The latest in the Islands of Japan series!
Right now, I’m all about exploring my corner of Japan. The island that I live on, Shikoku, is big enough to have lots of geographic variety but small enough to visit different places on day trips or a weekend trip if I wanted to go all the way to the other end. I’m trying to save all my vacation days for next summer – they kinda frown on us taking days off while school is in session so I’m saving them up to take a month-long trip next August – so I’m not doing any big trips during the school year, which is fine with me.
Megijima was the first trip I did in Japan and I couldn’t have been happier with it. I got to check a new prefecture off the list (Kagawa) and I also got to meet up with two of my Japanese friends that I hadn’t seen since we were all in Vancouver together seven years ago. We met in the port city of Takamatsu which is only a 50 minute drive away from my town, and thankfully they navigated the tickets and everything in Japanese for me. That being said, it’s a tourist town and a lot of the signage is in English. At the ferry port, there are also customer service assistants who walk around helping people, look for one with an “I SPEAK ENGLISH” armband or nametag on if you need help in English.
One of the big draws in Megijima is the Setouchi Art Fest, which was the main reason why we were going there and to the neighboring island of Ogijima. This art festival is world-class and one of the most interesting things I’ve ever seen. Entire empty houses and buildings on the island are taken over for art installations of all kinds. There is different kinds of art in all the public spaces as well. Residents of the island live among the incredible art in their tiny seaside village. It’s also famous for being a location in the Japanese folk tale Momotaro, and the island is said to be the home of the ogres in the story. You can visit oni (ogre) caves with statues of ogres all over the place inside. If you want to go to the caves (the viewpoint was spectacular but the cave was nothing special), it’s worth it to pay the $5ish fee for the bus up the side of the mountain. The walk would be a killer.
If you’re planning to go to the art festival, be aware it’s only on at certain times of the year. My friends had a Setouchi Passport for me, borrowed from one of their friends, which meant I only had to pay an entrance fee to go inside at a couple of the art installations – the rest were free entrance. I think without the passport you have to pay at each one, and at about Y300 ($3 USD) a pop, it could add up quickly. The passports are only Y5000 ($50 USD) which is a great buy if you’re visiting a few islands. Between Megijima and Ogijima, I easily saw over 50 installations which would have set me back about $150 if I had to pay at each.
How To Get There
First, you’ll need to get to Takamatsu City. Once you’re there, you’ll need to get to the port. It’s located right outside Takamatsu Station or the Takamatsu-chikko Station, depending on which train line you’re riding. Both stations are across the street from the port – just walk towards the ocean! The Setouchi Art Fest website has an excellent ferry access info page which is helpful in scheduling times. Be aware when large school and tour groups abound, you may be pushed to the next ferry time. We had to go over an hour early on a Sunday to buy a ticket, and we got the last three spaces on that crossing.
What To Do
Walk around, look at art, eat, take pictures! That’s all I did and it was beautiful. The art installations were really interesting for me, and I don’t even appreciate art that much. It’s not a great rainy day activity as the art is scattered all over the town and up and down hills. This is not a great activity for those with limited mobility, or respiratory or heart conditions. There’s a lot of super steep hills and no cars are allowed on the streets. Residents are allowed to use scooters but tourists are not.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell what is art and what is just residents’ houses. Follow signs carefully and respect the signs indicating private or residents-only areas.
We had an amazing beachfront lunch at an empty restaurant! After being turned away from a beautiful little restaurant set in a shrine due to no reservation, we wandered down to the beach and found a family-run restaurant just getting ready to open. We were presented with a Japanese set lunch full to the brim with all kinds of seafood, hot green tea and mango pudding for dessert, and all this only set me back Y1500 (about $15). Best view too! The lady cooking was so nice – she was very concerned that I wouldn’t be able to eat the food (a lot of older Japanese people still believe Japanese people have special stomachs and no other ethnicity can eat their food…. uhhhh…. okay guys… ) but I picked my plate clean and she broke out in a huge grin as I told her in Japanese that the food was delicious!
All in all I enjoyed my day here a lot. It was relaxing, the art was intriguing and it was cool to see all the locals who still live a very traditional lifestyle. Some of the homes are 200+ years old and to get to walk through them and see what houses were like back then is a rare opportunity as a foreigner.
Next up, we took the ferry to Ogijima, the next island over from Megijima. Stay tuned for my post on that!
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