I am pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Chen-Chi, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Chen-Chi is from Taiwan, and submitted the following report about a solo trip to the Setouchi Islands. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Solo Travel Rating: 2 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages Spoken: Japanese
Costs at Destination: Reasonable (local transportation, dining, tours, events, and attractions)
Reasons to Visit the Setouchi Islands
There are thousands of islands scattered across the Seto Inland Sea. The Setouchi Triennale, first held in 2010, is a contemporary art festival held once every three years on several islands and around the ports in the Seto Inland Sea. One of the festival’s main goals is to revitalize these islands, which are suffering from depopulation.
In order to save time and also to combine my itinerary to Miyajima and Kurashiki, I spent two nights on Naoshima during my art triennale trip. The upside was I got to experience the tranquil atmosphere on the island at night.
The best route in the Benesse House Area, where all the buildings were designed by well known architect Tadao Ando starts with a pleasant walk from Chichu Art Museum (online booking required), then a visit to Lee Ufan Museum and Benesse House Museum along the way. This is followed by a walk through Benesse House park, scattered with sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle, along the picturesque coast and ends at the iconic Yellow Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama.
Art House Project is located in the port town Honmura. Among all the houses, Go’o Shrine with an optical glass staircase on the hill turned out to be one of my favorites (and it’s a real Shinto shrine). You might find a little surprise when entering the underground chamber in the darkness.
I hopped to Teshima from Naoshima by a high speed boat. I could have spent a whole day in the Teshima Art Museum just watching the somehow satisfying water drops moving on the simple concrete structure. After some contemplation, I had lunch at Shima Kitchen, where an artwork serves as a restaurant using fresh seasonal and local ingredients. I had ‘Shima Kitchen Set’ with salad, soup, fish, rice, and vegetables. Be sure to book in advance to reserve the local delicacy as the popular meals are often sold out on site.
On my way to Inujima from Okayama, which took me around one hour by bus plus 10 minutes by boat from Hoden Port, I met another solo traveler, Tamar from Israel. She was on a 5-month grand tour in Asia after finishing her military service. We teamed up to visit the island and found mutual interest in art.
The very smart tunnel of mirrors in Inujima Seirensho Art Museum impressed us tremendously. We explored the outdoor refinery ruins and brick walls, and visited the art houses through the lanes of the village.
When we were in the glass greenhouse of Life Garden, it started pouring rain. We did not want to leave in the heavy rain but we didn't find being stranded on the island a good idea either, so we decided to catch the next available boat.
I have also visited other locations in the Setouchi Islands, such as Megijima, Ogijima, Shodoshima, and Shamijima. Each one is different and special in its own way.
This rewarding art trip recharged my spiritual energy in the best possible way. If you are up for experiencing art in laid back, slow paced rural villages surrounded by beautiful scenery, the Setouchi Islands are perfect destinations. You will find the magical collide when contemporary art is set in traditional surroundings. There are many permanent art installations from the previous festivals, in addition to a number of museums and old buildings converted into artworks, therefore the area is recommended to visit even outside the art festival period. If you visit the islands during the art triennale (the next one is expected to take place in 2022), do not forget to get a pre-sale passport ticket to save both time and money.
Solo Travel Rating:
- Safety – 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
- Language – 3 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
- Navigation – 1(1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
- Culture – 2 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
- Average Rating – 2 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)