Sounds of Aircraft and a Boat at Lake Biwa

A small airplane and a fishing boat recorded from the shore of Lake Biwa along Shiga Route 25 in Okishima-cho, Omihachiman City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan (map).

We can hear gentle waves on the nearby shore, but internal combustion engines dominate this otherwise quiet environment. Other human sounds include a jet aircraft high overhead and two cars that pass along the road just a few meters behind the microphone.

On June 8, 2015, the morning I made this field recording, I had intended to record the calls of birds in a quiet location along the shore of Lake Biwa. The shoreline between Chomeiji and People’s Holiday Village is one of the few places along the lake that see little car traffic and few personal watercraft, especially on weekdays. The main difficulty is parking. There are only a few wide spots to park a car along along the road. At the first place I stopped I could hear a Japanese bush warbler and other small birds, but men were working nearby. At a few other locations I could not hear any birds.

Side view of an audio recorder and microphone on a tripod in front of a large tree and some bushes.
Field recording at Biwako along Shiga Route 25 in Okishima-cho, Omihachiman City.

When I arrived at the spot where I recorded, I heard one Japanese bush warbler. Hoping the the bird would continue to call, I set up my recording equipment facing the mountain along the road. The bird did not call again, but I heard a fishing boat on the lake. Just after I turned the microphone toward the lake and began to record, aircraft and boat engines overwhelmed the delicate sounds of waves hitting the shore below my location.

My visual and auditory experiences in rural Japan are so incongruous that often I feel betrayed by my eyes. Places that appear peaceful and quiet may suddenly be dominated by the sounds of machinery that people use for work or leisure activities. It is easy to understand why rural Japan is the scene of so many beautiful photographs and so few field recordings. Peaceful soundscapes are extremely difficult to find.

Recorded with an Audio-Technica BP4025 stereo microphone and a Tascam DR-70D recorder on June 8, 2015. You can see the map location and hear the first three minutes of the audio on radio aporee maps (Okishimacho, Omihachiman, Shiga Prefecture 523-0801, Japan).