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Q: I was walking down the street in Tokyo recently when a van passed by with loudspeakers blaring. Inside were several attractive women waving to pedestrians. What’s up with that?

A: Ah, the sweet sounds of local elections.

The vans cruise around town promoting a candidate by way of top-volume electioneering. Like the brightly decorated van and the loudspeakers themselves, the lovely ladies are onboard to attract attention. Just in case the skull-rattling, high-pitched sound escaped your notice. The ladies are called uguisu-jyo — named for a bird with an annoying squawk.

Bigger versions of these vans sometimes will park outside a train station or other major public areas and transform (insert Transformers sound here) into a stage for the candidate himself to address the masses. Candidates use this forum to air their policy goals — which they call their “manifesto” — the latest trend in an effort to add some substance to Japanese campaigns, according to a recent article in The Japan Times.

The next Japanese election — which will name scads of local council members — takes place in July.

South Korea likewise rolls out the loudspeaker vans for its elections. The next round is summer, so invest in earplugs now.

Got a question about goings-on in the Pacific? E-mail Stacy Chandler.


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