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)
I love the seagulls and the cute oni. (Cute? Oni? Only in Japan could a demon be cute.)
Is the video you embedded yours? It says “this video is private” when I click on it.
No time to really reply, but I’ll do it later. Just wanted to say the video has been fixed. f(^^;)
No, hang on a moment, Japan isn’t the only place with cute demons. I forgot about the Little Red Devil. 🙂
There are a lot of cute demons. What about the Kappa? Then again, that is Japan. 🙂
I also love the seagulls. I have some interesting photos with them. One of the highlights of my trip was seeing them.
As you may already know, I’m not a huge fan of Megijima. I guess it paradoxically suffers from not being as isolated as Ogijima.
What I mean by that is that the people of Ogijima used to be extremely isolated. Before the Triennale, almost nobody went there. Because of that, the sense of community of Ogi’s residents is very strong, and for some reason, the coming of the Triennale made them realize that they are going to disappear soon if nothing is done. Well, they must have realized it before, but the Triennale was the opportunity to “do something”. Hence the involvement of the Ogi population in the Triennale and into making their island as welcoming as possible. Also, because it’s such a special place and it was so isolated, it has a certain number of hardcore fans who genuinely love the island, even if they don’t live there (I’m just one of many) That helped really changing the island in the past three years. Is it saved? Not yet. They still need to find a way to have people, younger people, move there, and that’s a big hurdle to jump.
On the other hand, Megijima is a “famous” tourist destination, at least locally. Takamatsu kids always go there as a field trip with their school, the “Oni tourism” does attract a few people, and in summer, Takamatsu’s beaches are actually Megijima’s beaches.
So Megijima has a constant influx of outsiders coming to the island if only for a few hours. Because of that and a few other factors (it’s less isolated, directly facing Takamatsu, it takes only 20 minutes to get there as opposed to 40 for Ogi, etc), the sense of community is less strong, or at least the feeling that their island is a world on its own.
And think I that it’s because of that the atmosphere there, the effort put into the island to welcome visitors is much more different, more aimed at “tourists” (or beach goers in summer) rather than just “people”. I don’t know if I make sense.
In other words, the people of Ogi consider their island as their home, so when you go there, you go into their home. hence the special effort they make to welcome you, either in their behavior or simply in the effort they put in having a small market on Sundays, in turning their garden into a rest area, etc.
The people of Megi on the other hand, will consider Megi more as their neighborhood than their “home”.
Hence the very different feels both islands have.
(and because this comment is getting long, a few more things are coming in another comment)
I’m going to stick to the comments as separate ones, as I haven’t read the second one yet. 🙂
I see what you mean about the feeling of Megi. I had a suspicion that it would be like that. The beaches are really nice and the Oni caves must be the big tourist draw. I would like to return to see the oni caves and to have a coffee or something at the Leandro house. Just to see if I can appreciate the art more.
You really have a good way of making me want to return to Ogi a lot more. It is pretty dangerous. 🙂
Really if you miss the Oni caves, no big deal (unless you like tacky things).
And yes, last April, we had lunch in the Presence of the Absence café, and yes, it’s probably the best way to enjoy “Invisible” as it little by little becomes background noise, and yet, your eyes are almost constantly drawn to it.
As far as returning to Ogi, it is my plan indeed. 🙂
You’re right, the oni caves aren’t THAT important, but I still want to say I did it. I actually wanted to see the light art show.
If I return in 3 years, or earlier, I’ll try to spend a full day on Megijima instead. Maybe return to Takamatsu a little early and try to see Beautifully Abandoned on the same day. When I do return, I’ll probably skip Naoshima and maybe Inujima as well. Depends what they add.
As for Ogi, your plan has succeeded wonderfully. If possible, we can meet up there if our schedules match. Enjoy a coffee/beer at Onba.
Concerning the Oni cave, maybe it’s a good thing that you miss it. They’re incredibly tacky and I don’t know how anyone over the age of 11 can enjoy them.
Those caves have an interesting history (although the details are a bit fuzzy), originally being a mine, becoming a pirate lair/storage place. They could do something interesting with them from that perspective, but no they tried to turn them into a failed mini-amusement park or something like that. Of course, now, it houses some Art Setouchi works, so it’s still worth a visit. (on a special note, the old lady that owns the shop in front of the cave maybe the only unkind person I have met on the Setouchi islands).
“Parking Lot for Seagulls” is indeed a work in progress. If I understood correctly it will be completed this Summer with the help of children or something like that.
The Moai has a pretty interesting history actually. It’s totally unrelated to Art Setouchi (it’s been there since 1996) and it’s not even really a work of art. For more details: http://ogijima.com/megijima-moai/
Reading the few lines you wrote about “Presence of Absence” I’m under the impression that you missed the other half of the artwork. The tea room with two mirrors in it… Or are they two mirrors?
Please tell me that you didn’t miss it.
I was very underwhelmed by MECON, but I’m realizing that I have a love/hate feeling about Ohtake’s works, some I really like (I love Yu, the Shipyard Works series, the outside of Art House Project Haisha) and some I really dislike (the inside of Haisha, MECON – although I like the palm tree in a giant pot)
Nice catch for the “Megi” and “Ogi” reference with the tree stump. I didn’t make the connection. 🙂
Megi House is not an “art house” as much as it is a small concert hall. The art is just some nice and temporary additions. I really like the metal plates on the floor that have “sculpted” by acid (I assume it’s acid).
OK, that’s all for today. I’ll try to write about Megijima here and there on my blog, but as it’s not an island that really inspires me, not expect for much (somehow it makes me sad that the closest island is also the only one I don’t really like that much in the area). However, I’m planning a “Tour de Megi” by bike one of these coming week-ends before it gets too hot. I really want to see the other village, the one of the “West coast” that must not have more than a few dozens people living there (actually it may also be the reason that the people of Megi don’t have the same sense of community; they are two villages, not one, and who knows what’s their history)
I guess my next visit to Megi will be more in depth. Considering I had only 2 hours rather than the 4 planned, I really did rush through everything. One of my only regrets of the festival.
“Parking Lot” will have to be revisited for sure in 3 years. I can’t wait to see it complete.
It’s interesting to hear about the Moai, but as you said in your own post, it is strange as to why they put it there.
I think someday I’ll have to try to take a bath at I Luv Yu and see it from the inside. I find his works to be really crazy. Haisha was great the first time, but it really doesn’t feel like there is any sort of central theme or message. MECON would probably be my favourite of his works, but I Luv Yu is up there too. I liked MECON mainly for the colours.
As I said, I missed half of Presence of Absence. I will have to go back next time.
I look forward to hearing about your trip by bike around Megi. Sounds like it would be fun. I’ll have to visit the childish oni caves next time just to say I did it. I wish I could have seen the festival artworks though. It seemed interesting.