In Minnesota where I grew up, tornado sirens are a monthly thing. On the first Wednesday of the month at 1pm, you can hear your neighborhood siren blaring. It’s a friendly reminder of the infrastructure in place for your safety.
When I first came to Japan in 2011, I was surprised to find that their siren towers were used for more than just the occasional disaster warning. Every morning at 7:30 we’d be greeted with the gentle Edelweiss tune. At noon, a lively melody called farmers in to lunch. And at 4:30, signalling my return to work, there was a slower song that reminded me of “Jesus Loves Me” with a twist at the end. That was in Kitajima, a little town tucked away on the island of Shikoku, but town songs are common all over the countryside of Japan. It’s a good way to let farmers know what time it is while they’re out in the fields.
Minami Alps City had the same system. The only difference was that at the 4:30 chime there was a solemn intro tune followed by a voice addressing the children. The rough translation went like this: “Hello, all you young people. Did you have a good day? Be sure to return home before it gets dark so that tomorrow can be a good day too.” It finished with the same slow song, dying down with the light.