Thursday, February 27, 2014

Will Miss #535 - laundry pole trucks

The sounds of Japan are something I miss as much or more than the sights. I was telling my husband at one point in the past month that I missed hearing the 5:00 p.m. "children go home" music that used to play near our home. It was always a little melancholy because of the tune, but also comforting in the way it was trying to let people know what time it was.

Among the other sounds that I will never forget and miss is the sound of the laundry pole truck driving by. The video above (embedded from YouTube - it is not my video) does a good job of letting you know what it sounds like as well as looks like. When I learned that there was a business which did nothing but drive around selling replacement laundry poles, I thought that was most peculiar, but the longer I lived in Tokyo, the more it seemed to fit their cultural ethos. They care about how things look and work, including the poles that they hang their laundry out to dry on. I should note that I lived there for 23 years and never once replaced my laundry pole. It looked pretty dirty and worn by the time I left, but never changed in functionality.

I miss the sound of the announcements when the laundry pole trucks drove around our neighborhood, and what the fact that such trucks did any appreciable business said about the culture. 


  1. Thanks for sharing these memories. I never heard, saw a truck carrying laundry poles like that.

    I recall two sounds from my years of living in Tokyo. One was the man calling out 'Yaki imo' while he pulled a small cart through the narrow, residential streets of my neighborhood in Tokyo. My wife told me that men doing this were quite common when she was growing up in the 1950's. By the time I was there (1969-71) there were very few of them doing this anymore. You could buy a baked sweet potato for maybe 100 yen. VERY tasty and nice on a cold winter night!

    The second was the sound of trains off in the distance. I'd hear them at night in the summer time when the windows would be open. Just loud enough to be noticed but not so loud as to be bothersome. Kinda nice to hear these every few minutes mixed in amongst the sounds of the cicadae, etc.

    1. I noticed since returning to America that I have never lived anywhere on a semi-permanent or permanent basis that was not within earshot of a train. Even now, I'm not especially close to the train station, but I still hear it. Having lived in three very different places (rural PA, suburban Bay Area, and urban Tokyo), that's a bit odd.

    2. In the last two cities we have lived in here in Calif we have been able to hear trains, too. Even though we do not live close to the tracks, we can hear them rumbling along in the middle of the night when the other sounds of the city are quieter. Makes you realize that trains are still a part of our lives to some extent even here in 'car country' California!

  2. I miss the 5 o'clock music, too. One of my favorite Japanese memories.


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