Island emergency broadcast system

Often on Twitter I will mention hearing about some local happening on the island like new coronavirus cases or massive snowfall stalling bus service. These updates come across the emergency broadcast system, or 告知放送 kokuchi hōsō. We are all familiar with speakers mounted on towers and buildings in every neighbourhood in Japan. But this is the first time I have ever had one in my house!

On a wall there is a home receiver on the left and a standard clock on the right
Emergency broadcast receiver mounted on my kitchen wall, right by the clock. (You can see the old on in the reflection on the clock)

Mounted on the wall in my kitchen is a wireless radio that beams messages from the city directly into my home. Day to day, this includes a simple time alarm: a chime played at 7am, noon, and 5pm every day (including Sundays!). Islander children are told by teachers and parents that they should always hear the 5 o’clock chime from home.

I recorded a sampling of each so you could hear:

The songs are:

  • 07:00 恋は水色 Koi ha mizuiro or “L’amour est bleu”
  • 12:00 壱岐市民歌 Iki City Song
  • 17:00 夕焼け小焼け Yūyake Koyake

The last one is particularly famous, and used as a time alarm in many places in Japan.

It has been kind of strange to have this receiver in my house. Apparently they are in every house in Iki. There are no fees associated and they are maintained by the city Crisis Management Department (危機管理課) as part of Iki’s disaster plan. They have a manual you can read. The system has been in place for a while, since on the other wall there is an older version that doesn’t work anymore:

A radio-like object with metal antennae on the wall above a fridge with Nutella jars on it.
An older home receiver above my fridge

It is up near the ceiling by my fridge. The new one was installed in 2010, but that might have been when this house was built.

They have a manual posted online for operating the device. You can even get FM radio on it. There is a volume control, and you can turn them completely off, but that would defeat the purpose.

The reason for these home receivers is for public service announcements, especially in emergencies. Common ones I have heard include:

  • natural disasters: typhoon, wind, freezing warnings (pipes)
  • emergencies: fires (when they start, the location, and when they are put out), missing persons, coronavirus updates
  • marketing: events run by various city-related organizations (eg. Museum lectures), cancellations of events (eg. due to coronavirus)

I believe these are linked to the J-Alert network so we should get earthquake warnings. I would also expect we would get nuclear disaster warnings since there is a reactor nearby. I don’t know if we would get any type of air raid warning in case of a North Korean missile. 🤷‍♂️

On almost our first day I was shocked to hear a broadcast from the Iki police directly into my house! It was only a reminder to everyone to wear their seatbelt, but it felt a little Orwellian (I don’t think these things have a mic on them, believe me, I checked right away).

On the city website you can request a broadcast. It must use a specific template and be filed at least three days in advance. Broadcasts can be to one or more of the four towns on Iki, or the entire island. I am not sure who clears these messages, but I seriously doubt they will let me send an island-wide Happy Anniversary! to my wife next month. 😂

Emergency broadcast systems are extremely common in Japan, but this is the first time I have seen them inside of a house. Is this common on other islands, or rural areas? If you have seen this before, comment below!

2 thoughts on “Island emergency broadcast system

  1. @wesinjapan says:

    I love it. My wife’s parents this in Kagoshima. I think it is effective. These types of systems in Tohoku were quite valuable.

    @TBeanpod who is in Saga says:

    I scoffed at getting one of these when we built our house as some sort of invasion of privacy, but now we have to go outside on the porch or lean out a window in order to hear the neighborhood loudspeaker whenever there are announcements. 😩 In retrospect…

    He also mentions announcements of bear sightings!

    Like

  2. Because I never saw this in Kyoto or Nagoya, I thought it was a rural thing. Since the above shows that it is Kagoshima (which happens to be right by an active volcano!) I wonder if it is just more prominent in high risk zones.

    Like

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