“Sunahama”: a Museum that Changes with the Seasons

By Misa

During May’s “Golden Week” holiday, the first week off since a busy new semester started, there are a lot of T-shirts by the sea in Kuroshio town. The sky is blue, and the wind from the big Pacific Ocean makes people comfortable. T-shirts are lined up on the beach as if drying laundry. Each one has different pictures and is shining in the sunlight. Two young women gazed at each picture on a t-shirt closely, and a couple was walking between T-shirts while facing each other and talking.

The T-shirt art exhibition started in 1989 in the former Ogata town (now Kuroshio town). This year will be the 35th year since this event started, so this year is memorable. This event was organized mainly by the NPO Sunahama museum. What is “The Sunahama Museum”? Although this is the organization’s name, this museum stands for the sea in Kuroshio town. The Sunahama Museum has a concept that “Our town doesn’t have a museum, a beautiful beach is a museum.” They want to convey that it leads us to various ideas and new creativity by changing the way we look at things. Instead of building something made of reinforcing bars, concrete, or wood, the 4-kilometer sandy beach itself in Kuroshio Town is used as an art museum and various events are held. Their main exhibitions are a T-shirt art exhibition, a sea breeze quilt exhibition, and a drifting object exhibition.

Everyone enjoys a different style. 

In the T-shirts art exhibition, they collect photos from all over Japan through websites, print them on T-shirts, and hang them on the day of the event. They want visitors to see the beach in Kuroshio town as a museum and nature as a work that changes 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. However, this town will be destroyed due to a huge disaster. Kuroshio town is expected to be severely damaged by the Nankai Trough earthquake, which is said to have a 70% chance of occurring within the next 30 years. Here in Kuroshio Town, Kochi Prefecture, the highest tsunami height in Japan is predicted to be 34 meters. 

About 35 years ago, in 1989, a photographer, Mr. Kitade wanted to display T-shirts on the beach in a conversation with Mr. Umehara at the former Ogata town hall. This period was the peak of the bubble economy, and various leisure facilities were increasing around Japan, but the temporary fashion ended soon. Therefore, they decided to create an event that conveys the charm of the city as it is without any buildings and visitors can see with their eyes.

 However, this event is not profitable and never easy to implement, so there has been talking about quitting many times along the way. One of the difficult situations is that the covid-19 happened in 2019 and it was unable to attract many visitors by conducting events. The T-shirt art exhibition was canceled due to the coronavirus. From this sad experience, members of the Sunahama museum began to create events in the form of drawing pictures and turning fantasies into reality. And they noticed that the event could be realized only if this local nature is preserved by everyone’s efforts.

A dog also enjoys the exhibition.

Ms. Tama, who is a housewife in Ehime prefecture, wrote about the T-shirts art exhibition on a Web site and she said, 

“Even though it was a weekday, there were so many people that the parking lot was full.” 

When she saw the T-shirt exhibition, she felt,

 “The approximately 1,000 pure white T-shirts dancing in the sea breeze under the blue sky were very beautiful, and it was fun to see the T-shirts with different designs.”

What was on display was not only T-shirts hanging on strings, but also “sand sculpture art” there. 

  “It was surprising for me that there was a sandy man’s face staring at me!!” she said.

Kuroshio Town, where the Sunahama museum is located, changes with the seasons. However, as I said, if a huge tsunami comes, everything will be lost in an instant. Local animals, foods, and nature will be gone. Mr. Matsumoto, who is a founding member of the NPO Sunahama museum, works as an information and disaster prevention division manager. And he said, 

“I want to create a city that can successfully face and withstand the Nankai earthquake with the goal of zero victims.” Although we should not lose the beautiful scenery of this town, it is hard to withstand this big disaster, and no one can control it. While keeping the countryside in Kuroshio town as it is, they have to consider the future of this town after the Nankai earthquake happened.

 “Preserve the town they have today for their future children and make this town active and remain in people’s memory forever.”



  1. Been there before and it was so pleasing to see the exhibition. I really think that it’s a good idea to have a museum without having to build one. But the fact that this town is exposed to disaster is also concerning…..

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  2. I’ve actually visited Kuroshio town once to see this wonderful exhibition, and I was unexpectedly in the second picture! Anyway, I didn’t know Kuroshio town was dangered by the big earthquake, although I grew up in Kochi. After reading this article, I hope many people will visit the T-shirt art exhibition before the Nankai earthquake happens, and so I will.

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  3. I have been thinking to go but haven’t yet.
    I hope there won’t be a big earthquake, and I’ll be there soon!


  4. I keep hearing that there is a beautiful open museum in Kochi but don’t have a chance to there. I was curious about how this idea came out. Until I read your article, I understand that the idea of the numerous white T-shirts with paintings or phrases hanging on the beach is to show the charming point of the city. Therefore, people from everywhere are attracted by this, and some visit it.

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