One of my favourtie sounds from Japan and the one I probably will miss the most is the ever present sound of the frogs in the ricefields. For several months of the year all the ricefileds are flooded as the rice is planted and grows to maturity, during this time almost every rice field becomes a home to dozens of frogs. Across any rural area this results in contant background hum of the frogs. Far from being annoying I always found this to be the sound that really made me realize I was living in the country and was a surpizingly relaxing sound.
Anna is visiting me in Tokyo for a few days which I am really happy about. She is still living 700km north of Tokyo in Sannohe while I am down here so I miss her heaps and its great to have her here for a while. We decided to go an visit Mount Takao which is about an hour west of Tokyo on the Takao line (go figure!)
Its still quite warm weather and all the Japanese insects are out in force while the weather is good. Japan must have some of the loudest common insects int he world, and I have noticed already that I can tell where in Japan I am by the sound the insects make, there must be different species everywhere. I really like the sounds of the Japanese insects even though they are very loud, they just make me feel like I am Japan more than anything else. this is probably because they are in every single Japanese anime ever made I think.
I think the insects are Cicadas as they are up in the trees and generally crickets are underground. The bugs themselves are huge, about the size of a child's fist and each individual insect can produce a really loud sound all on its own. I managed to get some good general ambiance as well as a couple of specific close up recordings from on bug on a tree trunk (that's how I know how big they are). I would love to record the insects in Tokyo city as well as they have a different sound again, but Tokyo is so noisy its hard not to capture lots of traffic as well.
A trip down to Tokyo means a ride on the Shinkansen or Japanese bullet train. Shinkansen translates to mean Main trunk line, and they are one of the best and most efficient transport systems in the world. I have never had a three hour journey be so comfortable and go so quickly. The trains travel at around 250kph (around 150 mph) and if they are scheduled to arrive at 3.33pm then they usually arrive right on 3.33pm.
Train travel in Japan is really amazing, they have so many train lines and so many different types of trains, yet they all seem to run really well. I wish I had started recording material here earlier because I missed out on capturing so much material from trains alone (not to mention all the other things I missed). One of the issues is I have only just recently purchased my first hand held unit the Edirol R09 which is really amazing and makes recording more frequently much more convenient as I can carry something with me more regularly. My old portable DAT recorder is getting very old and is too bulky to carry regularly.
Happily three hours is long enough on a train that I did think to record some material inside the train. I have captured a couple of samples of interior ambiance as well as a couple of exterior passing sounds. They were trickier to get as a train moving at over 150kph(they slow down near stations) generates a fair bit of wind, so it was a balance between capturing a clean sound and protecting the recorder against the wind. I will need to get a wind jammer for the R09.
Stephan Schütze has been recording sounds for over twenty years. This journal logs his thoughts and experiences