Setouchi Triennale – Oshima Art (2019)

Oshima is a beautiful island with limited artwork.  There are 3 tours to the island each day during the Triennale.  These are not optional but they are a wealth of information on Hansen’s disease and how people in Japan were treated.  The art is limited but it is worth visiting this island.

os01 – Blue Sky Aquarium

Blue Sky Aquarium by Seizo Tashima was my favourite artwork on Oshima for obvious reasons.  You have to go through the entire exhibit slowly and try to enjoy it.  The entire exhibit is interactive so you really have to try everything.  There are a lot of colours inside of the artwork from blue, to pink, to dark blacks.  It was designed as a “poem” and while I didn’t understand it when I visited it, upon reflection I can completely see the meaning and wish I could go back and take a second look.

os02 – Forest Path

Forest Path/Room of a forest path is a small garden created by Seizo Tashima.  In the summer of 2016, it was not really interesting.  It is a small garden with dirt paths and a few plants.  I felt it was not ready to be seen or the plants that were there are not designed for the summer heat.  Either way, I pretty much skipped it and would have missed it unless the guide told us about it.  For 2019 it was more luscious with more foliage but the garden itself was still not very impressive.

os03 – Life of N: 70 years on Oshima – A room with a wooden pot by Seizo Tashima

Life of N: 70 Years on Oshima was one of the most challenging artworks on Oshima.  It is the story of N, a person with Hansen’s disease and how he left his family at the request of the government.  The images you see in each room tells the story of N’s life as a victim of fear.  The artwork itself seems crude but it really works and I was a bit scared to see the various scenes.  You have to take the time to read each panel or you will not be able to fully appreciate this work.

os05 – {Tsunagari no Ie} GALLERY 15 “Sea Echo”

{Tsunagari no Ie} GALLERY 15 “Sea Echo” was also created by Art for the Hospital Project, Yasashii Bijutsu.  The project curated a lot of the items in the barrack with a boat in the middle of the barrack.  The boat is just floating inside one of the rooms and you can walk under it.  It didn’t really match with the rest of the barrack as the rest contained photos taken by the late Takashi Tosu, a former resident of Oshima.  The photos are very telling of life on the island and how they lived and something that must be taken in slowly.  For 2019, most of the items have been removed but the boat is still there.  It is a shame that the “museum” aspect was removed for 2019, but I heard it may return in Autumn.

os06 – Ayumi Kitarite by Fuyuki Yamakawa

Ayumi Kitarite is a difficult artwork to understand if you do not understand Japanese.  While I can understand certain aspects and I have the ability to have a conversation with people, the topic of Hansen’s disease is something that is completely lost on me.  It is basically a video project by Fuyuki Yamakawa where he reads the story of Ayumi Kitarite, one of the people with Hansen’s disease on Oshima.  It seemed powerful as Fuyuki was recorded in 3 locations and reading different aspects of the story.  I could only wish I understood it a lot more.

os07 – Strait Songs by Fuyuki Yamakawa

Straight Songs is an artwork that was interesting, yet puzzling at the same time.  Fuyuki Yamakawa decided to swim across from Shikoku to Oshima to recreate the challenges that some of the people of Oshima endured.  Some of the people tried to escape the island by swimming to Shikoku so Fuyuki did the same.  This exhibit mostly details his experience, which didn’t really strike me in the way many of the other artworks did.

os08 – Ringwanderung by Tomoko Konoike

Ringwanderung is a recreation of a short hiking path on the northern edge of Oshima.  Like all artwork on Oshima, there is a connection with the people of the island.  It was an old path where the locals would walk and be able to enjoy life.  It is more of an historical recount of what the path was used for.  It is still somewhat overgrown with lots of large spiders crossing the path, but it was interesting to see how the area was used in the past.

os08 – Storytelling Table Runner in National Sanatorium Oshima Seishoen by Tomoko Konoike

Storytelling Table Runner is an interesting piece that looks like children made it.  Simply put, it is hand knit, or crocheted place mats.  It is located along with cafe SHIYORU but since the cafe is generally busy on weekends, the artwork was a little hard to enjoy.  I didn’t take the time necessary to read everything that was available and some of the stories didn’t have English translations when I visited.  It was pretty shocking to see some of the images of the lives people had on Oshima when it was in full swing.

os09 – {Tsunagari no Ie} cafe SHIYORU

{Tsunagari no Ie} cafe SHIYORU was originally a small cafe in an old house on the main road to the artworks.  For 2019 they moved it into a new central building that acts as a community centre, museum, and now cafe.  The cafe is open only on weekends and holidays, so you have to be careful of when you visit.  It is fun to enjoy the cheesecake and drinks but it was not as interesting as I had hoped it would be.

New Works for 2019

  • os04 – Rare Feeler by Art for the Hospital Project ,Yasashii Bijutsu
  • os08 – moonface & Moon landing by Tomoko Konoike
  • Note: os08 are 4 different artworks.
  • os10 – Valuable Cargo by Christiaan Bastiaans

Other Artworks

The following artwork is no longer part of the Setouchi Triennale but has been modified for the 2019 edition. While some aspects will remain the same, some have changed.

{Tsunagari no Ie} Library

{Tsunagari no Ie} Library has been created by Art for the Hospital Project, Yasashii Bijutsu.  It is basically 3 rooms with a collection of books and trinkets from the past residents of the island.  One room is basically a library and you are free to read the books.  Another room has various items that the residents have used in their day to day lives.  It is a very interesting museum style piece that needs some background to understand completely.


The above is my own personal review of the art I have seen on Oshima.  If you want to be surprised by the art, I recommend that you do not read more than what is written here.  Longer descriptions will be published over time and will be linked at a later time.  Please keep an eye on my social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for information when they go live.  Photos may also give away part of the art, but in this post, they are minimal.  Spoiler alerts in individual posts will be given when it is necessary for you to enjoy the art for the first time.  If you will not be going to the Setouchi Triennale, feel free to follow the links and read everything and enjoy it as best as you can.