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Sing-Song Machinery

Posted by Kathryn Marshall on January 23, 2012 at 1:15 AM

One of the first things I noticed when I came here was how much everyone sings. EVERYONE. The students sing in the halls and during art class and the teachers can be heard in the teacher's office. I had no idea how much music and song was a part of this culture. Even the machinery plays a tune! The funny thing is that no one really dances. Yes, we do have a lady who comes in once a week to give ballet lessons, but dancing in general isn't nearly as much a part of this culture, it seems, as music.

One of my favorite things to do here is Kara-O-ke (karaoke). We go to the nearby karaoke joint and buy a (soft) drink and a couple of hours. Then we go into this small dark room that is set up with a couple of sofas, a table, and a large flat screen TV. We pick up the phonebook of songs (they have a HUGE selection and have most any song you could think of) and take up your microphone and rock out! The most popular genres are . . .wait for it. . . Country and Gospel. (Though Taylor Swift is about as country as it gets in that genre.) Gospel music is so effective in spreading, well, the Gospel. A couple in our church came to know Christ after joining a gospel choir then got married soon after. I attended a gospel concert a week after I arrived; it was spectacular! The people were jumping up and down with their hands stretched high as they belted out one African spiritual after another. One song lasted about ten minutes. The Japanese got soul!

The only thing lacking in this country is dance. I'm sure they still have lots of traditional dancing going on, but they don't seem to know any ballroom dancing. I pass a hip-hop studio every now and then, but nothing of interest to a swing dancer. An American couple who live right behind us host a music club once a month that I go to. This is one of the things I most look forward to because this is the first pair of people who know how to swing it! Last time we ended up teaching a group of Japanese ladies and a couple of gentlemen to swing dance. We had a ball! I think this is going to become a regular thing at music club (at least I hope so). 

Another phenomenon of the Japanese technical industry are all the sing-song machines they produce. Every kind of machine whether it be a microwave, rice-cooker, water-heater or door-bell (pretty much anything electrical) plays a tune instead of an obnoxious, ear-splitting, siren noise. This also includes the school bell; it plays the Big Ben chime. Our school tunes that we play are Beethoven, Bach and Mozart pieces. Isn't that lovely? Growing up I always loathed the sound of a school bell on TV shows (and thanked God that I was homeschooled and didn't have to hear that bombastic clanging everyday).

I love these small cultural differences. It's these little things that are the essence of a culture. It excites and inspires me whenever I come across a new one. I hope they inspire you just as much as they do me.     

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