For the first week of August, I headed down to Takamatsu for the 3rd Setouchi Triennale. I had been there 3 years ago for the spring edition and things lined up at the last minute so that I could attend the summer edition. There is a LOT of information to cover and I’ll try my best to tell you all about it and what you can expect. Due to the fact that time is of the essence, I have decided to write this post to put up ASAP followed by quick overviews of each island that I visited this time. I will also update a few things from the previous Triennale in 2013. In the future, I will also update everything to my standards and provide the photos that people would want to see as well as my thoughts. For now, enjoy the great misadventure that was my journey to the 2016 Setouchi Triennale!
My journey started on August 3rd when I took a morning flight to Takamatsu. It was the same as 3 years ago except that I was a bit earlier in arriving. I had a good half day in Takamatsu to just enjoy the art in the city. I started with a quick view of the art at the airport followed by a tour of the city. Since I had been to Takamatsu a couple times before, I remembered where everything was and was able to get around in a better way than before.
Takamatsu has a lot of good art but most of it was returning pieces. In the 2013 Spring Setouchi Triennale, many of the artworks in Takamatsu were not available, so I took the opportunity to see them this time. The spring edition seems to be the one where you want to go to see things in their infancy, and summer is when they start to mature. As far as I can tell, only one art work was new for 2016 and 1 was moved to Takamatsu from 3 years ago.
This time, I also made a trip out to Yashima at the end of my trip and found it to be more interesting that I thought it would be. The artwork is not really compelling enough to make me want to go often, but it is worth a trip if you haven’t been to Yashima Temple.
On the second day, I ventured to Megijima for a full tour. 3 years ago I factored a full day to see both Ogijima and Megijima but messed up on the ferry times and couldn’t see Megijima completely. This time I factored enough time and headed straight to the Oni caves. The Oni caves, or Ogre caves, are a very touristy set of caves but it was a good place to feel cool on a very hot day. I enjoyed the caves but the art was not great but it was still good and I enjoyed it. I even made it to the observation platform at the top but not without getting a sweat shower in the process.
Back in the main town, I was able to see all of the major works. I did skip one work on the side of the hill that I had seen 3 years ago but I did revisit a few works that were open again for the Triennale. Of the new art, the Oni houses were interesting. I thought Megijima was a lot better and similar in scale to Ogijima this year. I still found Leandro Erlich’s art to be strange and interesting but I didn’t care for it as much as I did before. It has changed but no photos are allowed for me to show it to you.
My favourite on Megijima was the new theatre that will hopefully be a permanent exhibit. I really had fun just sitting in the nicely air conditioned room to cool down as well as enjoy a little Charlie Chaplin and a documentary. You really need to see this one in Megijima. During the summer edition, they added a house near the end of the town that had exhibits from students. I really enjoy these types of exhibits the most as there is a lot of little things mixed together and they either work or didn’t. Some of them did and some of them were really terrible, but it was fun to see everything. I also had a chance to see “feel feel BONSAI” which was a wonderful exhibit showcasing different bonsai trees and for me it is a must see.
Ogijima was a wonderful little island and it was the same as it was 3 years ago, somewhat. I found that the island has grown a lot compared to 3 years ago and it is definitely busier than last time. I think the reputation has helped it gain a lot of people and there are now a few good places to stay on Ogijima. I really recommend spending a night on Ogijima as you can see Ogijima’s Soul at night all lit up. The last ferry leaves before sunset so you have to spend a night to see it. The sunset is supposed to be beautiful too but I missed it because of the clouds.
Ogijima is still an island that can be visited in half a day, and easily shared with Megijima, but I really enjoy spending a nice lazy day there. There are a lot of nice new cafes that have opened up in the past 3 years and while some are better than others, it is a lot easier to eat on the island now. Dinner time is pretty tough so it is better to make sure you have dinner ordered at the minshuku (bed and breakfast) if you plan to stay the night.
As for the art, the main artworks are still there from 3 years ago and they are still my favourites. I still love “Memory Bottle” and “Sea Vine” seems to have grown a bit. The new ones are a bit hit or miss but my favourite new artwork was “Akinorium“. It was a very fun visual and aural experience that must be experienced in person. Photos and even videos cannot do it justice.
I spent a total of 2 days on Ogijima. On the second day of my trip, I arrived in the afternoon and spent an evening. The next afternoon, I returned to Takamatsu. I made a second trip to Ogijima on the 5th day of my trip to see the summer matsuri in the morning before having lunch and returning to Takamatsu in the early afternoon. It was fun to watch the matsuri but with the summer heat I was not particularly happy. In no do I mean to say that the festival wasn’t enjoyable, as it was, but I was just too hot to enjoy it as much as I would have liked.
When I was talking about the Setouchi Triennale with various students, one of them was a former Koebi volunteer and told me about Oshima. Her English wasn’t strong enough to tell me about it completely and the topic is very serious. Oshima was a place for people recovering from Hansen’s disease (leprosy), but I believe it was also a place for people who had it as well. The entire island isn’t very big and you have to get a reservation to go there.
On a weekday, especially in the afternoon, there shouldn’t be a problem to get a ticket to go. They are limited to 40 people per tour and when I went there were 12 of us. Most of the people were foreigners, and I believe one group was from Hong Kong and another from China or Taiwan, based on what they were saying. 5 people were Japanese and I could understand enough Japanese, so in the end about half of the group could understand the guide.
The tour is not designed for English but they do have an English pamphlet to give you enough information to understand what is going on. If you understand enough Japanese, you should be okay if you prepare a bit like I did as some of the words used are specific to Hansen’s disease.
The tour does a quick loop of the community area and explaining the history of the island. You then have the option to head to the memorial set up a bit north of the community area before you return to the barracks. The barracks are where the art is and unfortunately there is not a lot of information there. We didn’t have a lot of time, maybe 40 minutes, to enjoy the art as well as the island. To be honest, I wanted an extra 30 minutes so I could go through things very slowly. I rushed through the art a little and returned with a good 10 minutes to spare.
I really liked Oshima but I’m not sure if I’ll return again. It is worth a visit, even if you don’t speak Japanese, but be sure to read about it in my future post so you can understand what they are saying and to enjoy the island a lot more.
I visited Uno on a short trip after going to the Ogijima matsuri. I had a lot of time in Takamatsu because many of the ferries have a lunch break. I took the 1500 ferry from Takamatsu and arrived in Uno at 1605. I basically gave myself about 1.5 hours to enjoy Uno which I thought would be enough, but it wasn’t. This year, Uno’s art is spread out a little which makes it harder to see. They also changed a few things so things were a lot more interesting than I originally thought.
When checking out the art, I started off on the west side by walking to a nearby park to enjoy a new permanent artwork. I doubt I’ll go back to it again in the future but they may surprise me in 3 years by adding a new activity there. The central town area next to the station is the best area. 3 years ago they had these ugly photos of mangled dolls and other toys. It was really creepy and I didn’t like it but this year they changed the photos to photos of the previous Triennale or of photos of the islands and life in the area. It was a beautiful photo exhibit and I really enjoyed seeing them all.
There was a temporary art exhibit that is only in Uno for the summer edition. For the autumn edition, the art will move to Honjima. It is called “Stories of 12 Islands: Animation of Sea Wanderings”. It is basically a flip book story for each of the 12 areas/islands that are hosting the Setouchi Triennale. Each flip book was themed on each island and I was really amazed by it. I kept watching them and I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face as I watched them over and over. I actually spent too much time there so do plan accordingly.
I also had time to check out Uno Station which has been done up in an artistic tone as well as going to a few sites to see “Officer BigMac“. The outdoor version in the central town area is the best and there is a secondary exhibit past the electronics shop. The secondary exhibit showcases information about how the exhibit was made as well as a few other pieces of information. It is actually located in a workshop warehouse that has a woodworker and a Styrofoam worker. The Styrofoam worker made works for various movie sets and was friendly and approached me, but unfortunately I was rushing to catch my ferry as I spent too much time watching flip books. I wish I could go back and add more time but I wanted to get back to Takamatsu before sunset.
Teshima is a wonderful mixed island. I only got to see half of the island this year because of timing and available artworks. I took my time and did a different trip compared to the year before. I started in Karato Port and headed up to the Teshima Museum. The art in Karato Port is all the same as 3 years ago until autumn, so I skipped it. Teshima Museum was just as nice as I remembered it. It was actually better, but there was a line to get in. I really didn’t like the fact that I had to wait in line but if you are trying to see the museum, once you get off the bus, head straight there and go into the museum itself. The line will only get longer as the day goes on and you won’t know how long you must wait until after you paid the admission fee.
My main focus of the trip was Karato-oka. I really loved the area and it is a short walk from Teshima Museum. I really loved “Hotel Lemon” as it is a new work. You really should go with a friend and while they do have English guidance, you may not be able to get it as it can be busy at times. The gentleman, probably the artist, was kind enough to talk with me a bit after I finished the exhibit and it was good to learn a bit. The old artworks are very similar to before and nothing really new but the well next to “Particles in the Air” was running and was a wonderful way to wash up and cool down in the summer.
I also wanted to visit Ieura as I wasn’t able to see everything from 3 years ago. They have 1 new art in the port area and in spring of 2013, the “Yokoo House” wasn’t complete. I really enjoyed Yokoo House for the architecture and some of the quirkiness within it. After that, I found that Ichigo-ya has become VERY popular to the point that I didn’t like it anymore. The food was still good but you really can’t just relax anymore. I ended up going back to Yokoo House as there was a small outdoor cafe next door that had beer.
My biggest adventure of this trip was going to Shodoshima. I missed it 3 years ago but I made it a plan to visit this time. I spent 1 day driving around with a specific French national as we toured Tonosho, headed up to Hitoyama, and then ended with Ikeda and a little of the Mito Peninsula.
Tonosho’s port was fun and not difficult to see things. Everything is close to the ferry terminal so you don’t have to worry about getting around. Getting into the central township was not as easy and I’m happy we had a car to get around as it was tough to walk from one area to another, but I could probably do it. I really liked Oscar Oiwa’s art and it didn’t disappoint and the Maze Town was fun. The only problem with the central township is that it can be difficult to know where to go as the town was designed to be confusing on purpose.
Hitoyama was a nice area but definitely not worth a bus trip to get up there. I was happy to be driven up there and enjoy the art that was there. The works are peaceful and I would love to go back again. The only problem is that the facilities for eating are sparse in the region so do plan accordingly.
Ikeda is a really good area but there is only 1 piece of art that is worth visiting, and you should visit it. I think the design of “Someone’s Coming!” was wonderful and thinking of how they made it work was great too. Afterwards, trying to find food in that area of Shodoshima after 2pm was a challenge but we did get lucky to find a place.
The Mito Peninsula is a very difficult place to visit. Looking at things on the map, you really need a car to get around. There are some nice artworks there and I believe you can see everything on a bicycle, but it will be difficult to see everything in a single day. A car may take just as much time but at least there is air conditioning and lots of parking near each site.
On my second day on Shodoshima, I went to Sakate and Kusakabe. Following advice given to me by David Billa, I rented a bicycle and headed straight to Sakate Port. It is a really good area but beware that some of the art is up on the hillside. It reminded me a little of Ogijima in how difficult it is to walk up the hillside, especially in 35C temperatures. Beat Takeshi’s collaboration art was as expected but with the heat I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked. The other artworks were hit or miss based on who made it and what their meaning was. The Creator in Residence was a really interesting group of works all over the port but it really depends on which artist was doing it as some of it was really terrible.
Sakate Port is the farthest I went from Kusakabe, so after visiting the art there I made my way back to Kusakabe. There are 3 main art areas in the east with Hishinosato between Sakate and Kusakabe. Hishinosato is a really good area and I really enjoyed the art there. There were a few strange things in the area, such as “Atem”, an art video made with puppets and with superimposed eyes and mouths. You really have to see it to understand it. I really loved the “Regent in Olives” as well as “Peanuts Hut”. Regent in Olives was great and I wanted a photo with my own “regent” but I was sweating so much that I couldn’t do it. Peanuts Hut was a great place to relax and enjoy the forest but the mosquitoes made it tough. I hope to be back in the area in 3 years.
Kusakabe was not the best place for art. The artworks were not great and one of them was behind schedule. “Komame-tei”, as David mentioned, was not really interesting. The “artist” was no longer in residence but you can see everything he had used in his time during the spring edition. The place I really liked was the gelato shop, “Minori Gelato”. It was a great place to cool down after a very hot day looking at art. Don’t forget to try the food too as the panini were delicious.
I only had 8 nights in Takamatsu and while I had time to visit all of the islands, I decided not to. I really only had the energy to keep travelling for 7 days, and I was exhausted afterwards. I had time to go to Naoshima but since the art was not really new and I wasn’t planning to enter the museums again, it would have been a waste of time to go. Inujima is an island I do regret not going to for a second time but that was mainly because of money. I really didn’t have money to go there as I would have had to visit either Naoshima or Shodoshima in order to access Inujima. Considering what was there, I really didn’t think it was worth the time this year. I will probably make the effort to go in 3 years as things do change from Triennale to Triennale.
I also didn’t visit any of the western islands for the festival. Shamijima is a spring edition only so the buses are not as convenient in the summer. I also didn’t feel like going out there for just a single artwork or two that I had seen 3 years ago. The best time to visit was in the spring when the school was converted into an art gallery.
I really love the Setouchi Triennale. I almost couldn’t go this year with everything that is happening in my life. I looked at it as a way to get away from Tokyo and to really get in touch with myself. 3 years ago I went with a really good friend from Vancouver and this time I was mostly alone. It wasn’t as lonely as I thought it would be and I did have good company with David for a few days. I really wish I could go again in autumn but that is highly unlikely. You can be sure that I will try to go again in 3 years and I will definitely be trying to go during the autumn edition as I really want to see the western islands.
- Setouchi Triennale (Official Site – English)
- Setouchi Triennale (Official Site – Japanese)
- Setouchi Explorer