. thanx annie

  2. Totally agree about the politicians. And what makes it even worse (if that’s possible) is the high-pitched females that usually speak for the male sme*heads, instead of speaking for themselves.
    Then you get the foot soldiers outside stations and other places of commute, offering me, yes! ME!! a manifesto!! It’s enough to give them the middle finger considering i pay enough taxes. But then i remember where i am.

  3. I haven’t seen the bosozuko around here, but the planes are enough to drive me nuts sometimes. I don’t see why they need to practise breaking the sound barrier at 100 meters.

    Perhaps it’s the military’s way of preparing us for those really big thunder claps?

    I’d add dogs to this list. It seems everywhere I’ve lived in the last 15 years has had those annoying yippy dogs that never know when to shut up. They’ll yip at grass, shadows, people, cars and their tail. My God, when do they stop for air!?!?

    1. Yeah, we both seemed to have avoided the bosozoku up here in Kakamigahara, so we are very, very lucky.

      Good point about dogs. There are a few “yippy” dogs around here, too.

  4. LOL! Great post! I’m in my first Japanese apartment here in Fukuoka and I’m in the middle of it all. It’s pretty cool and the noise outside (trucks, people) is what I expected. Restaurants and bars close between 2-5am in the area so there’s noise until pretty late. People irashaimase the hell out of other people, dishes, bonzai action, etc etc.

    The bosozoku biker gangs – I didn’t know the name for these fools. Tthey wake me up. I’m not used to it so I wake up not knowing what the hell is going on. It happens about once a week. One great experience was hearing them rev the engines around 4am and then the cop sirens directly followed.

    The neighbors – I can hear them. I can hear them walking. I can hear them opening and closing the sliding doors. I can hear them snore. But I never hear them talk. I am assuming that we’re the loud neighbors and that’s no good.

    I guess I have the remaining 5 from your list to look forward to.

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