For full context, see here: https://www.docdroid.net/XIK9pCk/img-20171020-0001-new.pdf

The sentence in question, taken from line 9 -11: マンションのドアを開けたり閉めたりする音や鳴りっぱなしの踏切、しゃべる自動販売機、つけっぱなしのテレビ、駅のアナウンスなどが、初めは本当にうるさくてたまらなかった。

My attempt at translation: "Concerning the first time, it truly was annoying and unbearable, the opening and closing the condominium sound (=the sound of opening and closing the condominium) and not-stopping-to-ring railroad crossings, talking vending machines, non-stop engaged televisions and announcements of stations (=announcements on stations)."

I just learned about the っぱなし constructions and still struggle a little to translate them into well readable english. However, my main "issue" lies with the bold 鳴りっぱなしの踏切. Is my translation of this phrase correct? I've never been to japan, do the railroad crossings really constantly ring there? Or do they emit another type of signal, like "blinking"?

  • I added some information on railroad crossings in Japan.
    – user20624
    Oct 25, 2017 at 6:06

3 Answers 3


鳴りっぱなしの踏切 means "a railway crossing that keeps on ringing" or "a railway crossing with never-ending ringing sound." See your own previous question for the grammar.

Simply, this is an example of exaggerated expressions like these. Like many other countries in the world, Japanese railroad crossings ring only when a train is approaching. They also use blinking red lights. However, a few railway crossings in Japan are almost always closed in the daytime due to the heavy train traffic. (Known as an 開かずの踏切 problem. See this article).

Even the most crowded 踏切 in Japan opens for at least a few minutes per hour, and in this period it does not ring. So technically speaking, saying 鳴りっぱなし without saying ほぼ ("almost") is incorrect. But 鳴りっぱなしの踏切 totally makes sense as an exaggerated expression for those who have a basic knowledge of Japanese 踏切. 開かずの踏切 ("unopened 踏切") is also an exaggerated expression because it sometimes opens.


Yes, it means railway crossing.

When a train approaches, a rhythmic ringing sound like a chime is emitted from the crossing, and the gates come down automatically. The sound keeps going until the train has passed and the gates lift. In Japanese, people often describe the sound as こんこん to mimic the rhythm of the ringing/chiming sound.

By the way, the translation of 鳴りっぱなしの踏切 as "not-stopping-to-ring railroad crossings" is strange. Better just to say something simple like "the constant ringing of the railway crossing" or "the non-stop chiming of the railway crossing bell".

  • Of course a Japanese 踏切 rings only a train approaches, but some busy railroads have so-called 開かずの踏切. They can be described as 鳴りっぱなしの踏切.
    – naruto
    Oct 23, 2017 at 19:59
  • @naruto Yes indeed, they exist too.
    – kandyman
    Oct 23, 2017 at 20:50


Is “railroad crossing” meant with 踏切{ふみきり} here?

Yes, but if I say exactly the meaning of "踏切{ふみきり}" in "鳴{な}りっぱなしの踏切{ふみきり}", it is "踏切{ふみきり}の警報音{けいほうおん} sound of the warning signal of the railroad crossing (of Japan)".


When I read the original text presented by the questioner (OP), I can say that the above sentence posted by OP was told by a wife from a certain quiet country who had been living in the city of Japan for a somewhat long time.

The sentence presented by OP is an impression of a person who had come to Japan from abroad this time, but this expression is similar to the body of a novel which is expressed as summarized as "都会{とかい}の喧騒{けんそう} the hustle and bustle of a city or the characteristic noises of big cities", where people express the feeling being disgusted to the urban life at the noise.

When interpreting "鳴りっぱなしの踏切" literally, it becomes "a railroad crossing where the alarm does not stop ringing" because the trains go continually just like the crossing called "開かずの踏切 a railroad crossing whose gate never to open" introduced by naruto's comment. However, judging from the whole sentence presented by OP, it is not literally like "the railroad crossing where the alarm sounds forever", but I think it is "the railroad crossing where the traffic of the trains are so frequent that the alarm sounds constantly or so often but you feel as if the alarm sounded forever."


I've never been to japan, do the railroad crossings really constantly ring there? Or do they emit another type of signal, like "blinking"?

Separately from the answer about "っぱなし" in "鳴りっぱなし", I noticed that I did not provide information on railroad crossings in Japan to OP. So, I will explain about railway crossings in Japan based on the sources written at the end of the explanation and my experience along with the explanation using a picture.

For better understanding of the explanation, I recommend you to look at the picture below at first, then watch the video and read my explanation.

Grade crossing signals are installed at railway crossings also in Japan. They are the electronic warning devices for road vehicles.

The basic signal consists of flashing red lights, a crossbuck and a bell, attached to a mast. Furthermore, except for crossings with a small traffic volume, striped barriers for the gates are installed. At most crossings, the signals will activate about 40-50 seconds before the train arrives and about 7 seconds before the gates start to be lowered. 

The gates will be fully lowered 15 to 20 seconds before the train arrives. The gates will rise or the signals will shut off once the end of the train clears the island circuit.

Level crossing in Japan

According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, there are in total about 33,300 level crossings (踏切 fumikiri) in Japan as of 2016. These are easily identifiable with their yellow and black crossbucks mounted adjacent to the crossing, and newer crossings are often paved in green asphalt for easy recognition. Most of these are protected with electronic signals (踏切警報機 fumikiri keihouki) usually equipped with alternating flashing red lights, a bell (note: bell is edited by me) and yellow-and-black-striped barriers. Many signals are also equipped with signs with red LED arrows that indicate the direction of approaching trains.

Similarly to United States school buses, but unlike many other countries, all cars and bicycles must stop before proceeding over any level crossing in Japan, regardless of whether there are electronic signals, as required by the Road Traffic Act. The only exception is if the crossing is additionally controlled by a traffic light, called a fumikiri shingo (踏切信号); in this case, if the light is green, it is not necessary to stop at the level crossing.

On some busy rail lines, especially in urban areas like in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, so many trains pass through some level crossings that they are almost always closed to vehicular traffic. In some cases, such as the Chūō Main Line, more than 50 trains pass in an hour, which equates to only two minutes in which vehicles can cross the tracks during that interval, causing serious traffic congestion and inconvenience. Many such crossings, known in Japanese as akazu no fumikiri (開かずの踏切 a railway crossing whose gates never to open; note: the translation is made by me), have been eliminated by grade separating rail lines, generally by moving them onto viaducts (高架化{こうかか}) or underground tracks (地下化{ちかか}).


enter image description here


Is “railroad crossing” meant with 踏切{ふみきり} here?







質問者が提示した冒頭の文は、今回は外国から日本に来た人の感想ですが、「都会の喧騒 the hustle and bustle of a city or the characteristic noises of big cities」に嫌気が差した人が使う感情の表現として小説の中によくありそうな表現です。

  • 2
    – naruto
    Oct 24, 2017 at 7:57
  • @naruto:「絶えず(または「しょっちゅう」)警報音が鳴っているように感じるほど列車の往来が頻繁な踏切」とは、「列車の往来が頻繁な踏切なので絶えず(または「しょっちゅう」)警報音が鳴っているように感じる踏切」という意味で使ったのですが、誤解を与えたようです。あくまでもうんざりしているのは警報音の音であって、列車の往来の音や往来の頻度にうんざりしているのではないですよ。「ずっと鳴りっぱなし」ではなく、「鳴りっぱなしと感じるほどの頻度で鳴っていますよ」と言う意味です。「鳴りっぱなしと感じるほど」の頻度を「鳴りっぱなし」と表現するのは一種の修辞法です。
    – user20624
    Oct 24, 2017 at 9:58
  • @naruto: 回答の全体を見れば「都会の喧騒」にうんざりしていると見とりますのと、その一例として「鳴りっぱなしの踏切」ですので、これが列車の本数を指していないことは明白ですね。
    – user20624
    Oct 24, 2017 at 10:03
  • 1
    – naruto
    Oct 24, 2017 at 10:23
  • 1
    @kandyman I know, but there was another question at the end, and that's what made him wonder the meaning of 踏切.
    – naruto
    Oct 24, 2017 at 14:57

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