I took my parents to the airport this morning. Of course, no matter how reasonable the flight time sounds at the time of booking, by the time you factor in the excessively premature check-in times and the time taken to get to the airport in whatever godforsaken hamlet they are located in, far from their alleged city, you always have to get up early.

Kansai Airport, unusually, is located on a large rectangular artificial island in the middle of Osaka Bay. To get there involves travelling to the coast, then crossing a four kilometre bridge to the island. It’s time consuming and expensive, but it’s still a lot better than, for example, Charleroi “Brussels South” airport, so far from Brussels that it’s practically in France. That’s just as well, because it’s the fifth time in a month that I’ve been to Kansai Airport.

Fortunately, the taxi driver didn’t get lost, the train arrived on time, and check-in went smoothly, so it wasn’t too bad. My parents seemed to get through the security check without being dragged aside for an intrusive search, so it looked as though everything went well. Besides, once you’ve checked your luggage, you can be pretty confident that you’ll be getting on the plane. I hope these upcoming passenger evaluation databases aren’t too effective, though. If they read my website, they might decide that I’m a troublemaker and put me in for the “special” service every time!

As I was going all the way out to the airport, I decided to stop in at Rinku Town (on the landward side of the long bridge) on the way back, and visit some of the outlet shops to pick up some cheap clothes. I was looking for some new trousers, and I found a good pair, as it happens.

But the shops didn’t open until 10am, which left me with an hour to kill before then. I sat on the beach eating onigiri (rice balls) from Family Mart (a convenience store) and finishing off the book I was reading. I say beach, and so do they—Marble Beach—but it’s fairly unconvincing as beaches go. The area around Rinku Town is reclaimed/artificially created land—the geometric lines of the coast give that away—and the beach is equally unnatural. It’s covered in white and grey pebbles, which wouldn’t look out of place themselves apart from their colour and the fact that the pebble layer is only one or two pebbles deep. Underneath it is concrete, dirt, earth, or something similar.

And they have loudspeakers along the beachfront which strike up every quarter hour with an exhortation not to litter the area, behave antisocially, kill the other people there, or something like that. The thing is, I couldn’t catch what was being said, because the speakers were so loud that I could hear the speaker two metres away, and the ones a hundred metres away on each side, and the ones a hundred metres beyond those, all delayed by different amounts as the sound travelled from the speakers to my ears. It was incomprehensible, like those tests for deafness where the subjects’ voices are played back delayed to confuse them (the deaf, you see, are not confused). If they would only turn the volume down by about 80%, it would be comprehensible and unobtrusive. Or how about just a discreet sign? Or even—and I’m being really radical here—treat people like responsible individuals who can work these things out for themselves. After all, the antisocial people who do litter are unlikely to be shamed into submission by a recorded announcement, even at 150dB. But this is Japan, so everything has to be loud. I’m convinced that the loudspeaker was the most deleterious invention ever to be introduced here, even worse than concrete or pachinko.