Day 21

 First morning in Takamatsu. Samuel takes a quick shower and goes to buy some breakfast. The sun is shining outside, but it is accompanied by clouds. On the map that allows us to follow the Typhoon, we see that it is still quite weak (for a Typhoon) and that it is really slow. It will arrive on land in the morning, but it will have quite a long way to go before touching our area. David is free on Tuesday, he will guide us today. We meet at 9:30 am at the bottom of the hotel. The typhoon is so slow that we are going to be able, in the end, to take the ferry. David proposes us to go to see his favorite island, Ogijima, in the morning, then the park Riotsurin in the afternoon. We buy Onigiris, an umbrella (David brought 3 others). Purchase of tickets, and we go up on a magnificent red and white ferry. 

On the ferry, we settle down outside, but in the shade. It’s quite hot all the same. David explains us a lot of things about the region and the islands. The idea of the Setouchi Triennial, which has been going on for 12 years, is to revitalize the islands of the region which are suffering from demographic decline. Many artistic projects are set up, and there is a great attention to make the normal life of the islands and the artistic life blend together. Some islands, like Nagijima, focus more on tourism. Ogijima has a more balanced approach. We disembark. There are already several visible artistic projects. First, the information and ferry ticket sales center: a modern building, Ogijima’s soul, which is white, wavy, and blends well with the mountainous island. Not far away, there is a kind of giant amphora. David reminds us that there are many smaller versions along the docks of the fishing port: they are octopus traps. The large version is a work of art that also serves as a game for children. It is very nice. We look again and we notice that a number of fishing boats are painted. Another art project. 

The sun continues to fight with the clouds. We pass through the village, a very pretty village on the hillside. David guides us through the small streets, and points out the “Onba”: a kind of stroller traditionally used by the women of the region to do the shopping. An artist founded the “Onda factory” to make decorated versions. It’s great. It was one of the first art projects, and now it does not continue, but there are still Onba here and there. We continue along the coast, a work on foot seems advanced on the horizon while we advance: it is walking art. We go to see it more closely. We hear “splash”. This is our first encounter with the jumping fishes. David explains to us that in summer, for a reason he has not been able to find, a kind of fish jumps out of the water, sometimes 4 or 5 times in a row. At the beginning we can only hear them, but eventually we manage to see them, it’s funny. We will see a lot of them during our stay in the Seto Sea, but also in Hiroshima. There are also many species of small insects which seem to be a mix between sowbugs and silverfish but bigger. We pass by a new glass painting installation by Rikuji Makabe that David and his children have contributed to. David explains that there are other similar installations in the village. We arrive at the perfect place to have a picnic, but black kites are flying over the area. Maybe there is a dead animal? David explains to us that there is a proliferation of wild boars in the area, and that they swim from one island to another, do great damage, but sometimes arrive too tired and do not survive. Fortunately, this is not the case. We have lunch in front of a magnificent view. Weather wise, the sun seems to have won the game.

After lunch, we climb the hill. The sun is now with us and the heat too. The nature is beautiful, the views magnificent. Some big grasshoppers are making us some cuckoo. After a moment of walking, we arrive again at the village, but on the heights. We discover the Toyotama-hime sanctuary. A construction site is stopped for the lunch break: it is a new project for the triennial of this year. A famous architect plans a modern building, and an artist will decorate its interior. Maybe we’ll find out on a future visit? It is soon time to take the ferry back. We stroll again in the small streets, David takes the opportunity to greet several acquaintances. And we get on the ferry. The typhoon is no longer there. Perhaps it was afraid of us? In fact, it came back to land on a mountainous area, and was too weak, the mountains protected us!

The next objective is the Ritsurin garden. David drives us there. We buy some drinks: grape juice for the teenagers, iced coffee for the adults. This garden is not listed in the 3 important gardens of Japan, probably because it was not yet accessible when the list was established. According to David, it is certainly one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan. And it is true that it is impressive.  We can collect some stamps at the entrance. The trees are beautiful, there are small mounts in the shape of Fuji, full of bushes. Clearly, each area of the garden has its season of honor. Like Okayama, a local mountain visually enlarges the garden. It is one of the largest gardens in Japan. You can see herons. There are many water areas with water lilies in bloom. Thousands of carps and many turtles approach every time we lean on the water: they want to eat! An area is dedicated to lotus flowers. These are starting to open. There are three tea houses in the garden, only one is open on a Tuesday, though. An artificial waterfall offers itself to the view. It was, in the past, supplied with water by the servants when the feudal chief whose garden it was hosted guests. At one point, we even see a kingfisher! The garden was a great place for duck hunting. There is a giant trap that allows a team hunt: a hollow mound with small sighting windows allows seeing if the ducks are approaching. On the other side there is a water channel with high edges. To attract the ducks, food can be dragged in. The ducks come to eat. Along the canal, behind the high ledges, the hunters have big nets at the end of poles, and they catch the ducks like you would catch butterflies! 

After this wonderful visit, David took us to the covered alley of Takamatsu, a great place for shopping in the area. Then he left to join his family, not without advising us on the places where we could eat the specialty of the region, the Udons. We thanked him warmly, went to eat Udons, then rested at the hotel. 

To know more about this region, about the triennial, or about David, go and see his pages and blogs! in English in French



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