Goji No Chaimu: Japan’s 5pm Chime


If you live in San Francisco, you’ve probably become pretty accustomed to Tuesdays at noon. A slow klaxon, beginning soft but rising in volume, sounds from the thick plastic Cold War-era speakers affixed to the tops of the telephone poles: the San Francisco Outdoor Warning System. Once the alarm ends, an ominous booming voice fills the air, “THIS IS A TEST!”.

Even if you’re used to it, the sound can be jarring, and if you’re not it can be downright alarming (pun intended, we promise). Which all makes sense, as it’s a warning system that’s meant to get you, y’know, running for your life.

They don’t follow this line of reasoning in Japan though, where they have an extremely robust country-wide early warning system. The tiny island nation is prone to a myriad of natural disasters, like earthquakes and their resulting tsunamis, and the Japanese government takes their warning system seriously. Which is why they run a test known as bosai musen (“disaster wireless”) every single day at 5pm.

You read that right: every single day at 5pm, the entire nation of Japan tests their early warning system. But they don’t play jarring klaxons and ominous voices: instead the bosai musen uses the soothing sounds of traditional Japanese folk songs, that play for upwards of two minutes. In fact, each and every city (and even different parts of the larger cities like Tokyo) use their own unique song, and the locals are very proud of their unique 5pm ditty. The testing time is no accident, either. The gentle tunes are a cue for the nation’s schoolchildren that it’s time to head home to their family.

We’ve gathered a handful of video’s below of the “5pm Charm”, aka Japan’s “goji no chaimu.”

Shibaura, Tokyo

Sumida, Tokyo

Kandatsuchuo, Japan

Chiba, Japan

Akihabara, Tokyo