Sidestreet sounds

“Bohhhhhhh  bah,” bugled the tofuman while pulling his cart around the sidestreets of Inokashira yesterday.

According to my excellent source (J), tofu selling has been a gyosho (J), (pedlars business) for at least 200 years.  The rappa (bugle) came in around 140 years ago.

One day, a Tokyo tofu seller when listening to bugles used by horse carriage drivers noticed that the tune sounded familiar.  He copied it for his business, the two-tone tune echoing the pronunciation of tofu, tohhhhhhhhhh fu.

Everytime I hear this sound, made by a rappa , I feel happy but a little confused.  Memories of reading about the streets of old Tokyo (Edo) are mixed with the memory of my uncontrollable excitement as a child when hearing the jingle of the ice-cream van on a rare visit into our village.

Two minutes later, walking down another narrow street,  I heard the cruellest sound of all, the 5pm curfew call.  This sad jingle is played all over the country.  What evil crow invented it? The sudden mournfulness of the tune rips at my heart every time. It seems to be saying:

“………and now the world is finally drawing to a close.  If you could please start making your way along to the burial chambers.”

When my friend heard the jingle though, in Okinawa of all places, she recognised it from England.  Apparently Brownies groups sing to the same tune at the end of each meeting.  What hideous cruelty!

“Now run along home and jump into bed……”  What?  It`s only 5pm and it`s broad daylight!  Surely I can stay out a little longer?!

So how did this Brownie`s song become the cruel curfew that haunts Japanese children? (And one Englishman).

The answer to that will make an excellent blog post.  Please let me know if you find it.

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