Musical Japanese roads give drivers an earful
These days, Japanese hills are alive with the sound of road music. Authorities hoping to attract more tourists through scenic mountain passes have created three highways that hum a tune as you drive by.autos Updated: Dec 05, 2007 19:05 IST
These days, Japanese hills are alive with the sound of road music. Authorities hoping to attract more tourists through scenic mountain passes have created three highways that hum a tune as you drive by.
Created by the friction between the tires and nearly 2,600 unevenly spaced ridges and tracks etched onto the road surface, the sound is not necessarily music to everyone's ears.
On one of the so-called melody roads, tucked away in the mountains near Numata city, about 110 miles north of Tokyo, your wheels hum a tune that sounds like "Memories of Summer", a popular regional song.
Not for long, though. The musical interlude lasts for just 12.7 seconds, the time it takes to travel the 175-metre section of road at 50 km an hour. Signs advise drivers to travel at precisely that speed to achieve perfect pitch and rhythm.
Creating this brief jingle along the sparsely traveled tourist route cost the local authorities 2.2 million yen ($20,000) but, they say, it was worth every one of them.
"This area has a lot of tourist spots, but not many people used this road before," said Takahisa Fukashiro, director of the Numata Administrative Affairs office in charge of the project.
"So we built this melody point in the hope that it would attract more people here."
Elsewhere in the country, two other stretches of highway play other tunes inspired by traditional local songs.
Numata authorities mulled extending the Numata road symphony, but the mountains put a brake on its expansion.
"If we had a longer straight road we could consider it," Fukashiro said.
"The other issue is that cars need to drive at a steady speed and the question is really whether drivers will be able to do that over longer periods of time."
The melody points were built on straight stretches of road to prevent distracted drivers from colliding or veering off.
Tourists at a nearby souvenir shop said they could also save lives.
"It'd be great to keep me awake while driving," said Yoko Shimoda, 29.
(Editing by Miral Fahmy and Roger Crabb)