The scenic town of Kamikatsu is renowned for its stunning rice fields (which have been named among the 100 most impressive in the country), as well as its Zero Waste Project, which seeks to eliminate waste through rigorous recycling, reusing, and reducing. What is not so well known, however, is that Kamikatsu also boasts an impressive collection of art installations, which are a notable site to visit in their own right.
There are a number of artworks to be found at various locations around the Kamikatsu area, created by both Japanese and international artists. Much of the art has a heavy focus on woodwork, with many impressive structures being created out of natural materials.
Moku Moku Moku: Stargazing and Rice Field Viewing
Moku Moku Moku by Japanese artist Masashi Sogabe has a tremendous view of the town’s famous rice fields. The wooden stage-like structure is comprised of thick poles, and includes a makeshift staircase from which the surrounding valley view is especially beautiful. Moku Moku Moku can be used as a venue for parties under the stars, and is also a good place for stargazing using telescopes.
Just down from the installation is a covered picnic bench, which features many wooden carved animals – apparently made by one of the locals. These small wooden statues can be found in many places around Kamikatsu, and range from welcoming woodland creatures to slightly more abstract designs.
Time Bridge: Indonesian Art with an Environmental Message
Time Bridge is another wooden structure created by Indonesian artist Eko Prawoto, with help from the people of Fukuhara. The interior of the “bridge” is covered in messages, which are evocative of happy days gone by. By including positive messages from past encounters using recycled waste materials, Prawoto hopes to educate younger generations about environmental issues. It is located just down from Polestar Café, past a small and beautiful old shrine in a grassy riverside area. Time Bridge also includes a small picnic bench, which can be used by anyone visiting the site.
Iteza Zosenjo: A Ship Stranded in the Mountains
One of the most physically impressive and imposing artworks in Kamikatsu is Katsuhiko Hibino’s Iteza Zosenjo, a large wooden ship which appears stranded just below a small hill on the side of the road. The ship itself is life-sized, and it is hard to imagine the amount of time that must have been put into its construction.
On a clear day, the sea is visible on the horizon from the stem of the boat – which also provides an incredible view of the lush forested valleys below. The artwork is intended to tell a story of discovery and possibility, harking back to ancient settlers coming from the other side of the ocean. Iteza Zosenjo is definitely one of the most recognizable works of art in the area, and is a highly recommended place to visit for couples, as the ship is surrounded by colourful flowers and beautiful scenery.
Fuchigami-No-To: Art Inspired by Japanese Folklore
Found on a looping uphill bend further along the road is Takamasa Kuniyasu’s Fuchigami-No-To installation; a beautiful and imposing wooden structure, vaguely reminiscent of a throne (think the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones) or a dragon’s nest, with spiky planks jutting out at various angles. The artwork takes on different aspects depending on the angle from which it is viewed, and the way that the sun strikes it.
The artwork was created with the help of residents from the local Masaki district, and is representative of a divine water dragon.
Very close to the Fuchigami-No-To installation is a beautiful hidden waterfall, which can be heard but not seen from the roadside. A small 5-10 metre path down the hill leads you to an opening from which it can be viewed. The waterfall leads into a small stream, and local legend says that they are considered a couple (with the waterfall being male and the river being female.)
Toposu Irodori: Handmade Pottery in a Traditional Japanese Setting
Toposu Irodori by Ritsuko Taho is another interesting installation, reminiscent of a cross between ancient Greek excavation site and a lonesome desert, with small trees and succulent plants occasionally emerging from decorated handmade pots stuck in the ground. The nearby area is scenic, and some of the traditional Japanese farm houses are just as striking to look at as the art installation itself. There are 777 pots in total, crafted by 180 local volunteers.
The local art installations combine well with the natural scenery, and are an interesting contemporary addition to a beautiful and untouched natural environment, reminiscent of Setouchi Triennale locations such as Naoshima or Teshima. For anyone interested in the combination of art and nature, Kamikatsu deserves to be at the top of your list of potential sightseeing destinations.
Kamikatsu Art Project: Official site (in Japanese)
A travel writer and wildlife enthusiast currently based in Shikoku, Japan. Having previously lived in New Zealand, I'm especially interested in exploring places with a focus on ecotourism and the natural environment. Highlights of my experience in Japan so far include being mobbed by rabbits on Ōkunoshima, sleeping in a beachside Mongolian yurt on the art island of Naoshima, and countless trips around the many natural wonders of Shikoku.
> A guided tour, including teatime, where you can see the former “Koshien Hotel” – “Frank Lloyd Wright type” architecture by Arata Endo. / Koshien Hall at Mukogawa Women’s University (Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo)
> Experience the ancient way of salt making on Kamikamagari-jima Island on the Tobishima Kaido in Aki-nada! / Kamagari Ancient Salt Making Remains Restoration Pavilion & “Amabito-no-Moshio” (Kure-shi, Hiroshima)
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