In this town, green means its time to renew your Netflix subscription.

People tend to imagine the urban sprawl of Tokyo when envisioning Japan, but the country has a vast countryside too, with places that can give the quaintest parts of the world a run for their money. One such place is the small island of Himakajima a few dozen kilometers south of Nagoya, in between Ise Bay and Mikawa Bay.

It’s a picturesque little island with nice beaches, tasty octopus, and a population that tends to hover around 2,000. In addition, one of its more unique features is its lone set of traffic lights on the southeastern coast. While there are countless small towns that only have “the traffic lights,” Himakajima’s are special in that they only turn green – or “blue” as they call it in Japanese – on one day out of the year.

For the other 364.25 days, these lights are in a constant state of flashing yellow in the direction of the coastal road and flashing red on the road leading into Hakajima East Port, making them equivalent to a pair of stop signs in the north-south direction.

▼ The east-west light in its perpetual yellow state.

The reason is that these stop lights were never intended to serve any sort of traffic control. They were installed in 1994 at the request of the Himaka Traffic Safety Association to help teach the island’s children how to follow the signals in case they move out to a big city someday.

Prior to the traffic lights, a smaller prop was used to teach kids but they always felt a disconnect between it and the real thing. Now, for one day in May, the lights are set to turn green so the kids can practice using them properly and safely.

▼ News report from the green light of 2023.

This year the green light was activated on May 21, and once again children congregated at the intersection to get a feel for the timing of it and practice looking right, left, and right again before raising their arm and crossing the street. One young girl told reporters that she was surprised how tricky it was when the light turned red while she was walking her bike across the zebra stripes.

If you’d like to witness this yearly event, it might be hard to pinpoint the exact date, but the lights have their own page on the Himakajima website for a good place to start. Even if you do miss it, there’s still a lot to see, do, and eat there so you won’t be disappointed. It serves as a reminder that Japan isn’t all robots, 3-D billboards, and fax machines.

Source: Himakajima, Asahi Shimbun Digital
Featured image: Pakutso
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