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Art And Surreal Nature! Awashima And Shishijima Islands In Kagawa

Art And Surreal Nature! Awashima And Shishijima Islands In Kagawa

Kagawa 2019.06.20 Bookmark

Known for the Setouchi Triennale, Kagawa is also a great destination for nature. Awashima and Shishijima islands are ideal for those seeking a peaceful outdoor experience. This article introduces a trip itinerary filled with art and activity, and travel tips.

Translated by Ken

Written by mizobata

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The Mystical Islands of Shishijima and Awashima

Shishijima and Awashima

Kagawa is home to the Setouchi Triennale, Japan's largest contemporary art event. Some of the prefecture's most popular islands include Naoshima, known as a modern art sanctuary, and the resort island Shodoshima.

Kagawa Prefecture also has many islands abundant in nature waiting to be explored.

With a circumference of four kilometers, Shishijima is a small island in Mitoyo, Kagawa. The island population is only twenty people, resulting in a pristinely-preserved natural landscape. The striking, giant camphor tree Okusu (*1) is a particularly well-known and revered force of nature.

The Okusu has been venerated for centuries as an incarnation of kami (*2). Sacred trees are usually protected within shrines, the Okusu grows freely on the island's mountains, emanating a mystical life force.

Awashima, Kagawa

Neighboring Shishijima is Awashima, one of the islands part of the fall season (September 28 through November 4, 2019) of the Setouchi Triennale.

Awashima is where Japan's first maritime academy was established. Here, you can enjoy imaginative art pieces and watch sea fireflies illuminate the nighttime sea.

This article provides a one-day travel itinerary for Shishijima and Awashima.

*1 Okusu: A direct translation is Great Camphor.
*2 Kami: Japanese deities

8:30 - 8:50 Take the Ferry from Miyanoshita Port to Shishijima

Miyonshita Port

To access Shishijima, take the 8:30 ferry (Japanese) at Miyanoshita Port in Mitoyo.

*A parking lot is available for use near Miyanoshita Port.
*You can also walk 25 minutes from Takuma Station (JR Yosa Line) or take the 7:59 Yosa Line Bus (Japanese) and get off at the Takuma Chosha (Takuma City Hall) bus stop. Buses do not operate on Sundays and holidays.

Shishijima ferry

You can purchase your ticket at the ticket machine aboard the ferry. A ride to Shishijima costs 340 yen.

9:00 - 11:00 Encounter the Mystical Okusu Tree

Okusu

After you get off the ferry, follow the signs for the famous Okusu tree. Use the turtle-shaped signs (pictured top right) and posters (pictured top left) as a guide.

In sharp contrast to city sounds, filled with trains, bicycles, and music, the only noise on Shishijima come from birds chirping and leaves rustling. Visitors can witness the marvelous orchestra hidden within the mountains of the island.

Okusu tree

After around thirty minutes, you will find yourself at the Okusu tree.

Forty meters tall, this 1,200-year-old camphor tree rises in the heart of the mountains overlooking the Seto Inland Sea. You are sure to feel the Okusu's powerful energy just by standing next to it.

We gazed upon this generations-old tree, helping him detox from the stresses of every day. When you visit the Okusu, take a moment for some quiet introspection.

Shishijima Island

A short distance from the camphor tree is a resting place and hilltop. We recommend taking a hike if you have the energy. You feel like you've stepped into a dream world upon hearing a boat blow its whistle in the distance and seeing a flock of birds soar through the sky.

11:00 - 12:00 Take a Break at Kusu-Kusu

Kusu-Kusu on Shishijima

After exploring the area near the Okusu, visit Kusu-Kusu, a rest stop near the island's port.

Kusu-Kusu was started by a couple who moved to Shishijima after falling in love with the Okusu. They serve ice cream and herbal tea, but you can also purchase souvenirs created by artists who love the island.

As the owners renovated a traditional Japanese-style house, Kusu-Kusu retains the retro atmosphere of Japan's Showa Period. The sunlight spills onto the wooden floors and time here seems to runs much slower.

12:00 - 13:00 Meet Island Goats

Shishijima Island

If you have time to spare before the next ferry arrives, we recommend exploring the island some more.

You will come across several friendly goats near the port. Take a moment to watch these adorable animals graze quietly in the area.

Shishijima Island

Continue along the coast and you will see an area of small shacks. This is a gravesite on Shishijima. Historically, the inhabitants of the island built these small huts where they buried their dead. Although the custom is no longer continued, people still come to pray at the graves on a daily basis.

Though the people's bodies may have perished, their souls seem to live on in these houses and warmly watch over those who visit. Please respect the site as it is a valuable part of Shishijima.

13:05 - 13:35 Sail to Awashima

Awashima

Take the 13:05 departing ferry for Awashima. Be careful not to miss the ride, as the next ferry will not arrive until 16:40.

It takes around thirty minutes to get to Awashima from Shishijima. Charming art pieces will greet you upon your arrival.

*Awaloha Shokudo and Le Port Awashima are on the west side of Awashima. Make sure you do not use Kamishinden Port on the east side of the island.

13:45 - 15:00 Have Lunch at Awaloha Shokudo

Awaloha Shokudo

Take a left at the first turn and continue walking along the coast.

Mitoyo

Picture courtesy of Mitoyo Tourism and Exchange Authority

After about five minutes, you will comes across Awaloha Shokudo, a casual restaurant that seems to blend in perfectly with the seascape.

Awaloha

Picture courtesy of Mitoyo Tourism and Exchange Authority

Awaloha Shokudo serves dishes made from local ingredients.

If you like fish, we recommend the Awaloha Set (1,900 yen with tax). Fish such as Japanese sea bass and grey mullet can have an unpleasant aftertaste when caught from waters near cities. However, as Awashima is surrounded by clean sea water, these fish are a delight to eat.

Awaloha Shokudo

Picture courtesy of Awaloha Shokudo

The couple who owns Awaloha Shokudo has long acted as a bridge between artists and island residents. They have supported the island's involvement in the Setouchi Triennale since 2010.

To show their appreciation, many artists have gifted their ideas to the diner. One example is the Awaloha Curry (1,300 yen with tax). The rice, shaped to resemble Awashima, is from a mold created by an artist.

Mitoyo

Picture courtesy of Mitoyo Tourism and Exchange Authority

In addition to supporting local artists, the owners of Awaloha Shokudo try to help the island's elderly population with serving classic Japanese desserts. These include parfaits and pudding a la mode.

When you visit the diner, you might meet an elderly couple on a date reminiscing about their youthful days.

15:00 - 16:00 Visit the Awashima Maritime Museum

Le Port Awashima

After your meal, check in to Le Port Awashima, where you will be spending the night. Ask the front desk if you can leave your bags with them.

Once you have finished checking in, head to Awashima Maritime Museum.

Awashima Maritime Museum

In 1897, Japan's first maritime academy was established in Awashima. Sailors who graduated from the institution sailed all over the world on merchant vessels.

Awashima Martime Museum

Although the school closed in 1987, the well-preserved wooden building now acts as the Awashima Maritime Museum. Stepping inside will transport you back in time to when sailors in training walked down the same halls. It is common to find visitors dressed up to take photos.

Sokosoko Creative Lab

When you visit the museum, be sure to stop into Sokosoko Creative Lab on the first floor. Displayed are numerous items found by artist Katsuhiko Hibino off Awashima's coast. Visitors are encouraged to imagine how the items washed ashore and write their thoughts on sheets of paper.

Guests will find a wide variety of items on display, such as glass bottles covered with barnacles, oddly-shaped driftwood, and crumbled bricks. Perhaps some of them drifted in from your country.

16:00 - 18:00 Look for Island Artwork

Awashima

From Bonnonji Temple, where many come to pray, to Nishihama, a beautiful spot to watch the sunset, to Jonoyama, with its stunning view, there is plenty to see and enjoy on the island. However, we recommend taking your eyes off the map and exploring the area freely.

Awashima is a visual paradise; visitors can find a boat floating peacefully on the waves, a hidden local shrine, and traditional homes with centuries of history.

Awashima

While you walk, you might notice cute artistic objects scattered around here and there. These are sculptures made out of buoys. Started twenty years ago by a local artist, the pieces are now a famous of Awashima.

Each of the buoy statues has a unique expression. Some have childlike smiles, some grin bashfully, and others appear sleepy. A fun way to enjoy the art pieces is to imagine people you know with similar expressions.

If you have time, visit Buoy Buoy Garden on the east side of Awashima to see more buoy art.

18:00 - 20:00 Have Dinner at Le Port Awashima

Le Port Awashima

Picture courtesy of Le Port Awashima

You will return to Le Port Awashima around dinnertime. A full course kaiseki (*) meal will be prepared for you from seasonal ingredients. If you want to know what will be served ahead of time, ask the hotel when you make your reservation.

You can also have a barbecue course for dinner, but remember request this option when you make your reservation.

*Kaiseki: Traditional Japanese course meal.

20:00 Admire the Sea Fireflies

Le Port Awashima

Picture courtesy of Le Port Awashima

Le Port Awashima holds special events where guests can watch the sea fireflies. Sea fireflies are tiny crustaceans that give off blue light when stimulated.

A host of sea fireflies live in the clean waters around Awashima. They turn the beach into an illuminated field when they are caught and brought to the shore.

Unlike artificial light, the light from the sea fireflies is soft and calming. A starry night sky, an illumination of sea fireflies, and sounds of gentle waves and the sea breeze will surely make for an unforgettable night.

Le Port Awashima

You can book regular twin rooms or cabin rooms at Le Port Awashima. We recommend the latter if you want a special stay in Awashima.

Ferries departing for Miyanoshita Port will leave the following morning at 7:25 and at 11:30. Remember to grab breakfast at the hotel before you go.

Tips for Visiting Shishijima and Awashima

When visiting Shishijima and Awashima, there are several points you need to be aware of.

1. Awaloha Diner is open only on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. Le Port Awashima offers lunch from 11:30 to 14:00. Dine at Le Port Awashima if Awaloha Diner is closed.

2. The sea fireflies illumination event is held between June and September. For specific dates, please contact Le Port Awashima directly.

3. If you want to buy snacks or drinks, head to Kusu-Kusu on Shishijima or to Takeuchi Convenience Store near Awashima's port. As both facilities are closed on an irregular basis, we recommend bringing your own drinks and snacks just in case.

4. Sea taxis are an alternative way of traveling to the islands. They are great if you are traveling as a large group or if you want to travel on a more flexible schedule. You can contact Shishijima Fukko LLC (Japanese) or Iseya (Japanese). Both services only have Japanese support, however. Shishijima Fukko LLC offers rides from Miyanoshita Port to Shishijima for parties from one to three for 3,000 yen.

5. There are a lot of insects on Shishijima between May and September. Make sure to take bug spray with you.

6. You can take your bicycle on board the ferry for an extra 200 yen.

7. Since many of the businesses on Shishijima and Awashima cannot communicate in English or Chinese, you can brush up on Japanese phrases on the articles on the MATCHA site.

To get to Awashima, you can also use Suda Port (Japanese), which is a ten-minute drive from Miyanoshita Port.

See the Surrounding Areas, Too!

Kagawa Prefecture faces the calm waters of the Seto Inland Sea, and the islands of Shishijima and Awashima rest within the gentle waves. We hope this article can help you find your own treasures in the area!

Not limited to the two islands in this article, the surrounding areas also have many places to see. One great example is Chichibugahama Beach, considered to have one of the most gorgeous sunsets in Japan. When you visit Awashima and Shishijima, be sure to explore areas nearby, too.

In cooperation with Kusu-Kusu, Awaloha Shokudo, Le Port Awashima

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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