Fri, Oct 11, 2019

Kotohikihama: Efforts made to keep Kyotango’s ‘singing sand’ beach singing

Japan’s beauty in the eyes of CIRs

By Jeremy Hebert / CIR for Kyotango, Kyoto Pref.

Kotohikihama is a beautiful beach located in Amino, Kyotango (Kyoto Prefecture), along the Sea of Japan. It is loved by the locals and is a popular sightseeing destination for those from other regions of Japan and around the world.

However, there is something special about this beach, designated a natural monument and a place of scenic beauty in 2007, that sets it apart from other coastlines. Walking along the beach, the sand appears to emit a unique sound beneath one’s feet. This type of sand is called nakisuna or “singing sand.” There is a high concentration of quartz in nakisuna that rubs against itself when pressured, and if the sand is smooth and free of garbage, these small collisions and vibrations create the unexpected sound. There are roughly 30 beaches in Japan containing this kind of sand, but Kotohikihama is considerably well-known out of the ones in Kyotango. It spans 1.8 kilometers in length, and the “loudest” stretch of sand is located near its center. This section is named Taikohama or “Drum-Beach” thanks to the taiko-esque sound the sand makes if tapped with one’s hand. The cause of this is said to be the underneath bedrock that supposedly reverberates with the sounds from the surface.

The sands of Kotohikihama are washed clean every fall and winter season due to a sea breeze which blows the ocean onto the beach. When the season changes to spring, so does the direction of the wind; dry, clean sand is left in the ocean’s wake, reviving nakisuna for the warmer seasons. Human oils and debris can spoil the sand and make it inaudible, so this natural cleaning process is necessary for a proper listening experience. Therefore, the prime “listening” season is spring: before droves of people come to the beach in summer.

Just like with anything precious and unique, effort must be made to sustain Kotohikihama. There are certain rules that one must abide by when visiting this site. First of all, smoking and fireworks are prohibited; Kotohikihama was the first beach in Japan to ban smoking. Furthermore, taking the singing sand home is not allowed. However, in addition to these two rules, extra effort must be made to protect Kotohikihama from a more serious threat – ocean trash.

Over half of the objects that wash up on Kotohikihama are articles of trash including large objects such as boats, refrigerators and washing machines. Dangerous medical waste such as syringes (with needles attached) can also be found. To combat this, Kotohikihama is equipped with a paid parking lot, which helps fund cleaning efforts conducted on the beach. The local volunteer club at Amino High School also helps in the effort as a part of their extracurricular club activities.

“Garbage you pick up, your ticket in”

However, the most extraordinary cleaning effort is held during the summer. The “Hadashi no Concert” is an event held on the beach where concert-goers are granted access by cleaning the area. The event’s slogan is “the garbage you pick up is your ticket in,” as cleaning is conducted in the morning and followed by live music in the afternoon. It is apparent how important this area is to the locals when one looks at all of the preservation efforts that are being conducted.

The director of the Kotohikihama Singing Sand Cultural Hall, Tamoi Hideyaki, commented on the efforts being made. He expressed that while events like the Hadashi no Concert are great, he hopes that the world will start making efforts to decrease the overall garbage it produces. Mr. Hideyaki also shared concerns about microplastics: “Plastic goods make our lives much more convenient, but we must rethink this type of lifestyle and only consume what is completely necessary. For example, it is of the utmost importance for us to select products made of environment-friendly materials to create less plastic waste.”

This beautiful coastline is a great tourist destination, as it is preciously cared for by the locals who love it. It would be a great experience to come and enjoy the fruits of the unique relationship that the sea and the people who live near it share.

(Cooperation: Council of Local Authorities for International Relations)


Jeremy Hebert

Jeremy is an American currently living in the city of Kyotango, Kyoto Prefecture. His fascination with Yabusame drove him to study the Japanese language at University. That road eventually led him to The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme, on which he is currently thriving within the rice fields and mountains of deep Japan.



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