One of the most fascinating outdoor art events is back this year. Setouchi Triennale’s contemporary artwork is spread out among 12 islands in the Seto Inland Sea between Kagawa and Okayama prefectures. Themed “restoration of the sea,” the event aims to revitalize the local environment and community after severe depopulation. The event is divided over three sessions, with the first (spring session) held between mid April to mid May. Each session includes both permanent, site-specific installations and single-season exhibitions.
Although the iconic Yayoi Kusama yellow pumpkin sculpture went viral for washing away in a typhoon last summer and is currently being restored, there are plenty of exhibitions to enjoy. The event is also a unique opportunity to experience Japan’s traditional island culture.
Keep a lookout for season-specific tours and exhibitions. For example, official tours to Shamijima Island are only available in spring. The island boasts an ancient history of human habitation with pottery shards and stone implements dating back to the Jomon Period (12,000-300 B.C.) and nine kofun, ancient burial mounds.
Three-session passport tickets are available for ¥5,000 (free for children 15-years-old and below).
When: Spring session: April 14 – May 18; Summer session: Aug. 5 – Sept. 4; Autumn session: Sept. 29 – Nov. 6
Where: Seto Inland Sea Islands
Echigo Tsumari Art Field
This event was originally a triennale and is set against the backdrop of Niigata’s mountains and satoyama (Japanese countryside). The art festival is an immersive way to travel across six areas in Echigo, the former name for Niigata Prefecture. View contemporary art exhibitions, try local cuisine at culinary events and don’t miss out on the popular permanent exhibitions like the Tunnel of Light and the House of Light by James Turrellare. This year the festival also welcomes 114 new artworks. There are guided day-trip bus tours to and from Echigo-Yuzawa Station, which include lunch.
Passport tickets are available for ¥4,500 for adults and free for children in junior high school or younger.
When: April 29 – Nov. 13
Where: Echigo Tsumari, Niigata
Last weekend, I visited the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel, shown in the photograph at the top of the Art Events in Japan section, and I was impressed by the natural beauty of the surroundings and the imaginative way that artists turned the tunnel into an interactive art exhibit. I doubt that anyone would leave unimpressed. The unique foot bath in the cafe near the front is worth visiting.