The generation past middle age is probably familiar with the expression “ea chekku” (air check), which refers to taping music from an FM radio program.
With your finger ready to press the record button of your radio cassette player, you wait for the exact moment when the music you want to record comes on the program. The wait is nerve-racking as there is only one chance to do it right.
Today, air waves are no longer essential to our enjoyment of radio. We can listen online.
I understand it’s already 10 years since the internet radio distribution service, called “radiko,” came into full operation to enable listeners to tune into all radio stations across Japan.
It no longer matters if we miss a program. We can listen to it anytime later. Those “air checking” days are long gone.
What’s good about internet radio is that it allows people to enjoy overseas broadcasts, too.
Author Kaori Ekuni notes in “Tabi Doroppu” (Trip Drops), a collection of essays, that it is possible to take a virtual trip abroad nowadays.
Tuning into a Nordic radio station, or Spanish for that matter, it feels as if your room is in that country.
She says she listens most frequently to a station in New York. Even though she does not understand English, hearing the greeting, “Good morning,” makes her imagine smelling morning coffee when it is actually evening in Japan.
With television, you only see what is on the screen. But Ekuni notes that “sounds are free and adaptable. They fill the entire room because they cannot be seen.”
When each household had just one radio, the entire family gathered around it for entertainment. Later, radio became a personal gadget for solitary enjoyment until television took over.
But with many people now working from home due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the good old radio seems to have made a comeback.
Perhaps the desire to hear people’s voices and music is basic to human nature.
I myself listen to internet radio, but I also like the somewhat muffled sound of AM radio. Discussions are in progress to terminate AM radio broadcasts, and this saddens me to no end.
–The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 5
* * *
Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.