“The 100 what??” That was our initial reaction too, but the official list is just what it sounds like!

Many of you know at least a few famous natural landscapes or must-see places scattered throughout Japan, such as the government-designated Places of Scenic Beauty or the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But how many of you are familiar with the 100 Soundscapes of Japan?

The term “soundscape” might sound strange, but it’s meant to be an equivalent of the term “landscape”–like candy for your ears. In 1996, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment actually designated 100 symbolic phenomena throughout the country as official Soundscapes of Japan in an effort to both preserve those sounds for future generations to come and to combat noise pollution. The 100 phenomena were chosen from 738 entries by the Japan Soundscape Study Group (yes, a real entity), and span the entire length of the island nation, from the northernmost island of Hokkaido to the southern islands of Okinawa.

▼ A visual map of all 100 soundscapes across Japan


Furthermore, the list includes not only natural world soundscapes covering all four seasons, but also soundscapes of important intangible Japanese cultural artifacts and regional trades. In other words, there’s more than just the quintessential Japanese summer buzzing of cicadas or the gushing of waterfalls; the memorable sounds of a fair number of Japanese festivals and traditional handcrafts being produced are also included!

Below, we’ve gathered a mixed sampling of fifteen of the soundscapes for your viewing aural pleasure. Enjoy!

▼ Soundscape #1: Drift ice in the Sea of Okhotsk (Hokkaido)

▼ Soundscape #5: Japanese crane sanctuary, Tsurui (Hokkaido)

▼ Soundscape #12: Bells of Chagu Chagu Umakko Festival (Iwate Prefecture) (skip to 7:20)

This horse festival held every June was designated an Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the Japanese government Chagu chagu is onomatopoeia for the sound of the bells fitted onto the horses’ colorful decorations.

▼ Soundscape #18: Cicadas at Yamadera (Yamagata Prefecture)

Haiku master Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) composed this famous poem at Yamadera: Stillness / Seeping into rocks / A cicada’s cry

▼ Soundscape #23: Weaving of ramie fabric (Fukushima Prefecture) (skip to 4:40)

Fukushima Prefecture’s Showa Village is renowned for the centuries-old handcraft of weaving ramie textiles, known as karamushi-ori in Japanese.

▼ Soundscape #35: Ship whistles for the New Year at Yokohama Port (Kanagawa Prefecture)

▼ Soundscape #48: Isobue whistling of female divers in Ise-Shima area (Mie Prefecture) (skip to 2:30)

▼ Soundscape #52: Shomyo Falls (Toyama Prefecture)

▼ Soundscape #62: Squeaking sand of Kotobikihama Beach (Kyoto Prefecture)

This beach is one of the few places in Japan where the sand makes a unique “singing” sound when you walk on it.

▼ Soundscape #71: Mitoku River and singing frogs (Tottori Prefecture)

▼ Soundscape #76: Bell of Peace in Hiroshima (Hiroshima Prefecture)

▼ Soundscape #79: Naruto whirlpools (Tokushima Prefecture)

▼ Soundscape #80: Awa Odori Festival (Tokushima Prefecture)

This summer festival is the largest dance festival in Japan. Awa refers to the former feudal administrative region of Tokushima, and odori means dance.

▼ Soundscape #89: Imari Pottery (Saga Prefecture) (skip to 19:20)

Imari porcelain, also known as Arita porcelain, is a type of pottery that was particularly popular with Europeans in the second half of the 17th century.

▼ Soundscape #100: Eisa Festival (Okinawa Prefecture)

Eisa is a type of Okinawan folk dance performed in lines or circles to the accompaniment of singing, chanting, and drumming.

If you enjoyed the entries above and want to read the full list, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment provides a free pamphlet download with detailed descriptions of all 100 of the soundscapes (Japanese only). Happy sound hunting, everyone!

Sources: Wikipedia (English)Wikipedia (Japanese)
Top image: YouTube/Soul Candle
Insert image: Japan Ministry of the Environment