At about double the size of Ogijima, Megijima is, for lack of a better word, the sister island of Ogijima. Megijima is probably the more well-known island as it is home to the oni caves, a set of manmade caves that also serve as a tourist spot. You can see the theme of oni all over the island itself. Oni is simply a group of demons or ogres in Japanese folklore that come in various colours, but they are often depicted with horns and a club. If you have ever been to Akita, they have the Namahage which are people dressed up as demons that resemble oni, although they are different. Megijima may be the larger island of between it and Ogijima, and it may also be considered the Onigashima, but it was not as interesting as I thought it would have been. I missed my ferry from Ogijima to reach Megijima at the scheduled time, but I am not too sad to have missed out of part of the island. I only ended up missing the biggest tourist attraction, but I don’t know if I would really enjoy it.
The first thing you will notice when you arrive at Megijima is all of the art surrounding the harbour. Similar to Ogijima, the entire harbour is welcoming you and in fact most of the art is centred at the harbour. It is hard to say what you will notice, but in terms of the official art that is part of the Setouchi Triennale, you will notice “Seagulls Parking Lot” by Takahito Kimura. It is a great piece that utilizes a bunch of flat metal birds that swing with the wind like a wind sock. They are all over the harbour front from the dock and along the water to a nearby beach. It creates a very fun look into the island. The birds themselves are very playful if you have an imaginative mind. While I’m not a big fan of seagulls, I found the image of them around the harbour was fun. Takahito Kimura has a second artwork in the harbour front area called “Parking Lot for Seagulls”. It is the follow-up work to his original Seagulls Parking Lot. He has taken the sea wall that protects the island from waves and created a small design into the wall. I’m not sure if it was finished when I visited as the official website says that the project will involve seashells and other items collected from the beach but all I saw was a concrete wall with some style carved into it. Next to Parking Lot for Seagulls is “20th Century Recall” by Hagetaka Funjo is also located in the harbour area and is a very interesting piece. Very simply, the work is a grand piano that has been converted to look like a large old sail ship. It was a very cool work and I was amazed by what felt like a seamless combination of the two. From afar, it looked like a regular ship, but as you approach it from the front it starts to look more and more like a piano. If you approach from the stern, it will look like a piano due to the keys being present. There are also wind chimes on the boat that creates a great combination of sound from the wind chimes and the sea itself. It was a nice and peaceful artwork to see on the island.
The harbour area also has a lot of artwork that is not related to the Setouchi Triennale. The first one you will notice is the famous Oni Lighthouse. Located at the entrance to the harbour, there is a large oni holding a light stick and looking out for all of the ships in the harbour. It was a really cute oni and if you make the effort to walk out to the lighthouse, you can see that it is also adorned with smaller oni as well. Most of them are making funny faces and you wouldn’t notice that they are there unless you actually walked up to the lighthouse. The terminal building is also a piece of art in itself. Unlike Ogijima, the terminal building doesn’t have any relation to the festival but there is a small restaurant and a small museum about the oni inside the terminal building. The museum itself is interesting to see as you can see a few Namahage masks and if you can read Japanese you can also learn more about the oni. Next to the terminal building is a Moai. It is pretty strange to see a Moai, the tall stone statues on Easter Island. It is obviously a recreation but there wasn’t an English explanation about why it was there, but it is right next to the terminal building.
The art houses are where I usually enjoy the Setouchi Triennale. Megijima had a few nice houses but not as many as I would have liked. They were also less spectacular than the art houses on Ogijima, which left me a little disappointed. I will have to return for the 2016 Setouchi Triennale in order to take my time on Megijima and enjoy the island more, but from what I hear, I am not really missing that much. The first house to visit is “MEGI HOUSE”. It is a special music hall where artists play from time to time. There were 3 pieces of art in the house itself but I only noticed 2, unless I missed one. While the house itself was nice, I was expecting a lot more. I was very unimpressed by it but if there was a concert at the same time, I’m sure it would be more enjoyable. I then headed to “Equipoise” by Harumi Yukutake. It was a small run down house that was fitted with a spiral of mirrors hung like a curtain. The curtain was 2 floors tall and the mirrors were great. I enjoyed the house a lot and looking at things from both the main level, inside the spiral, and above the spiral was fun. Unfortunately taking photos was very difficult for me but the experience was good. “The Presence of Absence” by Leandro Erlich was an artwork that I nearly missed. Taking place inside a café/restaurant, the artwork was a small rock garden in the middle of the house. I was told by a volunteer to just wait and something would happen. I waited a little while and just as I was about to leave I heard a sound. It sounded as if someone was walking in the rock garden, yet there wasn’t anyone there. I looked at the garden and I could see foot prints. The sounds kept going and I noticed the footprints in the rock garden moving. It was a very surreal experience and if I had the time, I would like to have enjoyed a coffee, rather beer, while I was there. Unfortunately due to time I had to rush and leave for the next project.
Many of the islands had schools that were converted into art galleries. Megijima is no exception to this. At the school, I had a chance to see “MECON” by Shinro Ohtake. It was a very modern and surreal artwork. Utilizing various neon colours and some ironworks, he created an artwork that had me feeling as if I was on drugs. The schoolyard was where the artwork was located and it was a type of sensory overload for me. I first encountered a tree stump that was shaped similarly to a woman’s pelvis. However, if you went to the other side, it looked like a man’s pelvis with a penis attached. It made me think a lot about the Megijima and Ogijima references. There was also a large palm tree in the middle of the yard that was surrounded by an old buoy and, if my memory is correct, a large gator atop one of the buildings. It was a strange mix of different items but it stimulated my mind a lot. I then headed up the hill to “Terrace Winds” by Yasuyoshi Sugiura. Utilizing disused terraced rice fields and ceramic tiles, the artist created a few walls that helped create a nice view of the village below and of Takamatsu in the distance. I didn’t really get the artwork but the effort put into it was great. I doubt I’d go back to it again but I wouldn’t mind going back if they did more to the area or if it was covered in grass, rather than the dirt that I trudged in when I first visited.
Megijima is a great island but for me it paled in comparison to Ogijima. This was mainly due to the time restraint that I had. I still wish I had time to go up to the oni caves but that makes me want to return even more. The houses were great but slightly less interesting than Ogijima. I felt they had trouble deciding which side of the island to promote, the fact that they were the Onigashima or that they were part of the Setouchi Triennale. I think both are important but the theme of the island needs to be more unified. In terms of longevity, I think promoting the fact that they are the Onigashima is more important but working that into the Setouchi Triennale would have been a lot better. The Moai was probably the only black eye of the entire island. It made no sense to me to have it there and ruined the theme of the island. The island will have a lot more happening during the summer edition of the Setouchi Triennale such as the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music, International Exchange Exhibition at MEGI HOUSE. They will also start the “Oninoko Tile Project” from the summer edition as well. I would prefer to visit Megijima in the summer rather than the spring but I doubt I will. I do look forward to seeing other reports about the island in the future and seeing many more photos.
Megijima is part of a series of posts on the Setouchi Triennale. Follow the links below to read more about the different aspects of the Setouchi Triennale.
- Dru’s Great Setouchi Triennale 2013 Misadventure
- EAT&ART TARO on Shamijima
- Food of Inujima
- Teshima – Kou and Ieura
- Teshima – Karato
- Eating on Teshima
- Ogijima (Part I)
- Ogijima (Part II)
- ONBA CAFE
- Naoshima (Benesse Art Site)
- Naoshima (Honmura & Miyanoura)
- Naoshima (Transportation)
- Takamatsu Revisited
- Takamatsu (Setouchi Triennale Edition)
- Ferries in the Setouchi Triennale
- Setouchi Triennale (Megijima Page)