An obscure Japanese island chain is gearing up for a big year in 2019. When the New York Times published their anticipated “Top 52 places to go” list late last year, the Setouchi islands, which often go overlooked to the majority of visitors to the country, ranked 7th in the world. And for good reason. Not only is Japan gearing up to host the 2020 Olympic Games, with visitor numbers at their highest ever, the seasonal Setouchi Triennale (April 26 – May 26; July 19 – August 25; September 28 – November 4) is perhaps the most picturesque setting of any art festival.
Nestled in the Seto Inland Sea, there are around 12 islands taking part – all accessible by boat with hundreds of visitors island-hopping. The festival is split into three instalments: “spring encounters”, “summer gatherings” and “fall expansions”. You can bike between galleries, secluded bays and striking contemporary sculpture set against the backdrop of the Inland Sea. The highlights? A female-only puppet theatre on Naoshima island, the Art House Project made from the ruins of a copper refinery on Inujima and an art museum set around terraced rice fields on Teshima.
The islands may be small but they’ve got their sights set high. The Setouchi Triennale is also attempting the world’s first artificial meteor shower via a satellite as part of the Shooting Star Challenge – not a lot of art festivals have the bar set this high.