The Setouchi Triennale; An Introductory Guide
The Setouchi Triennale is a festival of contemporary art that takes place every three years over twelve small islands located in the picturesque setting of the Seto Inland Sea – a stretch of ocean that separates the biggest of Japan’s main island, Honshu and the smaller island of Shikoku. Access to the various islands is mostly by ferry from various ports, Takamatsu Port being the main hub.
The event began in 2010 in an attempt to help breathe new life into an area that was suffering from massive depopulation and an ageing populous. The festivals main aim was to counteract these problems by attracting visitors, new residents and businesses to the area through creative endeavors and sustainable tourism. The end goal was and still is to revitalize the island’s long-term communities.
Perhaps the most famous icon from the Setouchi islands is Yayoi Kusama’s Yellow Pumpkin – a giant yellow and black pumpkin, perched by the seafront on the island of Naoshima. Visitors flock from all over Japan, and indeed all around the world to see the infamous polka-dot pumpkin, but it is by no means the only thing in the area. There are over 200 art pieces and installations scattered across the twelve islands, all uniquely individual, with a story of their own. They include architecture, traditional Japanese crafts, performing arts and much more.
The main islands taking part in the Triennale are Naoshima, Teshima, Shodoshima, Ogijima, Megijima, Oshima and Inujima. The festival also spills over into the port city of Takamatsu, as well as Uno Port in the city of Tamano. The islands of Shamijima, Honjima, Awashima, Takamijima and Ibukijima also have seasonal pieces on display.
Outside of the Setouchi International Art Festival, the wonderful works of “Benesse Art Site Naoshima" on Naoshima, Teshima and Inujima, can be admired all year round.
A Breakdown of the islands:
Naoshima – Exhibits during spring, summer and autumn
Perhaps the most popular of the “art islands”, it has an abundance of museums and seasonal installations. To see everything a minimum of 1-2 days is required.
Access: Hourly ferries from Takamatsu Port, takes between 30-60 minutes,and from Uno Portm, depending on ferry.
Shodoshima – Exhibits during spring, summer and autumn
The largest of the exhibiting islands, has a wide selection of art pieces and also a few museums that may be of interest that aren’t part of the Triennale. To see all of the Triennale bits, a minimum of 1-2 days is required, and then at least another whole day to explore the rest of island.
Access: Frequent ferries from Takamatsu Port, takes between 30-60 minutes depending on ferry.
Megijima – Exhibits during spring, summer and autumn
A small stone-walled fishing community that is famous for featuring in a popular Japanese kid’s story book “Momotaro”. Art works are few, but the island is well worth a visit. Can easily see everything within a single day.
Access: Ferries from Takamatsu Port every two hours, takes 20 minutes.
Ogijima – Exhibits during spring, summer and autumn
Beautiful, old fishing village built on a hillside, houses around twenty art pieces. The island also has a stone lighthouse and wild vegetation. Can easily see everything within a single day.
Access: Ferries from Takamatsu Port every two hours, takes 40 minutes.
Inujima – Exhibits during spring, summer and autumn
Several art pieces can be found around the village but the main attraction is the Seirensho art project, set in the ruins of an old copper refinery. Can easily see everything within half a day.
Access: Ferries to Inujima leave from the islands of Naoshima and Teshima. And It’s only 10 minuites from Hoden Port in Okayama.
Moreover, ferries Ushimado-Inujima-Kyobashi route and from Shodoshima route ran for the duration of the Setouchi Art Triennale.
Teshima – Exhibits during spring, summer and autumn
Roughly twenty art pieces spread around the island, including the Teshima Art Museum. Also a few unofficial art pieces are to be discovered. This island is best traversed by rental bicycle. Buses also run between certain areas. To see everything a minimum of 1-2 days is required.
Access: Frequent ferries from Takamatsu Port (via Naoshima) and Uno, Shodoshima Port, takes between 20-50 minutes depending on ferry.
Ferries Naoshima-Teshima-Inujima route run three times a day.
Oshima – Exhibits during spring, summer and autumn
A small island just off the coast of Takamatsu, is used primarily as a treatment center for people who suffer from Hansen’s Disease. A collaboration project between artists, hospitals and residents is housed in a former dormitory. Can easily see everything within half a day.
Access: Ferries from Takamatsu run five times a day (at no charge). Takes 30 minutes.
Shamijima – Exhibits during spring only
This small island is now attached to Shikoku by reclaimed land, therefor is accessible by bus. It is home to the Higashiyama Kaii Setouchi Art Museum and
several other small pieces dotted about a small village. It also has beach access. Can easily see everything within half a day.
Access: Buses run from Sakaide Station, takes about 20 minutes.
Honjima – Exhibits during autumn only
A dozen or so art pieces can be found around the port. Explore a little further and you will find a well preserved old town as well. Can easily see everything within half a day.
Access: Ferries leave every 90 minutes from Marugame Port, or slightly less frequently from Kojima Port. Takes roughly 30 minutes from either port.
Takamijima – Exhibits during autumn only
About a dozen art works can be found around the town, which is now very unpopulated. There are officially more cats here than humans now, according to local reports. Can easily see everything within half a day.
Access: Ferries depart from Tadotsu Port five times a day. Takes 25 minutes.
Awashima – Exhibits during autumn only
Around ten art pieces are scattered around the town, as well as nice beaches and good hiking trails. Can easily see everything within half a day.
Access: Ferries run from Suda Port eight times a day, takes 15 minutes. Or from Miyanoshita Port three times a day, takes about 1 hour.
Ibukijima – Exhibits during autumn only
This tiny island has a thriving fishing industry, around 5-6 art pieces can be found around the town. Can easily see everything within half a day.
Access: Ferries from Kanonji Port run six times a day. Takes 25 minutes.
(Source: Japan Travel by NAVITIME)