Cultural Noise: Amplified Sound, Freedom of Expression and Privacy Rights in Japan

Daniel Dolan


Strong defense of freedom of expression rights by Japanese law, low awareness and appreciation among Japanese citizens and public officials for the importance of personal privacy rights in public places, lax or non-existing enforcement of local sound control ordinances restricting the use of amplified sound in public places, and a cultural inclination to tolerate potentially intrusive public noise privileges public free speech practice over the balancing right of personal privacy in Japan. First I outline constitutional and Supreme Court of Japan support for freedom of expression in Japan. I then describe the evolution of conceptions of privacy rights and Supreme Court constraints on freedom of expression in the United States. Next I offer audiovisual evidence of the use of amplified sound in public places in Japan. Finally I discuss the cultural dimensions of public sound production and reception in Japan, as well as possibilities for future soundscape management that might create a more democratic balance between freedom of expression and personal privacy.

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