Setouchi refers to the the area in and around Japan’s largest inland sea of Seto. Dotted with islands, this tranquil expanse of saltwater is known for its breathtaking natural beauty, bountiful seafood, and unique culture (or even cultures, from island to island). One of the more well-known islands of Setouchi, Naoshima, is home to a collection of contemporary art created by both Japanese and international artists. The result is a fascinating, captivating mixture of modern art and traditional island culture.
“So, how did this small group of islands come to be such a focal point of contemorary art in Japan?” you might be asking yourself (good question, by the way). As it happens, the founding president of a Japanese corporation, Benesse, and the then mayor of Naoshima shared a dream to turn the island into a place where people could come and appreciate and learn about culture and art. This led to the establishment of Benesse House Museum, which evolved to include an artistically-designed hotel, and over the years more installations and museums began to pop up across the pristine island, solidifying the area as a kind of mecca for the arts in Japan. This collection has expanded, burgeoning off of Naoshima’s shores and across the serene inland sea to the other islands. The collection of installations and museums throughout the Setouchi islands, with Naoshima at the heart of it all, has come to be known collectively as Art Site Naoshima. Now, 2010 brings the opening of the first Setouchi International Art Festival, a months-long special exhibition which showcases both the contemporary art and native cultures of the Setouchi islands.
In cooperation with the organizers of the festival, Sunrise Tours and JAPANiCAN.com are offering package deals specifically for visiting during the event. Check out the details below!
Round-trip between Tokyo and Setouchi via shinkansen and local train.
Two hotels are available for this package. The Benesse House Hotel puts you on Naoshima Island itself and includes two meals (dinner and breakfast). The ANA Hotel Clement Takamatsu puts you at Takamatsu Port in Kagawa Prefecture, Shikoku, which is a convenient hub for visiting the islands of Setouchi.
The packages available for stays on Tuesdays – Fridays include the Setouchi Art Passport. Holders of this pass will be able to enter all museums and view all installations participating in the festival free of charge (with the exception of special exhibit areas which normally require an additional fee on top of the entry fee). The Art Passport will also grant you priority entry to the Chichu Art Museum on Naoshima during a designated time slot! Please note that packages including stays on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays do not include the Art Passport.
For those hoping to spend a little more time in Setouchi (the standard plan is 1 night, 2 days), extensions are available for both Benesse House and ANA Hotel. Spend another night and see even more of the festival and the islands themselves!
Ferry Free-pass Available
If you’re planning on doing a lot of island hopping, especially if you decide to extend your package, there is also a 2-day free-pass for the ferries between the islands available for JPY 3,500, which can be purchased by contacting Customer Support.
So you’re headed down to Setouchi for the art festival with the 2-day package, and you’re looking to see as many installations as possible without having to rush around. Let us help! The model course below visits the three islands with the most exhibits. Check it out!
After arriving by shinkansen and local train from Tokyo via Okayama, take a ferry from Uno Port to Naoshima between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m.
Naoshima is the origin and the heart of the Setouchi island art scene. There are myriad installations throughout Naoshima including museums, outdoor exhibits, site-specific works, and the unique House Project in which artists have taken old private homes and turned them into works of art. The priority entry time slot at the Chichu Museum (for Art Passport holders) is also in the afternoon on Day 1. To get around the island, use the public bus system or, if you are staying at Benesse House, the Benesse House shuttle service.
From Naoshima (Benesse Hotel): Take the 9:10 a.m. ferry from Miyanoura Port (arrive at 9:32 a.m.).
From Takamatsu (ANA Hotel): Take the 9:30 a.m. ferry from Takamatsu Port (arrive at 10:00 a.m.).
Teshima also hosts a concentration of artwork, and many of the international artists participating in the festival have works on this island. There are a variety of installations and exhibits with two special projects created during the festival, as well as the Akiya Project which is similar to Naoshima’s Art House Project. To get around the island, use the public bus system which will be operating special routes to visit the art sites.
Take the 1:25 p.m. ferry from Teshima’s Ieura Port (arrive at 1:45 p.m.).
With all of its art sites within walking distance of the port and each other, Ogijima is perhaps the most convenient of the islands to navigate. Ogijima also offers a variety of artwork and exhibits, including Akiya Project installations and a beautiful cultural exchange center facility, called Ogijima’s Soul, which was designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa at the port.
Take the 3:00 p.m. ferry from Ogi Port (arrive at 3:50 p.m.).
Check out the Takamatsu Port and Station area before departing for Tokyo by local train and shinkansen between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. as indicated in the package itinerary.
If you would like more time to explore the islands and take in the artwork of the festival, we recommend extending your package. If you know that you would like to extend the package, please contact Customer Support and submit a request for a longer package.
The above is only a model course (i.e., example itinerary). The islands and exhibits you visit may vary.
Information regarding ferries between and buses on the islands, as well as information regarding the artwork and festival was provided by the Setouchi International Art Festival Executive Committee. Please note that actual departure times, arrival times, and routes may vary. Local transportation fees are not included in the standard package described in the preceding section. Please also be aware that some facilities or artwork may not be available or accessible.
Throughout the seven islands of Setouchi you will find a wide variety of art installations from facilities like the Benesse House and Chichu Museums, designed by Tadao Ando, and the Ogijima Exchange Center, designed by Jaume Plensa, to an array of site-specific works and other projects by both Japanese and international artists. Creativity abounds; for example, the Art House Project and the Akiya Project are a unique interlacing of the islands’ history and culture with contemporary art, featuring old private houses that have been used not just as hosts, but as mediums for creating works of art.
Below is a list of the artists participating specifically in the Setouchi International Art Festival for each island. For more information about the islands, check out the festival’s official website!
Hiroshi Senju, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lee Ufan, Tadao Ando, Monochrome Circus & Shigeki Hattori, Shinro Ohtake / graf, Tadashi Kawamata, Teresita Fernandez
Cameron Robbins, Chiharu Shiota, Chiyoko Todaka, Christian Boltanski, Claire Healy & Sean Cordeiro, Hiroshi Fuji, Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, Mariko Mori, Noe Aoki, Olafur Eliasson, Osaka University of Arts, Pipilotti Rist, Rei Naito / Ryue Nishizawa, Ryo Abe, Sue Pedley, Susumu Kinoshita, Tadanori Yokoo, Tobias Rehberger
Akinori Matsumoto, Haruki Takahashi, James Darling & Lesley Forwood, Jaume Plensa, Kyoto Taniyama, Nakanishi Nakai, Onba Factory, Oscar Oiwa, Rikuji Makabe, Shima Kokoro Isu Project Group 5, Takashi Imura, Takashi Nishibori, Takeshi Kawashima and Dream, Tomoko Taniguchi, Urushi House Project, Yoshio Kitayama
Ishinha, Kazu Fujiwara, Yukinori Yanagi / Kazuyo Sejima / Yuko Hasegawa
Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music Art Project Team, Fukutake House, Hagetaka Funjo, Harumi Yukutake, Leandro Erlich, Rolf Julius, Sanja Saso, Takahito Kimura, Yasuhiro Suzuki
Bird Theatre Company Tottori, Dadang Christanto, Koichi Kurita, Masayuki Kishimoto, Musashino Art University, Rika Aki, Ryo Toyofuku, Sense Art Studio, Suh Do Ho, Tatsuo Kawaguchi, Wang Wen-Chih, Yoshihiko Tanji
Yasashii Bijutsu Project
Going to be in the area anyways and just need a hotel? Check out our hotel listings for Takamatsu, one of the area’s transportation hubs and a great base for expoloring Setouchi, and Shodoshima, the biggest island in the Seto Inland Sea.