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Dear Alice,

I live in a medium-size city in Saitama Prefecture and am puzzled by a speaker system mounted on a huge pole right outside my apartment. Every evening at 5 p.m., music plays from the speakers for 20 or 30 seconds and then stops. It’s the same song every day, which I don’t recognize, and it’s really, really loud. Occasionally, there is also a public announcement from the speakers. Even if my Japanese was up to the challenge, which it’s not, I doubt I’d understand what they are saying because the sound quality is pretty bad. But it’s the music that’s really got me wondering because it comes at the same time every day, like clockwork. My Japanese coworker told me it’s so children know it’s time to stop playing and go home, but all the kids I know go to cram school and don’t head home until well after dark. So, what the heck is that music?

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