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Explore Megijima - Art And Cafes On A Unique Island Destination In Japan

Explore Megijima - Art And Cafes On A Unique Island Destination In Japan

Kagawa 2019.09.23 Bookmark

Megijima is a rural island with much for travelers, from international art to hip cafes. Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are must-visits, but rural areas also have many hidden gems and off-the-beaten places to experience. Head to Kagawa Prefecture to this small island for a one-of-a-kind trip.

Translated by Ken

Written by mizobata

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Megijima -  Have a New, One-of-a-Kind Experience on a Japanese Art Island

What do you think makes Japan unique? Is it animation? Is it the Zen teachings? "Kawaii" (cute) pop culture? Some people may think it's high-tech toilets or hospitality.

All of these are special qualities. However, we might also add contemporary art exhibitions held across islands and villages. The Setouchi Triennale in Kagawa and Okayama prefectures and the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale in Niigata Prefecture are internationally famous.

In late June 2019, we traveled to Megijima, one of the sites for the Setouchi Triennale(*).

This article introduces some of the unique places on the small island of Megijima.

*The pictures included in this article are those taken on our second visit in August 2019.

Megijima - An Island Adorned with Art

Megijima

"Terrace Winds" by Yasuyoshi Sugiura (on exhibit at the Setouchi Triennale 2019)

Starting in 2010, the Setouchi Triennale is an art festival held once every three years. With the vision "to revitalize island communities," twelve islands and two seaports display an expansive genre of unique artworks.

Among the venues is Megijima. This island with a population of less than 150 residents is a 20-minute ferry ride from Takamatsu Port. It also has a beautiful beach that is a popular summer destination for visitors.

In the Japanese folktale "Momotaro," a Japanese demon is said to live in a cave on Megijima. This is also why the island received the nickname Onigashima (Demon Island).

Three Unique Sites on Megijima

Megijima

Ever since the Setouchi Triennale began attracting new visitors, hip cafes and guest houses have started opening on the island.

We would like to introduce one cafe and two artworks in this article. These places all retain a traditional aesthetic while being innovative.

1. Onigashima Club - A Cafe That Transports You Back in Time

Megijima

Onigashima Club* is run by Mitsuharu and Keiko Mishima, a couple from Kagawa Prefecture's Takamatsu City. It opened in April 2019.

*Onigashima Club is not a facility of the Setouchi Triennale.

Megijima

The couple decided to start a cafe after the husband, Mitsuharu, retired in his 60s. As Japas has an aging population, there are many older adults like the Mishimas who remain active even after ending a fulltime career.

The couple hopes Onigashima Club will be a space that brings island residents and visitors together. Their eagerness to pursue this dream post-retirement is very inspirational.

Megijima

The cafe has a charming retro design that stands out. The wife, Keiko, loves antiques and has decorated the interior with some of her collection she gathered over the years. Cafe-goers will be able to spot an old music box, a gramophone, teapots, and other kitschy items.

The cafe sells a variety of classic dagashi snacks and sweets. Several decades ago, it was commonplace to see children running into the neighborhood dagashi shop with their allowance in hand. At Onigashima Club, you will get a taste of what life was like in old-time Japan.

Megijima

On a hot summer day, we recommend ordering the fruit enzyme juice (600 yen with tax) made using local blueberries. The beverage comes with a cute cat-shaped snack.

Megijima

During the winter, we recommend a cup of freshly-brewed coffee (600 yen with tax or 400 yen with tax to-go). The coffee is refreshing and easy to drink, brewed using a French press and made from organic beans.

Megijima

Onigashima Club is committed to being eco-friendly by providing straws and to-go cups that are made of paper instead of plastic, as pollution linked to plastic is becoming increasingly problematic. Where Megijima is located in Kagawa Prefecture, there is also a growing number of volunteers cleaning the ocean.

Regarding their eco-conscious initiative, the couple laughingly commented, "It doesn't make much sense for profitability." Regardless, they are passionate about being proactive about helping the environment.

Please note Onigashima Club is only open on Saturdays from 9:00 to 21:30 and on Sundays and holidays from 9:00 to 16:30. We suggest planning your visit according to when they are open.

Onigashima Club

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2. Little Shops on the Island - Incorporating Fun into Everyday Life

Megijima

Little Shops on the Island Project in Megijima

Japan is known for its innovative inventions convenient for everyday use, with toilets being a common example.

While technological advancement that adds functionality to appliances are unique, there is also an effort to reuse old or existing things to introduce entertainment into people's everyday lives.

The Setouchi Triennale displays numerous art pieces that function as an integral part of the local community's lifestyle. One example is the Little Shops on the Island Project. Using an abandoned inn, the "Shooting Gallery" houses eight unique artworks.

Don't be fooled by its plain concrete exterior. Take a step inside to see what's inside!

Megijima

"Laundry" by Leandro Erlich

Pictured above is Argentinian contemporary artist Leandro Erlich's "Laundry." At first glance, it appears to be a typical laundromat. However, these are merely screens with videos of clothing being washed. Across from the spin dryers, there are identical washing machines that can actually be used to wash clothes.

When we observe something, our brains actually take information from our senses and interpret it visually. It is not really how the world appears.

Leandro Erlich creates pieces that utilize optical illusions to challenge our assumptions. Pieces like these may make you wonder if everyday sceneries might contain the secrets of this world.

Another work by Erlich titled "The Presence of Absence" is also being exhibited on Megijima.

Megijima

"Hair Salon Kotobuki" by Aiko Miyanaga

At Aiko Miyanaga's "Hair Salon Kotobuki," you can get your hair cut while gazing out to sea.

When visiting a hair salon, you would typically read a magazine or chat with the hairdresser to pass time. But what if you could gaze at the beautiful sea instead?

Watching the sea change its appearance with the sunlight and waves, you may begin to notice changes in your own heart. Once the haircut is complete, you'll certainly feel refreshed.

Doing the laundry and getting a haircut are part of our day-to-day lives. But a little inspiration can make those activities more enjoyable. The Little Shops on the Island feature a multitude of works that make use of this idea. See this article for more.

3. Island Theatre Megi - Travel to Old New York

Megijima

"Island Theatre Megi" by Yoichiro Yoda

While sitting in the dark with a bag of popcorn in hand, it's fun to get lost in the world of film. Movie theaters used to be special places where audiences could leave reality and travel to another space and time.

Since DVDs and streaming services have gained popularity, fewer people have been going to movie theaters. In response to this, Yoichiro Yoda opened the "Island Theatre Megi" as a piece for the Setouchi Triennale in 2016.

Megijima

"Island Theatre Megi" by Yoichiro Yoda

Yoichiro Yoda was born in Kagawa and grew up in the United States. He always loved the theaters that lined 42nd Street in New York City. In "Island Theatre Megi," Yoda attempts to recreate the magic of these theaters, which were torn down in the late 1990s.

Inside you will find paintings and portraits of famous actors. During the Setouchi Triennale festival season, Yoda's documentary about the final days of the 42 Street theaters is shown alongside Charlie Chaplain and other classic films.

Megijima

"Island Theatre Megi" by Yoichiro Yoda

Built out of a storage facility, the "Island Theatre Megi" possesses a captivating presence among a landscape of mountains, fields, and traditional houses.

Megijima

"Island Theatre Megi" by Yoichiro Yoda

Throughout its history, Japan has incorporated cultural elements from both the West and its East Asian neighbors by creating a unique culture of its own.

A part of old American culture is revitalizing a small Japanese island. It is exciting to see what creative cultural elements will arise from the "Island Theatre Megi."

Megijima - Discover a Unique Side of Japan

Megijima

Takuya Hirai, a Minister of State for Special Missions in charge of Cool Japan, a Japanese culture promotional initiative of government agencies and private enterprises, stated, "Incorporating contemporary art with the nature of the Seto Inland Sea and the lives of locals is adding new value to Japan."

You can find beautiful elements of Japanese culture in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. However, smaller villages and islands also offer exciting experiences and new things to discover.

In Japan, travel to metropolitan cities, but remember to explore the rural towns where you will be sure to encounter something special.

In cooperation with Onigashima Club, Deputy Counselor, Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters Cabinet Office

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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