100 Soundscapes of Japan

“In 1996, as part of its efforts to combat noise pollution and to protect and promote the environment, the Ministry of the Environment designated the 100 Soundscapes of Japan (日本の音風景100選?) There were 738 submissions received from all over the country and the 100 “best” were selected after examination by the Japan Soundscape Study Group….”

See the full list here

What a beautiful idea! Wouldn’t it be great if every country did this?

And some of the sounds listed are so intriguing eg “Isobue whistling of female divers in Ise-Shima area (伊勢志摩の海女の磯笛?)” Of course I did a quick search, and from an interview with the author of a book on these women of the sea:

“The whistle is a distinct method of breathing for ama, and also acts as a way to rest and prepare for the next dive. The whistle also helps to maximize the number of dives, which could be as many as 50 in an hour. The whistle sometimes sounds like ‘painful gasps’…

And from a PDF of a very interesting article by Kumi Kato: WAITING FOR THE TIDE, TUNING IN THE WORLD

“The whistle sound, and the word itself (isobue), are said to be specific to the Shima region, whereas other regions refer to it as a belly breath (haraiki) and a fast breath (hayaiki). Women said they “feel better with the whistle and this breathing pattern becomes habitual even on land eg working in the fields or running up stairs”. In group diving situations, the whistle is also a way of subconsciously identifying and locating each other, providing safety as well as respect for work territories.”

Another intriguing sound listed: “The sand at Kotobikihama Beach (literally “Harp-Playing Beach”) called “Nakisuna”, makes a musical or singing sand when you walk on it”

And some sounds carry the gravity of history: The wind in the camphor tree at Sanno Jinja, Nagasaki that survived the atomic blast… “One of the two pillars of the Sanno Shrine Torii was toppled by the A-bomb blast. The blast also blew away the branches and leaves of the two camphor trees in the precincts of the Shrine, which were then more than 500 years old.”

9 thoughts on “100 Soundscapes of Japan

  1. amanda belantara

    Hi! the sounds of the amasan are beautiful. i wish i’d had better equipment at the time, but still managed to record some of their whistles in a beautiful fishing village in mie prefecture
    you can hear it here: http://s.coop/sami

  2. arnoud

    “What a beautiful idea! Wouldn’t it be great if every country did this?”

    Well, the Netherlands do! I’ve started, together with The Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision and Kennisland, a crowd sourced audio archive with an aim to capture “The Sound of the Netherlands”. You can find more information here: http://www.geluidvannederland.nl/about

    BTW i’ve never heard of the Japan Project. Will check it out, thanks!

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