Setouchi Islands Art Project

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I love the islands in the Inland Sea near Hiroshima. It is my lifetime goal to visit as many as I can, at least the inhabited ones!

So when Moeko’s Dad sent my daughter a guide book to the second triennial Setouchi Art Project, I just had to go and see some of the things! We decided on two small islands off the coast of Takamatsu, Ogijima and Megijima (map). It took 3 hours on the expressway to reach Takamatsu CIty. From there we took a ferry to Megijima where we visited the caverns. Inside, we saw some of the 3000 “devil’s-face” roof tiles created by local junior high students. Most memorable, however, was the grumpy grandma at the “dango” stand.

Scary Faces : Leah and Onigawara Tiles

Scary Faces : Leah and Onigawara Tiles

We started off on the wrong foot with her when we asked if these steps led to the caverns. “Read the sign! What does it say? You went to grade school, didn’t you?!” she scolded us. Apparently her gruffness is famous on the little island! She refused  to have her picture taken but was much nicer when we stopped on the way down for kinako covered “kibi dango” sweets.

Kibi Dango

Kibi Dango

The other project we saw there was a Japanese-style house with a white sand garden in the inner court. As we sat there, we saw foot prints suddenly appear in the sand and the crunchy sound of someone walking even though no one was there. “The  Presence of Absence” by Leandro Erlich of Argentina was pretty cool.

Art in Megijima: The Presence of Absence

Art in Megijima: The Presence of Absence

We had opted not to purchase the “passport” that allows discounted prices over a three-month period. So we were being selective about what we’d pay to see. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed in Japanese art exhibits!

Blueberry or Shoyu-Mame Ice Cream!

Blueberry or Shoyu-Mame Ice Cream!

We enjoyed an ice cream break right next door and then decided to move on to Ogijima. Unfortunately, there was a two-hour wait for the next ferry. The up-side of it is that we were able to wait in the air-conditioned waiting room and get acquainted with Hamazaki san! This worked out when she helped us get our car back on the ferry the next day!

Hamazaki-san at the  Megishima Ferry Station

Hamazaki-san at the Megishima Ferry Station

It’s a 20-minute scenic ride to Ogijima where we were to stay with a farm family overnight. Tamao Matsushita met us at the ferry in his tractor (テーラー) and gave us a harrowing ride up the twisted paths to their house. We stayed at “Terumi“, a guest house  attached to the Matsushita’s home.

In the kitchen with Terumi

In the kitchen with Terumi

Cooking dinner together was part of the whole experience. The island is famous for octopus so the menu included Takomeshi, tako no sunamono and tako tempura! It was fun cooking with Terumi. Everything was delicious.

Natchan shares a joke with Tamao-san

Natchan shares a joke with Tamao-san

We took an evening stroll to see the sunset over the next island. While we sat there, Tamao-san joined us and we talked and laughed and watched the sun sink over the  mountain like a huge red daruma.

The Kidos at Cafe Tachi, Ogijima

The Kidos at Cafe Tachi, Ogijima

Wallalley (Rikuji Makabe)

Wallalley (Rikuji Makabe)

On the ferry to Megijima, we met Aya Kido, a beautiful young woman who said she and her mother ran a cafe on Ogijima, so of course, we had to stop there for a Yuzu Smoothie! The cafe is in what used to be Aya’s grandmother’s house so it is called “Tachi” after her. Be sure and drop by is you visit Megijima! There are few places to eat on the islands and no convenience stores. The guide book recommends we bring our own bottled water or other supplies.

昭和40年会 The Showa 40 Club

A group of artists who have absolutely nothing in common except that they were all born in Showa 40、or 1965, these men have taken over a local junior high and are creating various objects and films as well as carrying on periodic workshops. If you are interested, be sure to check the homepage for dates. This guy is way too young to be one of them, but he was appearing in a film being made that day.

Brave young man with feather!

Brave young man with feather! (Look carefully!)

I got blisters on my feet and couldn’t walk anymore. The morning we left, Terumi told me I could have the pair of soft “Crocs” she had lent me. I never was so grateful for a gift! We walked down to the ferry and on our way, saw an old women digging weeds around the graves. We spoke to her and finally Natchan asked if I could take a picture.

A very perceptive woman!

A very perceptive woman!

She has lived her whole life on the island of Ogijima and is 87 years old. She was so bent over from tending the rice field all her life that she couldn’t stand up straight at all but was looking at the ground. When Natchan explained that I was from America and wanted to take a picture to remember her by, she looked at my feet and said, “You wore those shoes all the way from America?!” I couldn’t stop laughing!

All the way from America!

All the way from America!

Yamaguchi-san came to the island as a young mother over-40 years ago!

Yamaguchi-san came to the island as a young mother over-40 years ago!

Hey! Do you know what this is? It’s an ice cream box! My friend from Yuki-cho had told me that they used ot have one of these out in front of their shop when she was a kid. It has dry ice and popsicles or ice cream treats in the thermos-type cylinder inside.

Parting Shot: This man peeled a macau uri melon for us just before we boarded the ferry!

Parting Shot: This man peeled a macau uri melon for us just before we boarded the ferry!

It was time to leave, and Terumi and Tamao came to the ferry to say goodbye. We feel so lucky to have been guests at their place. It’s only 3000 yen to stay without meals. We paid 5000 including our 2 meals!

大竹伸郎 Ohtake Shinro

We had been too cheap to pay the 500 yen to see Ohtake Shinro‘s work of art on Megijima, entitled Mekon (女根)pictured below, so I decided to visit Takamatsu Museum of Art to see his entire exhibition for just 1000 yen! Good timing.

Ohtake Shinro's "Mekon"

Ohtake Shinro’s “Mekon”

I can’t say I understood all his art, but I loved looking at his sketchbooks that he had kept since he was a junior high school student! There must have been close to a hundred! I was amazed at the volume of work he has created in some of his huge collages and large box-collages that are the size of a four mat room!

”Terumi" staff!

”Terumi” staff!

Thanks again to the Terumi and Tamao Matsushita for having us! If you want to stay in a private home and have a hands-on experience. You can contact the Ogijima Community Kyougikai (男木島コミュニテイ協議会 Tel 087-873-0002)

Isamu Noguchi Garden 

At the Entrance of Isamu Noguchi Garden, Takamatsu

At the Entrance of Isamu Noguchi Garden, Takamatsu

If I had known sooner, we could have viewed the stone sculptures and famous garden created by sculptor Isamu Noguchi in Takamatsu. We found it only to be told that tours were by reservation only at 10:00 Am and 1:00 PM. It’s a little pricey at 2,100 yen for an hour-long tour. Take your student ID for a discount! I hope to go back and see it someday as I am very interested  in this half-American artist who created a unique style. Noguchi knew Leonard Foujita in Paris in the 1920s as well as  Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in 1930’s Mexico ! He is also well known for designing the UNESCO garden and the Isamu Noguchi Garden in NYC.

Isamu Noguchi

Isamu Noguchi

It was a trip filled with many encounters and I was fortunate to be able to go there! I want to extend a special thanks to Ohta Hideharu for telling us about the art project in Setouchi!!

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Vividhunter
    Aug 07, 2013 @ 12:46:02

    Looks like a fun trip! I’d like to see more of the islands in Seto-nai-kai one day too!

    Reply

  2. leahmama1
    Aug 08, 2013 @ 00:56:42

    You definitely should. This art festival involves about 11 islands and is held every three years. Be sure to stop by and see me in Hiroshima!

    Reply

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