Indulge In Art And Nature At Setouchi Trenniale | CoolJapan

Looking at art and being with nature are two of the most common ways to unwind and inspire yourself. It’s great for recharging your mind and soul. Now, imagine a place where you can do both. That’s exactly what you can experience at the Setouchi Triennale. It’s an art festival held in the Setouchi region in Japan, which started in 2010 and now running its fourth edition. The showcase runs in three seasons — Spring Encounters (26 April to 26 May), Summer Gatherings (19 July to 25 August) and Fall Expansions (28 September to 4 November).

View from Setouchi Trenniale

The view at Naoshima, one of the islands in Setouchi

The Setouchi Triennale way

Aside from it being situated in a picturesque location that’s an artwork in itself, the Setouchi Triennale is unique in that you island-hop to see the works of art. We’re used to going to museums by land, but at Setouchi, you need to take a ferry to explore.

Island Theatre Megi

Island Theatre Megi

Another thing that sets Setouchi Triennale apart from other art festivals is the involvement of the local community. Some pieces have been made in collaboration with the locals while most, if not all of them are kept intact and safe through the community’s help. The artworks are also sometimes incorporated into the daily lives of people like installations mounted in public areas and empty houses turned into art pieces.

Setouchi is already abundant in natural beauty, but the artworks showcased at Triennale make the place even more majestic and a feast for the eyes and soul. Speaking of the showcase, Minister Hirai, Minister of State for “Cool Japan” Strategy, said, “I felt, all over again, how when the thoughts of the creators and the one and only scenery of Setouchi nature are combined, something of exceptional value is created. I also felt that architecture is a very important element.”

That said, here are pieces we think you shouldn’t miss from three of the participating islands and port towns.

Marvel at Megijima

It’s the first installation visitors will see, so the Sea Gulls Parking Lot by Takahito Kimura is quite hard to miss. But don’t just pass by it. Marvel at the beauty of about 300 seagulls perched along the sea walls. The fun part is they change directions depending on where the wind blows.

Sea Gulls Parking Lot

Sea Gulls Parking Lot by Takahito Kimura

The Presence of Absence by Leandro Erlich is an interesting piece to see because, as the work’s title suggests, it plays on feeling absence. There’s a doorway that’s actually a mirror where you can look like you’re having tea with yourself. There is also a part of the piece containing small pebbles that shows footsteps sinking — be sure to catch them when the weather is bright! — and make it sound like you’re hearing footsteps but nobody’s really there.

Also available for viewing and appreciation are the Island Theatre Megi by Yoichiro Yoda, Little Shops on the Island “Laundry” by Leandro Erlich, Little Shops on the Island “Ping-pong Sea” by Rintaro Hara + Yu Hara, Little Shops on the Island “Cafe de la Plage” by Veronique Joumard, Little Shops on the Island “un… Salon for Soothing Your Soul” by Eros Nakazato, and more.

Next up: Naoshima

Yayoi Kusama’s works have been a favourite for many, and if you’re one of them, you’d be delighted to know that you can find two of her works at Naoshima. The Yellow Pumpkin, which has Kusama’s iconic polka dots, has been in the area since the ‘90s. There’s a red one, too, which you can actually enter and has openings from which you can look outside.

Yayoi Kusama Setouchi installationThe Red Pumpkin © Yayoi Kusama, 2006 Naoshima Miyanoura Port Square

You should also check out the Benesse House Museum. An interesting thing about the museum, aside from the artworks, is the fact that all of the pieces displayed there were created based on the building. What’s great is that the building shows pieces not just inside but also extends to spaces out of the building, so in a way, the entire area is a work of art.

Visit other areas and marvel at other artworks, too, like the Naoshima Pavilion by Sou Fujimoto, the Lee Ufan Museum, and the Chichu Art Museum.

Take a look at this at Takamatsu Port

Beyond the Borders - The Ocean by Lin Shuen Long is a depiction of the connection between people, goods and culture and how these have specifically travelled the seas between Japan and Taiwan. And much like its message, the artwork has travelled from one place to another — from Teshima in 2013 to Taiwan and now at Takamatsu Port.

Liminal Air Core

Enjoy Liminal Air -core- by Shinji Ohmaki, too, which is made with colourful pillars and is partly covered by mirrors.

The Setouchi Triennale is truly a sight to behold! If you’re looking to visit, stay tuned for our tips on how to enjoy the showcase without a hitch.