The first time I heard the song start playing outside, I immediately thought – ice cream! I’d never seen an ice cream truck in Japan before, but when I heard that signature jingle echo along the street adjacent to my apartment building, I knew it had to be ice cream. What else could it be? I took my wallet out of my purse and was ready to run out to wave down the truck, but by the time I was about to leave my apartment, the jingle stopped – and I assumed I’d missed the truck. Disappointed, I put my wallet back and mourned my lack of ice cream.
The next day, though, the jingle started playing again, exactly at 5pm. It made sense – the ice cream man must drive through the neighborhood at 5 everyday since students usually start coming home from school around then. Again, the jingle stopped before I had time to find cash and slip on proper shoes, but I told myself that tomorrow, I’d be waiting outside by 4:55.
I was so excited about the idea of getting ice cream the following day that I even mentioned the truck and the jingle to my Japanese friend. I wanted to know what the truck looked like, where it stopped, and most importantly, what kind of ice cream it carried.
But my friend had no idea what I was talking about.
Because apparently, there are no ice cream trucks in Japan.
The jingle that I’ve been hearing everyday at 5pm is actually the 市町村防災行政無線放送 (local government disaster administration wireless broadcast), or disaster wireless for short, according to a Japan Times article I read after my hopes and dreams for an iced Popsicle were shattered. The song is a daily test of an emergency broadcast system that’s meant to alert citizens in the case of an incoming disaster.
The closest thing to an ice cream truck in Japan is the (Yaki-Imo) truck, which serves freshly baked sweet potatoes. This truck only comes around in the winter time though, so it looks like I won’t be running out to meet any treat-delivering vehicles anytime soon. And though I love potatoes, they’ll never be able to satisfy an ice cream craving… I suppose while I’m in Japan, I’ll need to get used to finding my ice cream elsewhere.