Setouchi Art Festival

The triennial Setouchi Art Festival is one of the biggest celebrations of contemporary art in Japan, and opens up a little-known but lovely region.

Japan's Seto Inland Sea lies sandwiched between three of Japan's four main islands: Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Scattered with almost 3,000 tiny islands, it was until relatively recently just a quiet backwater, home to a smattering of little towns and ageing fishing communities.

In the 1990s, however, the Seto Islands began reinventing themselves as a haven for world-class art, and now stand at the very forefront of the Japanese contemporary art scene. It began with the Benesse House Museum on Naoshima Island, which opened in 1992, bringing outstanding architecture and cutting-edge art to the galleries, streets, beaches, and abandoned spaces of the island.

Today, the region is home to one of Japan's biggest art festivals, the Setouchi Triennale, which takes place every three years to great acclaim. The festival links 12 islands on the inland sea, populating them with countless sculptures, exhibitions and installations by well-respected artists from around the world. A big part of the festival experience is travelling from island to island by ferry, exploring these tiny communities and seeing a side of Japan that is very rarely shown to the outside world. Even during festival season you might well be the only foreigner on some of these islands!

Buy a season pass for one of the festival's seasons (spring, summer, and autumn) and you will be able to travel freely between participating islands, taking advantage of all the galleries and exhibits on offer.

When to go: The next Setouchi Triennale will take place in 2016. Spring: 20 Mar - 17 Apr; Summer: 18 Jul - 4 Sep; Autumn: 8 Oct - 6 Nov.

Setouchi Art Festival

located in Naoshima

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