Lunchtime scares me.
Not just because of the prospect of eating natto - a traditional Japanese food made of fermented soy beans that smells like old cheese and is a struggle to get down - but because of the sirens that go off throughout town at noon every day.
If you've ever watched a war movie, you will know exactly what these sirens sound like. You know the ones, where a town is about to get bombed, war planes are on the horizon and this shrieking siren drones on and on and on, warning people to get into their bunkers or find shelter somewhere.
That's what our lunchtime siren sounds like.
So you can imagine my reaction when I first heard it within days of moving to my new home.
Being hit with the realisation that I was all alone, no Japanese cellphone, no internet, and no knowledge of where my fellow "Jets" were living, this war-like siren went off and I freaked.
"Oh my goodness, are we about to be bombed? Is there a tsunami?
"Am I meant to evacuate?
"What the heck is going on?"
I peered out the window to see what people were doing but there was no-one around. After a minute the siren stopped and life, it seemed, went on.
Two months later I still haven't worked out why the lunchtime siren sounds like we're going to war. I asked one of the teachers at school and he said something about World War II in broken English but I didn't quite catch the full story.
A quick Google search of Japan lunchtime sirens had a brief response about towns by the sea using lunchtime as an opportunity to test the tsunami warning siren.
But we don't live by the sea.
We live by a lake.
Despite having heard this siren seven days a week for the past eight weeks, I still have to remind myself that we are not getting bombed and reassure the subconscious voice is telling me to run for safety, that everything is OK.
In contrast to our wartime lunch siren, dinnertime is a bit more pleasant.
Every night at 6 o'clock, my house begins to sing. A teacher told me the tune was supposed to be Edelweiss but after hearing the same tune for seven weeks it finally clicked as to what it sounded like - that old Sunday school song Jesus Loves Me.
I swear the speaker must be outside my house because the tune blasts into my living room every night to the point that, if I am talking to someone, we have to pause until the song stops.
It's rather annoying but provides some light-hearted entertainment when we think it has stopped and start to talk again, just for the song to do a second round.
I call this Japan telling me it's time for dinner.
The reality is it's a song pumped out through our town to tell the school kids to go home. It happens in other parts of Japan, too.
It's nice enough but I sure do hope they change the song every term. It will get very old, very quickly.
Tania Butterfield is a former Express reporter teaching English at two schools in the Shiga prefecture of central Japan.
- The Marlborough Express