The hardest part about house hunting in a city is figuring out whether your realtor is telling you the truth about how quiet a prospective neighbourhood is. It would be nice if, say, there was a website that could tell you exactly which areas are noisy. Which is exactly what the Japanese website DQN Today does.
A New York Times profile of the website notes it’s a crowdsourced guide where users can anonymously call out loud neighbours and pin streets heavily frequented by dorozoku, a term that refers to groups of people who tend to block roads or are excessively rowdy in public. Right now, the map is limited to Japan, and the site itself doesn’t list specific addresses or apartment units. Rather, it denotes streets where kids might tend to play streetball, soccer, ride skateboards, or otherwise disturb the peace.
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There are some similar resources in the U.S., like Neighbourhood Scout, Trulia’s What Locals Say feature, City-Data, Reddit, and Yelp. But most are bird’s eye looks at a particular neighbourhood and focus on providing demographic breakdowns, crime statistics, and average cost of living. DQN Today is an interesting outlier as it’s hyper-local, focusing on the streets themselves. It’s also a neat glimpse into local Japanese beef.
For instance, I looked up my old neighbourhood in Tokyo, and near a local school, I found someone griping about how on weekend afternoons and weeknight evenings until 8pm, kids tend to play catch, engage in batting practice, and play soccer on a main road not too far off from the local school. “Adult men also sometimes participate and teach,” the comment reads. This tracks with my memory of that particular area, even though I last lived in that neighbourhood in 2013. (It’s sort of amazing that nearly a decade later, the petty neighbourhood drama still keeps on keeping on.)
According to the Times, the website’s creator said the map was a “less-than-subtle hint for residents” who, despite the anonymous nature of the site, know that they’re being called out. A chef’s kiss example of passive-aggressiveness. There’s also a cultural aspect to DQN Today, as Japan itself has in recent years become increasingly intolerant of the sound of children playing. In short, childcare experts say the declining birthrate has led many people to become unfamiliar with the sound of kids being kids, leading to increased noise complaints. The Times cites Nishi-Ikebukuro Park, which has bans on 45 different activities, including jump roping, as one particular example of how public spaces have also been cracking down.
It’s not clear whether something like DQN Today would ever succeed stateside. After all, the reason it even exists is pretty specific to a rising societal trend in Japan, and DQN’s anonymous nature might not take off here. (Native Japanese online culture and social media also tend to prize anonymity more than its American counterparts.) That said, having recently gone through the apartment hunting process, this sort of thing would’ve come in handy.