Although we usually receive notifications of crimes in the neighbourhood via a local bulletin that is passed round the houses, sometimes we are warned by way of the city loudspeakers. This was the case recently, when we were warned to be very careful because there had been another victim of the ore ore scam.

Ore is used by men in Japan and means I or me. So when somebody calls you up and says, Ore ore it’s like calling up and saying, “It’s me, it’s me.” And this has been the basis of a long-running, and to be perfectly honest, ludicrous scam for a number of years in Japan. It is ludicrous because people not only fell for it at first, but they still fall for it.

As far as I understand, this is what happens: A man phones up an old person and, when the phone is answered, says, “Ore, ore” – “It’s me!” The old biddy on the end of the line then says, “Tatsuya (or whoever happens to me a male member of the family)? Is that you?” to which the fraudster says, “Why, yes it is.” If questioned about why he doesn’t sound like Tatsuya, he might say he has a cold. Then he explains how he has serious money problems and has to pay off a debt very urgently or terrible things will happen and could the old biddy just transfer all her money into his personal account. And the old person does just that. And so does another old person. And another old person. And even after it has been widely reported in the media and everybody knows of the scam, people are still falling for it. The city loudspeakers warned us that there had been another victim and that we should be careful. They are ever so polite about it; they don’t say what they could – that as long as you are not a complete and utter idiot you’ll be okay. Honestly, those Nigerian kings and whatnot who are always sending e-mails about trying to transfer money into your account should be writing them in Japanese!

But the city loudspeakers aren’t just to warn us about being taken in by tricksters. They are used for all sorts of announcements. An annoying number, in fact. Frequently they act as an unwanted alarm clock. Most recently I was woken to be informed that a monkey had been spotted in someone’s garden and to be vigilant. It was the first monkey announcement I had heard. We’ve been warned of bear sightings in the lower reaches of nearby mountains before, but never about invading monkeys. Well, it was just one monkey, I think, but it seemed that it merited a city-wide warning.

Throughout my time in Japan, I have often complained about the city loudspeakers and the messages they blare with scant regard for my sleeping habits. In summer, a siren sounds at seven o’clock in the morning. I don’t know why, but I think it really is just to wake us up. Certainly during the summer vacation elementary schoolchildren have to get up and attend rajiotaisou (prearranged morning exercises) in their playground at ridiculous o’clock, and so I suspect the city authorities have decided that not only children but everybody should be prevented a lie-in and sound the siren to ensure that this is so. Heaven help the country should we be allowed a lazy lie-in!

Throughout the year, there are announcements to say it’s five o’clock so children really should be getting home, or that kids are on their way home now so please help ensure their safety. I suppose I don’t mind these so much as they occur in normal waking hours, but I really don’t need to know that a monkey was seen in someone’s garden at seven o’clock in the morning. And why are we to be vigilant? What exactly are we supposed to do? Set monkey traps?

Announcements are also made if there are fires, which I would very much appreciate if it was my house or indeed my neighbour’s that was on fire. Otherwise though, I’m not that bothered, frankly. I’m even less bothered about the notifications concerning missing people. I don’t mean missing children – obviously those announcements are important and worthy – but rather announcements that are made late at night to say something like, “Eighty year-old Mr Tanaka went out for a walk this evening and has not returned home.” And then at about three o’clock in the morning you get woken up again with the announcement to say, “Mr Tanaka came home!” And they don’t even have the decency to tell you where he was, although maybe that’s because they would feel a bit guilty to wake you up just to admit, “He was in the pub.”

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