Kugenuma Beach Hole-Diggers

Mike GristJapan, People / Culture 11 Comments

I’m something of a life-long addict when it comes to digging holes at the beach. I’ve been digging holes since I was a kid alongside my Dad, fending off the sea, arming sea-shell soldiers along a sand-fort battlement, willing the walls to hold and the moat to stay fast.

These days however I forsake the battlements and soldiers and just go for the biggest, widest, and deepest kid-swallowing hole I can dig:

I dug this hole with a lot of help from my friends on the Iku frisbee team. We were out at the beautiful Kugenuma Beach in Kanagawa a few weeks back, and of course I brought my shovel along. JB got stuck in first, but soon we had Lukas, Doug, Alex, Niji, Yoshio, some random J-sumo-guy, and some dappy young girls helping out with the dig.

People ask me- why do you dig a hole on the beach? It’s a good question- but you can’t really answer it ’til you’ve done it, unless by analogy. Why do people run marathons or build huge pyramids? We’re an acquisitive people, stuck within the flow of time, and as such we like to see things progress and grow with time, especially through our own efforts. Digging big holes is one way to do that. Building pyramids is another. It’s a sense of achievement, an accomplishment, even if we fill in the hole at the end. Plus it’s excellent when a bunch of kids come and jump in when you’re done and have a great time playing. I suppose that’s like ancient Mesopotamians going to Egypt and being awed by Giza. Everybody benefits.

So what is my advice for digging a hole?

How to Dig a Hole

1- You need a real shovel, with a smooth handle and long neck (for ergonomic reasons), light and preferably all one piece of metal to avoid rot.

2- You need good sand, hopefully a clean unpolluted beach, and you need to choose your location well, depending on what kind of hole you want to dig:

a- WATER HOLE- If you want to build a water-hole, you need to judge your height above the sea well, as if you go very close to the sea, you’ll get a foot down, hit water, and be unable to dig much further (the lapping water in the hole will cause the sides to cave in).  If you go too far away from/above the sea, you’ll never get the water to come in- unless you dig a long channel to the sea- which can be hard work after already digging a big hole. Also, if you know the tides well, you can judge the hole so you’re digging in dry sand that the sea will reach as you finish.

b- DRY HOLE- No worries, put it wherever you want away from/above the sea level.

c- SEA FORT- This can be great fun, basically the hole is a moat surrounding a mountain/fort. You need to follow the rules for a WATER HOLE here- if you really want to tackle the sea- you need to be able to dig deep but know the sea will come to you eventually.

3- Friends will be a big help in your hole-digging efforts, though it shouldn’t replace solo digging altogether. Group digging adds camaraderie and power, but in so doing you tend to lose some of the focus of man vs. sea that you get on a solo dig.

4- You ought to make a circle at least twice as wide as you hope to go deep, and you need to throw the sand a good few feet beyond that line when you clear it. If you don’t go very wide, then you’ll have to dig with sheer sides, and sand doesn’t like to be sheer and will cave-in on you. Also, it’s natural for the sides to get trodden in some, especially with the lapping of a WATER HOLE, so in case that triggers land-slides, you want your sand piles to be far enough away from the demarcation line that they don’t slide down back into the hole.

5- Take a camera and take photographs and film.

6- Fill the hole in after you’re done, as it can be dangerous to leave it lying there.

You can see my short movie of the dig here. It’s a little less than 5 minutes, and includes some great comedy from Lukas, some cute dancing J-girls (in the hole), some sumo action, some showmanship, and lots of JB Frenchman-baiting.

See the last hole I dug, a water-hole on Shimoda beach in Izu, here.


You can see my other people shots in the People Gallery.

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Comments 11

  1. Wow, we totally dug that hole, eh? In a way I’m still digging it to this day… Again, one of the better ideas i’ve heard come from an Englishman, and it came on a beach nonetheless. I can’t remember precisely, but if i didn’t make any references to Normandy, I should have.

  2. I would trade the whole trip to visit Brady and Yukster, the fantastic weather, chilling with Bruno, the beautiful scenery–pretty much all of the amazing times I had in Vancouver just to have heard Luke put JB in his place.

  3. Not to be picky but I do believe you have written “Chiba” where you intended to write “Kanagawa.” What do I know though?

    Sorry I missed it. Looks like a good time was had by all.

  4. Post

    Genny, Wonderboy, Doug- thanks for the comment guys :).

    Lukas- yup, we certainly dug it. Though I think you and JB did the lion’s share- I was chiefly filming and enlisting others.

    Jei- It was a righteous thing to behold, believe you me!

    Full House- Good call, amended.

  5. I think I’ll have to witness one of these Hole Digging experiments in action some time! Looks like the best part is playing in it when you’re done. 🙂

    1. Yep, you’re right!
      Burying someone that way, it’s very hard for him to get out by himself and let him struggle as long as he can take it, is a lot of fun. 🙂

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