Every three years on the eastern islands of the Seto Inland Sea, the Setouchi region hosts one of Japan’s largest and most popular art events—the Setouchi Triennale. If a combination of art, island culture, scenic views, and local seafood sounds like a treat to you, then make your way to the 2019 Setouchi Triennale. The summer leg of the event runs from July 19 until August 25 and takes place on a smattering of small islands and two ports of the eastern Inland Sea mostly in Kagawa Prefecture, roughly halfway between Osaka and Hiroshima.
The Yellow Pumpkin by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is probably the most iconic piece of art in the region set outside on the shores of Naoshima island. The bright, bold, polka dot-laden sculpture has become a symbol of the region and the Setouchi Triennale event, but it is just one of the more than 200 fascinating sculptures, paintings, and installations from artists from all over the globe that you can admire, photograph, and interact with while exploring the islands during the festival.
The Setouchi Triennale is centered around the city of Takamatsu and the main islands taking part in the festival are Shodoshima, Naoshima, Teshima, Ogijima, Megijima, Oshima, and Inujima. The event also includes Uno Port in the city of Tamano. Considering the geography of the region, it perhaps makes the most sense to have a base in Takamatsu City from which to commute to the islands every day, rather than traveling from island to island. It is the most practical option as there are several choices of accommodations and it is the only place that has direct access to most, if not all, islands.
Island hopping is possible but potentially inconvenient with having to spend a lot of time carrying baggage (as not all islands have lockers in their ports). Spending one night on an island, however, is something you may wish to do for a more serene overnight experience, and Teshima, Naoshima, and Shodoshima all have a range of good accommodation options.
Passport and Tickets
While you can pay to view each artwork individually (¥300 to ¥510 per exhibit), it is much better value to buy a Triennale passport for ¥4,000. This cannot be ordered online but can be purchased at many locations like convenience stores and travel agencies. It can also be bought upon arrival at the main Setouchi Triennale information center near Takamatsu Port.
A three-day ferry pass is available for ¥2,500 (¥1,250 for children) that covers eight ferry routes. These cannot be bought online either, but during the Triennale, they can be purchased at the relevant ferry ticket counters and at the Triennale information centers at the Takamatsu, Tonosho, and Uno ports.
You can find a timetable of all the ferries on the official Triennale site.