Awashima Island 粟島
Credit: Toto-tarou at ja.wikipedia
The 'Missing Post Office', Awashima
Credit: Nozomi-N700, Wikimedia
A boat in Awashima Port
Credit: : : Ys [waiz] : :
Traditional houses on Awashima
Credit: hajime momo
Art and sailors
Awashima, a small island located 4.5 kilometers from the coast of Kagawa Prefecture, is one of the exhibition sites of the Setouchi Triennale. But Triennale or not, the island of Awashima is worth a visit! Anchor-shaped, and with an area of 3.68 km2, Awashima was originally formed by three small islands that were linked together by sandbanks. A small island with quaint charm, it was an important port and hosted the prestigious National Sailor School.
An island of sailors
Awashima was on the "Kitamae-bun" sea route, which linked Osaka to Hokkaido and the north of the archipelago through the Seto Inland Sea (also called Seto Nakai). Between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries many cargo ships used this route, and the inhabitants of Awashima included many famous sailors.
In 1897, Awashima housed the first Maritime Academy in Japan, the National Sailor School, which instructed the best civilian sailors of the time. Many of them cruised the seas aboard the prestigious Japanese ships Kanrin Maru, the first Japanese ship to cross the Pacific Ocean.
After the school closed in 1987, the building was turned into a museum. Known as Awashima Marine Memorial Park, this one-storey Western-style building built in 1920 contains models of boats, navigational instruments and objects used during the time the school was active. The long corridors and classrooms with patinated parquet give a retro charm to the place.
Located near the school, in the center of the island, the old port and its narrow streets winding through old traditional houses offer a pleasant walk.
From Mount Jono (Jonoyama, 222m, the highest point of Awashima), there is a beautiful view of the island and the sea. A hiking trail from a former elementary school is a pleasant 30-minute diversion.
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New appeal through art
Awashima, which enjoyed fame and prosperity through its National Merchant Navy School, was quickly deserted when the school was closed down in 1987 due to a lack of students. Today, its population is less than 300 inhabitants but the island has remained active, partly through joining the Setouchi Triennale.
Even before joining the Triennale, Awashima already hosted many artistic projects and artists in residence housed in the old school. For a long time, creatures made of boat buoys have dotted the island.
Don't miss the Missing Post Office. This is the island's former post office which closed in 1990 and was reopened by artist Saya Kubota to mark the 2013 Setouchi Triennale. But it's now a very unique post office. Why? Only anonymous postcards (both addressee and sender) are collected. You can write a card on site or send it (to the address below) and it will be displayed in the middle of the main room of the building, for visitors to read. A fascinating place, not to be missed.
- Opening hours: Open the second and fourth Saturday of the month from 13:00 to 16:00. Free entry.
- Address: Hyoryu Yubinkyoku Dome, 1317-2 Takumacho Awashima, Mitoyo-shi, Kagawa Prefecture, 769-1108
For the 2019 edition of the Setouchi Triennale, a dozen works of art will be exhibited on Awashima from September 28th to November 4th. Artists Katsuhiko Hibino, Dinh Q Lê, Richard Streitmatter-Tran and Mounir Fatmi will be exhibiting their works.
With a circumference of just 16 kilometers, Awashima is easily accessible on foot or by bike (there is a bicycle rental shop a 3-minute walk from the port).