With the 衆議院選挙 (shūgi-in senkyo, Lower House election) set to take place on Oct. 31, we’re beginning to see more 選挙カー (senkyo kā, election cars) roaming the streets, blaring out repetitive and mildly annoying greetings.

They generally sound like this: 地域の皆様、田中です。どうぞよろしくお願いします。ぜひ田中に一票を (Chiiki no minasama, Tanaka desu. Dōzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu. Zehi Tanaka ni ippyō o, To everyone in the community, this is Tanaka. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Please vote for Tanaka).

Every 候補者 (kōhosha, candidate) seems to repeatedly call out the same information in hopes that it will help garner support from the 有権者 (yūkensha, voters). You may wonder, does this actually work?

Politicians seem to think so. 選挙カーレンタル業者は衆議院選挙の前倒しで準備に追われている (Senkyo kā rentaru gyōsha wa shūgi-in senkyo no maedaoshi de junbi ni owarete-iru, Election car rental companies are busy preparing for the Lower House election [now that] it has been moved ahead of schedule).

選挙カーの活動を通して政治に興味を持ってもらいたいと考える人々もいる (Senkyo kā no katsudō o tōshite seiji ni kyōmi o motte moraitai to kangaeru hito-bito mo iru, There are also people who want others to get interested in politics through the activities of election cars).

Usually, whenever I hear a 選挙カー or 街宣車 (gaisensha, sound truck) my thoughts are limited to: もっと静かにしてくれないかな (Motto shizukani shite-kurenai kana, Could you be quieter, please) or すごくうるさいな (Sugoku urusai na, It’s so loud).

But then I began to wonder if there were any specific laws about how 選挙カー can be operated and I was surprised by what I found.

According to Article 141, Section 3 of the 公職選挙法 (kōshoku senkyo hō, public office election law), 選挙運動の演説をするためには自動車を停止しなければならない (senkyo undō no enzetsu o suru tame ni wa jidōsha o teishi shinakereba naranai, vehicles must be stopped in order to make campaign speeches).

In contrast, 走行中の選挙カーからできるのは、連呼行為だけ。つまり、同じことを繰り返し言うことしかできない (sōkōchū no senkyo kā kara dekiru no wa, renko kōi dake. Tsumari, onaji koto o kurikaeshi iu koto shika dekinai, calling out [to someone] is the only thing that can be done from a running election car. In other words, [the candidate] can only say the same thing over and over again).

Aside from this being mandated by law if the vehicle is running, another reason for doing this is to take advantage of a psychological phenomenon known as the 単純接触効果 (tanjun sesshoku kōka, mere-exposure effect), which states that people tend to develop a preference for things simply because they are familiar.

This effect doesn’t always work, but in a study conducted at Kwansei Gakuin University, researchers found that 選挙カーは立候補者の好感度を上げる効果はないが、得票そのものには効果がある (senkyo kā wa rikkōhosha no kōkando o ageru kōka wa nai ga, tōhyō sono mono ni wa kōka ga aru, election cars do not increase the likability of the candidates, but they do have an effect on the votes themselves).

But do 選挙カー have to be so noisy? Article 140, Section 2 of the 公職選挙法 states that 選挙カーは学校、及び病院、診療所その他の療養施設の周辺においては、静穏を保持するように努めなければならない (senkyo kā wa gakkō, oyobi byōin, shinryōsho sono ta no ryōyō shisetsu no shūhen ni oite wa, seion o hoji suru yō ni tsutomenakereba naranai, election cars must strive to maintain tranquility when in the vicinity of schools, hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities).

That said, 具体的な音量は決められていない (gutaitekina onryō wa kimerarete-inai, no specific volume has been set), which means it’s up to the individual 候補者 to decide how loud they want to turn up the 音量 (onryō, volume) on their speakerphones.

This has irritated a lot of people who now spend more time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

J-Cast News reported in July that Twitter became inundated with posts complaining how loud and disruptive 選挙カー were during this year’s 東京都議会議員選挙 (Tōkyō-to gikai giin senkyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections), with one user commenting that 候補者はもっと配慮するべき (kōhosha wa motto hairyo suru beki, candidates should be more considerate).

With the spread of remote work and online learning, another Twitter user wrote, 時代に応じて選挙も変わって欲しい (jidai ni ōjite senkyo mo kawatte hoshii, I want elections to change in accordance with the times).

選挙カーの活動を騒音や雑音と考える人々は少なくないようだ (Senkyo kā no katsudō o sōon ya zatsuon to kangaeru hito-bito wa sukunakunai yō da, It seems that not a few people consider the activities of election cars to be noisy and disturbing).

Speaking of noisy disturbances, knowing the difference between 雑音 (zatsuon) and 騒音 (sōon) may be useful in describing how you feel about 選挙カー. Both terms can be understood as an 耳障りな音 (mimizawarina oto, noise that’s hard on the ears), but the difference lies in nuance.

With 雑音, the emphasis is placed on 聞くのを妨げる音 (kiku no o samatageru oto, sounds that interfere with listening).

Think of that hum or crackle you sometimes hear when trying to switch between radio stations in your car: ラジオに雑音が入ってよく聞こえない (Rajio ni zatsuon ga haitte yoku kikoenai, I can’t hear the radio properly because of the noise).

But 雑音 can also be used to mean うわさや無責任な意見 (uwasa ya musekininna iken, rumors and irresponsible opinions). So the term can be used to make statements like this: 雑音に惑わされずに自分で決断するのが大切だ (Zatsuon ni madowasarezu ni jibun de ketsudan suru no ga taisetsu da, It is important not to be distracted by the noise of others and to make up your own mind).

In contrast, the term 騒音 is simply used to describe a 特に大きな、うるさく感じる音 (toku ni ōkina, urusaku kanjiru oto, sound that you feel is particularly loud and noisy). For example: 工事現場の騒音で仕事に集中できない (Kōji genba no sōon de shigoto ni shūchū dekinai, I can’t concentrate on my work because of how noisy the construction site is).

選挙カーの活動がうるさいと思って、苦情を直接言いたくても、言えば、選挙妨害の罪に問われるかも知れないので、我慢するしかない (Senkyo kā no katsudō ga urusai to omotte, kujō o chokusetsu iitakutemo, ieba, senkyo bōgai no tsumi ni towareru kamo shirenai no de, gaman suru shika nai, Even if I wanted to complain directly about how noisy the activities of the election cars are, if I do, it could be construed as obstructing the election, so I just have to put up with it).

Will there ever be a day where we won’t have to complain about how noisy 選挙カー are?

It seems more 候補者 are using social media to get attention, but 選挙カー don’t show any signs of disappearing soon.

In the meantime, 自分の部屋でできる防音対策方法を調べた方がいいかも (jibun no heya de dekiru bōon taisaku hōhō o shirabeta hō ga ii kamo, maybe I should do some research on how I can make my room soundproof).

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