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The Setouchi International Art Festival

Preliminary note: If you are a regular reader, you may be wondering why I am writing an introductory post about the Festival now. The reason is that this entry is part of the Japan Blog Matsuri, with the following topic: “Famous Japanese Events.” And if the Setouchi International Art Festival is not very famous yet, it is on its way to be, and this is my contribution. If you’re a new reader who came thanks to the Japan Blog Matsuri, welcome to my blog, feel free to click the many links in this post, they will bring you to various places on the blog. And if you like what you see, do not hesitate to subscribe to the blog’s feed or follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

A Town Between the Sky and the Sea
A Town Between the Sky and the Sea on Ogijima

From July 19 to October 31, 2010, the Setouchi International Art Festival has been held in the Kagawa Prefecture in Japan.

This festival, organized by Fram Kitagawa and Soichiro Fukutake had the particularity to take place on seven small islands in the Seto Inland Sea (Naoshima, Inujima, Ogijima, Megijima, Shōdoshima, Teshima, Ōshima, as well as in Takamatsu and Uno Ports). It was inspired both by the success of the Benesse Corporation on Naoshima, and by the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial in the Niigata Prefecture (another of Fram Kitahawa’s brainchilds).

Naoshima was once an almost deserted island, and the Fukutake family, with the Benesse Corporation has managed for past twenty years to turn it into one of the most world renowned places for contemporary art. Meanwhile, the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennal (its fourth iteration took place in 2009) has been successful in reviving this rural area of central Japan that was badly suffering from desertification.

Straw Art
Straw Art on Shodoshima

As you certainly know, this depopulation issue is an increasing one in Japan, and the Seto Inland Sea islands, despite being one of the jewels of Japan, are getting emptier and emptier every year as the younger generations leave them to find work in the bigger cities.

The goal of the Setouchi International Art Festival is simple: to revitalize the area through art.
It has been a tremendous success both on Naoshima and in Echigo-Tsumari, let’s hope that it will also be one in Kagawa.

If last year’s Festival is any indication, we have every chance to be optimistic. The organizers expected about 300,000 visitors and more than 800,000 showed up, making the Festival the biggest cultural event of the year in Japan, and thanks to this success, the Festival will become a triennial too, and preparations are already starting for 2013.

If you’re new to the blog, feel free to search through it to discover the various artworks and projects and how they interacted with the islands where they were located.

If you are able to go to these islands in the near future, also know that a large number of the 75 original pieces are still there and will be until the end of march (a few are even set to be permanent).

20th Century Recall
20th Century Recall on Megijima

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5 thoughts on “The Setouchi International Art Festival”

  1. Todd | Todd's Wanderings

    Ok, now I’m testing out this commenting section too. I hope you don’t mind all the tests 🙂 I also, love the little festival you wrote about. I love it when small towns figure out a way to help themselves.

    1. Go ahead, test, it helps me too. 🙂
      The Festival was by no means little. As mentioned the final tally of visitors was more than 800,000. 500,000 in the last month only if I’m correct, which he was I was there, and some places were indeed very crowded (I’m just good at avoiding people in the frame when I take pictures 😉 )
      You should definitely plan a trip to Shikoku in 2013 (and before too if you can, of course)

  2. I’m kind of sad I didn’t hear about this festival until after I left Japan. That sounds so interesting! Love the pictures too, it just makes it seem so… Japanese.

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