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Takamatsu, a city of art facing a jewel of the world: the Seto


Summing Up

2010.11.24 by Cathy Hirano
Summing Up Art Setouchi

The Setouchi International Art Festival was supposed to end on October 31. And it did, but it proved so successful that the prefecture has decided to go ahead with the original plan of hosting another festival in three years.

Jumping for joy on Megijima

In addition, many of the sites that were to be shut down and dismantled are being kept open for a few more months. A total of 42 sites* will be open, at least on weekends. Extra ferries and island buses will also be kept running experimentally to see if there is enough local demand to make their continuation worthwhile.

Seagull Parking Lot, Takahito Kimura, Megijima

So just how successful was it? In June, the organizers anticipated the festival would attract about 300,000 visitors with an economic benefit of about 5 billion yen. In fact, however, the festival attracted over 938, 000 visitors with an economic benefit of close to 15 billion yen. Wow!!!

Happy travelers on Teshima

The biggest financial winners were probably the ferry companies. Ferries were filled to capacity even with extra sailings to keep up with demand. Ferries to Megijima and Ogijima islands, for example, had 2.4 times more passengers than usual, causing the company to scrap its plans for selling off one of its boats.

The Meon docking at Ogijima

Hotels near Takamatsu station enjoyed twice as many customers as usual and clientele expanded to include families, students and foreigners in addition to businessmen. Local and festival-related souvenir shops also did a brisk business.

Ogijima's Soul by Jaume Plensa

Nothing is perfect however and a number of things need to be addressed before the next festival. For example, one of Art Setouchi's greatest attractions was being forced to slow down to "island time". Billed as an "art adventure", exploring these out-of-the-way islands and 'discovering' art was really fun!! But once the word spread, the area was deluged with people.

Ferry line up at Inujima stretching off out of sight.

About 500,000 visitors descended on the festival in October alone, more than had come in the first 2 months combined! This stretched transportation, accommodation and art facilities to the limit. It was the hardworking volunteer staff, the islanders' spirit of hospitality and the patience of visitors that carried the festival through this overload.

Helping each other out on Ogijima

While some locations reaped economic benefits from this huge influx of people, many local tourist attractions did not. For example, the number of visitors to my favorite Takamatsu spot, Ritsurin Garden, (see http://cathy.ashita-sanuki.jp/e229240.html ) dropped to 87% of the norm in August and to 63% in September, even though it's very accessible. The festival seems to have caught many local organizations and businesses by surprise and they were too late to take advantage of the opportunity. If they are going to link up with the next festival, they need to be involved from the planning stage.

The real measure of the festival's success, however, must be its impact on the islands and on us, a subject I will look at in my next article.

The fact that many sites are still open has been very under-publicized. Fortunately, despite this, some people are going back, glad to be able to enjoy the remaining sites at their leisure. If you are visiting or live here, go and check them out.

Sites open through to the end of December 2010 are listed here (Japanese only):
Sites open January through to the end of March 2011 are listed here (Japanese only):

* Many thanks to Kazumi, Hiroko, Reina, Kento and Pat for sharing photos for this and the next article.

This blog's writer

Cathy Hirano

I've lived in Japan since 1978. After graduating from a Japanese university with a BA in cultural anthropology in 1983, I worked as a translator in a Japanese consulting engineering firm in Tokyo for several years. My Japanese husband and I moved to Takamatsu in 1987 to raise our two children in a slower-paced environment away from the big city pressures. We've never regretted it. I work as a freelance translator and interpreter and am involved in a lot of community work, including volunteering for Second Hand, a local NGO that supports educational and vocational training initiatives in Cambodia, and for the Takamatsu International Association. I love living in Takamatsu.

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