Welcome to Teshima, a charming island made up of three fishing villages and a population just shy of 1000 people. The island is filled with natural beauty and in more recent years an interesting collection of contemporary art pieces.
Teshima is the second biggest of the Setouchi Islands, after Shodoshima, and like its older sibling plays host to the Setouchi Triennale art festival.
An island fit for exploring
You will have arrived on Teshima island via one of its two ports, Karato or Ieura. It is from here that you will start your adventure around the island, be it by bicycle, car or on foot. The island is best explored by rental bicycle, which can be picked up at the either of the ports via several small companies (note: number of bikes is limited so best to grab one when you first arrive to avoid disappointment).
Rental bicycles can be picked up by the port
The road through Teshima island
Once you are on your bike, you will naturally follow the circular road that circumvents the island and connects all three villages. It will take you through an array of rice paddies, forested hillsides and past quiet sandy beaches, all the while looking out over a spectacular coast line that is dotted with islands of various shapes and size.
Following this route by bicycle means you can stop freely as and when you wish, and this is why we suggest using a rental cycle. Of course the same route can be followed by rental car as well, but being stuck inside a vehicle means you lose a lot of the magic the island has to offer. Completing it by foot is of course an option too, but it will take a very long time. By bicycle you can comfortably see most of the island in one day, although two days will allow a much more relaxed and thorough exploration.
Sandy beaches without a soul in sight
Winding roads lead one through a landscape of terraced rice fields
Art in all corners of the island
As a result of the Setouchi Art Triennale event that is steadily gaining recognition around the world, Teshima is littered with artworks by both local and international artists, some permanent and others that come and go, giving the island an interesting transient feel.
The main attraction on the island, as far as art goes, is the Teshima Art Museum, which is without a doubt one of Japan’s most intriguing art pieces. The brilliant-white concrete structure is situated among a landscape of green forest and terraced rice-fields, overlooking the ocean below. Two large openings in the structure allow visitors to experience the light and sounds of nature in a calm, cool and quiet space. Droplets of water rise from the ground adding an unusual dimension and encourage interesting stimulation.
Teshima Art Museum / Rei Naito・Ryue Nishizawa
Teshima Art Museum / Rei Naito・Ryue Nishizawa
Other noted art pieces on the island include “Les Archives du Coeur” by French artist Christian Boltanski where one can record their own heartbeat and listen in on other peoples’ and “Teshima Kitchen”, which doubles as a place to eat, operated by a team made up of local women who have been trained by some of Tokyo’s top chefs.
Various other installations and temporary artworks can be found scattered across the length and breadth of the island, some by the roadside, others hidden away waiting to be discovered purely by accident.
Les Archives du Coeur / Christian Boltanski
Contemporary art piece on Teshima island
Umitota / Akira Minagawa/Shinichiro Ogata
Dig a little deeper
As with many of the Setouchi islands though, visitors who are looking for artistic people and projects on Teshima island, are encouraged to look beyond the official Trienalle roster of artists. A handful of locals also offer a range of interesting and creative experiences to those who take the time to find them. An excellent example of this is the Usaginingen Theatre – a married couple who put on audio-visual performances for the public four days a week inside a disused carpentry warehouse.
The Hirai’s, also known as Usaginingen Theatre, are originally from Yokohama and Shikoku. After living for some years in Berlin and Brighton, where they created their unique sound and visual performance they decided to move back to Japan, specifically Teshima, to raise a family in a quiet, rural setting surrounded by nature and the ocean.
Their performances are half written and half improvised – they consist of live music which spans several genres and a stream of abstract visuals that are projected across a large backdrop. They have taken their performances to various countries around the world, entertaining audiences in France, Switzerland, Germany and Iceland.
When they aren’t performing the Hirai family are dedicated to a life of gardening and organic farming. Stumbling across and interacting with locals like this make any trip to Teshima all the more interesting and unforgettable.
Sandy beaches and Karato Port
ACCESS: Teshima can be reached by two ferry lines. One runs between Takamatsu and Ieura Port. Tthe other runs between Uno Port and both Ieura and Karato Ports, on its way to Shodoshima.