Art Setouchi Triennale

Itinerary June 2010:

Okayama-> Uno Port-> Naoshima, Teshima, Megijima, Ogijima, Shodoshima, Oshima, Inujima-> Uno Port-> Okayama


12 islands of the Seto Inland Sea + Takamatsu and Uno
Naoshima / Teshima / Megijima / Ogijima / Shodoshima / Oshima /
Inujima / Shamijima [Spring Only] / Honjima [Autumn Only] /
Takamijima [Autumn Only] / Awashima [Autumn Only] /
Ibukijima [Autumn Only] / Takamatsu port and Uno port

Art Setouchi is an outdoor art’s festival taking place every 3 years in Japan.  I visited in the Summer of 2010, which was I believe one of the hottest summers ever on record.  And I explored it on foot.  I would not recommend doing this, and would instead suggest hiring a bike or car which you can easily do on each of the Islands.  Green tea ice- cream and the unpleasantly named Pocari Sweat ion- supply drink were my only protection against the searing heat and scorching sun.

The jumping off point for Art Setouchi was for me Uno Port, but you can also depart from Takamatsu.  I was staying in Okayama, so it was suggested to me at my hotel that Uno Port would be easier.  I took the bright rainbow coloured bus (looked brand new!) from Okayama to Uno Port for the 3 days of visiting the festival.  It was a very pleasant and scenic journey with the magnificent Great Seto Bridge crossing, especially at sunset after a long day island hopping.  It was also very cheap costing a couple of pounds each way for a 30 minute journey.

When you arrive at Uno Port, you are taken to buy your Art Setouchi festival pass, which can be for 1, 2 or 3 day.  I believe you can also buy admission to some pieces separately.  Here is my pass…

Art Setouchi Pass
Art Setouchi Pass

The idea is to see as much as possible and at each art work your pass is stamped….as you can see below, on foot this was something of a struggle.  I also gave up getting my pass stamped at every art work, and focussed instead on exploring the works themselves.  These could be anything from a converted school, a large Bamboo structure that you can only get to after a winding 15min decent down a paddy field, or simply a small stone structure.  At some pieces you can stamp the pass yourself, at most however there will be a volunteer to do this for you, and answer any questions you may have.  Generally they didn’t speak english, yet they still somehow managed to be helpful through a kind of Japanese sign language.

Verdict; could have done better!
Verdict; could have done better!

At Uno Port I was given this ferry crossing timetable.  As they say, patience is a virtue…

Seto-inland sea ferry crossing timetable
Seto-inland sea ferry crossing timetable

This is what greets you as you arrive in Uno Port…

Welcome to Uno Port!

Some of the works at Art Setouchi 2010…

“Piano Boat”, Megijima Island


The “volunteer” at this piece (below) spent a long time talking to me in Japanese about how to approach the work.  I had no idea what he was saying, but he was clearly very knowledgable- perhaps it was the artist himself!


The setting of “We Waste Time”, (the tunnel-like structure below created from 600 wooden fittings) is incredible- right by the sea.  Which by the time I reached there was looking especially fierce with a gathering storm rolling in overhead.  Somehow the sea in Japan looks as if it is harbouring ancient sea- monsters, whereas in Europe the sea just looks like the sea.  There’s always the danger with Art Galleries and Art’s festivals wherever you are in the world, you often find yourself staring in awe at your surroundings (be that buildings or nature) instead of the works themselves!

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Teshima Island; “We Waste Time” by Chiharu Shiota

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Teshima Island; A fisherman’s home wrapped in an old fishing net; Sue Peddley’s work “Harmonica”
Shodoshima Island; Bamboo construction “House of Shodoshima” by Wang Wen-Chih. People were meditating in here when I walked in…

I read somewhere that the Art Setouchi festival was conceived as a way of driving tourism into the islands.  This rice- growing project is another initiative.

Rice growing project, Shodoshima Island
Shodoshima Island “Grass”

Tadao Ando

Aside from the Art’s festival there are a number of permanent galleries, designed by famous architect Tadao Ando.  These are Chichu Art Museum (long queue due to the Monet’s inside, but impressive!), Benesse Art Gallery (which doubles up as an Art Hotel) and Lee Ufan Museum (a semi- underground structure that looks straight out of James Bond).  I could easily take Chichu Art Museum or Lee Ufan Museum for my house.  It’s concrete, but not like you’ve ever seen before.  All three Museums are focussed on the Island of Naoshima.  If you only do one Island in the Seto Inland Sea, it must be this one.

Naoshima Island; the semi- underground structure of the Lee Ufan Museum
Lee Ufan Museum, Naoshima Island
Lee Ufan Museum, Naoshima Island


The view as you step outside of Benesse Art Gallery is incredible.  There is a cafe on the top floor which takes best advantage of it…

View from Benesse Art Gallery

This is the bus that runs around the Island ferrying visitors around.  To say it is infrequent would be an understatement.  But as I said, hiring a bike or a car would be your best bet.

This Naoshima bus circles the Island…but expect a long wait unless you are very, very lucky
Benesse Art Gallery, Naoshima

These Yayoi Kusama Pumpkins can also be found everywhere on the island…

Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin


Yayoi Kusama

For more Information on Art Setouchi please visit…