Friday, July 23, 2010

Field Trip: Kyoto and the Seto Islands

Okay, I'm back after a long and lovely trip to visit Kyoto with my visiting family and then on to the Setouchi Contemporary Art festival in the Seto Inland Sea area. We arrived in Kyoto only to discover that we'd unwittingly scheduled our trip smack dab in the middle of Gion Matsuri , one of Japan's biggest summer festivals. I've never seen Kyoto so packed with kimono-wearing festival-goers! It was a great chance to catch some DIY fireworks along the river and the big traditional parade, with towering and elaborate floats on immense wooden wheels, pulled by sweating men in the hot Kyoto sun.

After a lot of eating delicious food and visiting our favorite shrines, temples, bamboo forests and courtyard gardens, my parents split off to visit friends in Fukuoka and we hopped on a train to Takamatsu to visit to the Setouchi Island Festival. What an incredible way to see contemporary art! Setouchi invites notable contemporary artists from across the world to create site-specific projects in the ruins of old abandoned homes, ports and hillsides of the tiny rural islands dotting Japan's inland sea. For visitors, it's a sweaty, nature-filled scavenger hunt for experiential art up ancient hills and coastal towns that show evidence of human habitation dating back 9,000 years. There's far too much to squeeze into a single post. More on some of the highlights very soon.

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