KESENNUMA, Miyagi Prefecture--Residents of this tsunami-hit city finally have something to smile about and celebrate after two beaches made of "singing sand" were named as natural treasures.
Despite mounds of debris washed ashore by the tsunami, Kugunarihama beach on Oshima island in the Kesennuma Bay and Kukunakihama beach on the nearby Karakuwa Peninsula both continue to produce their trademark "kyu, kyu" sounds when people shuffle their feet on the dry sand.
The phenomenon occurs when grains of quartz sand rub against each other, experts say. When impurities are mixed into the sand, the sound does not occur.
Residents who protect the beaches were happy to hear the Council for Cultural Affairs recommend in May that the two beaches be designated natural treasures. The recommendation will be implemented soon.
"I hope its designation as a natural treasure will help bring back tourists," said Minoru Murakami, 68, chairman of the Oshima Kaiyukai, a group of retired fishermen that cleans the sand twice a year on Kugunarihama.
Kugunarihama beach stretches about 200 meters along the east side of Oshima island. The scenic island was known as the "Green Pearl" before the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11.
The tsunami hit the island from two sides, with water cutting across its central part. Heavy oil that leaked onto the surface of the water caught fire, and the blaze ravaged forests on the island.
"After a petroleum tank damaged by the tsunami began leaking oil, I was worried the beach might become tainted. I was relieved (to see it was not)," said Yuji Shirahata, 62, who is chairman of the Oshima district promotion council. He visited Kugunarihama in mid-April.
The beach, however, has slightly eroded due to land subsidence, according to residents.
Similarly, local residents, including elementary schoolchildren, have cleaned up Kukunakihama, which stretches about 230 meters along the foot of the Karakuwa Peninsula facing Oshima island.
"Singing sand beaches are so rare that people call it a miracle if one remains," said Takuo Hatakeyama, 60, who heads the Karakuwa education center of the Kesennuma city board of education.
"It is good that (Kukunakihama has remained) because children can learn the importance of nature."
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