Inujima is the smallest island taking part in the Setouchi Triennale provided you discount Shamijima as it may no longer be considered a true island anymore. Inujima is also the least accessible island out of the 7 main islands. From Takamatsu, there are no direct ferries connecting Inujima. You must either take a ferry to Naoshima, Teshima, or Shodoshima in order to reach Inujima. Alternatively, you can access Inujima from Okayama Prefecture which is a short 10 minute ferry ride. Unfortunately, the port in Okayama is very inconvenient for accessing all of the other islands and it isn’t very interesting for a casual tourist. Inujima itself is only 0.54 square kilometres with a population of just 50 people. The entire island can be explored on foot and only takes half a day to see everything in the festival itself. In order to see more and do more, it does require a bit more time than just half a day but for people blazing through the island, half a day is more than enough.
Video of the ferry from Naoshima to Inujima:
For people visiting Inujima for the art festival, the first thing you will do when you disembark from the ferry is lineup. Due to the infrequent ferries, they have to ensure that you have a return ferry, so you must decide which ferry to return on before you can do any sightseeing. If you buy a 2 day ferry pass, it involves showing your pass and then getting your return ticket. For those who don’t have a pass, you must pay for your return trip prior to visiting the island. This is due to the limited number of seats available on each ferry. After you get your return ticket, the first thing you will see is a big black building which is the first art installation on Inujima itself. The building is the Seaside Inujima Gallery, which has a video exhibit produced by Fiona Tan. It was a series of two videos shown back to back, literally. One video shows helicopter shots of both Inujima and Teshima while the other side shows the daily life of people who live on Inujima. It is interesting to see the relatively boring lives of people as they sit at their little shops and watch the world pass them by. It was an interesting video but I didn’t have the time to watch all of it, nor did I have the patience.
The main event on Inujima is the Inujima Seirensho Art Museum. It is an underground museum built on the old abandoned copper refinery grounds. The copper refinery was built in 1909 but closed quickly in 1919. As you enter the refinery grounds, you experience the ruins of the old refinery and get a visual history lesson into how a copper refinery was run back in the early 1900s. You even get a chance to walk on top of the old refinery and see the old smoke stacks that are still falling apart and the old power plant that has been gutted. Inside the museum itself, you start with a long corridor. The architect, Hiroshi Sambuichi, is a very smart man who designed the museum itself to be as ecologically neutral as possible. When visiting Naoshima, there is a temporary exhibit called the Naoshima Plan where Sambuichi talks about “Energyscape”, the change of a landscape over time. He does a lot of research into a site and determines the best types of architecture in order to maximize the natural light and materials in order to naturally heat a structure in the winter and cool it in the summer. In the Seirensho, he used the corridors, natural ground and stone, and vents in order to cool the air or heat it in the winter. As you enter, the air is cool, but as you progress through the museum, the air warms. The video in the Naoshima Plan was very interesting and I’ll cover that in more detail in the future. The art within the museum was also very interesting. Yukinori Yanagi created the art installations which features a lot of window frames with the theme of warning people about the dangers of modernization. The inspiration came from the Japanese author Yukio Mishima. Some of the window frames even came from one of Mishima’s past homes.
The Seirensho is only part of the art installations in Inujima. The entire Setouchi Triennale should be known more for their project houses, taking old abandoned or disused structures on the islands and turning them into pieces of art. Inujima has 5 such houses as well as 2 other art installations. All of the houses on Inujima were designed by Kazuyo Sejima and where possible, they reused as much of the original structures materials, although after seeing the disrepair of some of the homes throughout the Setouchi islands, I can see why it would not be easy. The first house I visited was the F-Art House. It was a beautiful house with large glass windows so you could see inside and it allowed a lot of light in. The art was by Kohei Nawa who used blob like forms to create art that looked like a sci-fi world full of colourful plants and animals without many features. I then came across the “Former Site of a Stonecutter’s House” where Yusuke Asai transformed the foundation of the house into art using materials gathered from all over Inujima. He painted various plants and animals onto the floor to create a very “ancient” look, akin to looking at cave paintings in a modern sense. I then stumbled upon the S-Art House and A-Art House; both art houses enclose art in acrylic walls so that it can be viewed from both sides and you can still see the surrounding nature and village. The S-Art House, titled “Contact Lens” has several lenses which allow you to see multiple images of whoever is standing on the other side. It looks like thousands of bubbles are suspended within the house until you look closely and realize it is a series of lenses. A-Art House is similar but the art forms a ring around a central courtyard. The art looks similar to blooming flowers in the summer, with a 70s art style. It was fun to see and the 3-dimensional nature of the art, but it was a little hard on the eyes and difficult to capture in a photograph. I then stumbled upon the Nakanotani Gazebo, a large aluminum alloy dome with small holes inside it. It was a nice place to rest but the sound of my voice reverberated under the dome and the dome acted like a bell when struck. Cruel jokes could easily be played on an unsuspecting friend if they were unlucky enough to get on my bad side. The C-Art House was a very interesting Inujima focused house. The outside of the house had a batter’s box as well as some bats. Inside the house they just played a simple video of 2 quarry workers playing baseball with stones. It was very comical to watch one guy toss stones at the batter and then duck, at a delayed reaction, when the batter struck the stone. The video invokes a sense of the history of the island and how things changed from being a stone quarry and stone cutting island to one that has aged and on the verge of collapse. Finally, I visited I-Art House, presented by Yukinori Maeda. The artist combined natural elements such as water, sound, and life in order to create a work that combined everything. It was not very interesting for me overall but some of the smaller items did intrigue me.
Video of A-Art House:
Inujima itself, being only 0.54 square kilometres is a very small island and I finished visiting all of the art exhibits within 3 hours. It is a relatively flat island and I only skipped visiting the Jomon Stone and the rock quarry. After returning home and doing a little research, I feel I should return to visit the rock quarry someday, but at this time I don’t have any plans to do so. Instead of heading to the rock quarry, I spent my money on the local shops and made sure I supported them. The island itself doesn’t have a lot to do outside of the art exhibits but I’m sure that if you spent an entire day on the island you could hike all around the island itself with time to spare. If I wanted, I could have hiked around the island instead of having lunch at a small café. It was a trade off on what I wanted to do and what I realistically could do. I don’t regret anything that I did on my trip to the Setouchi Triennale and it inspired me to want to do more to help the smaller communities if possible.
Inujima 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