Human:Nature, Summer Residency in Japan

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The Megijima Police Force
The Megijima Police Force
The Megijima Police Force

And I’m already stopped by the entire local police force (there’s only one of them).

A policeman stopped his scooter about half way up our hillside walk the other day. Over the course of the next 20 minutes or so, he proceeded to tell Ikumasa and me about how some wild boars swam from a neighboring island and have now taken up residence in the thick forested hill on Megijima.

Then he pulls out a pack of firecrackers and a lighter: I am training them to be afraid of humans, he says, I walk around the island at night — the motorbike is too loud — and when I see them, I’ll light the firecrackers and they run back into the forest.

This is the height of health and safety issues on Megijima, and the policeman’s top nighttime patrol priority. Ever so slightly augmented from the dealings of say, a Tokyo policemen, although even Tokyo is far less eventful in terms of crime than any other major city I’ve been to… and their patrolmen ride bicycles.

Well, Megijima feels safe, at least.

Here's Megijima, Japan
Here’s Megijima, Japan

This is the first week of a summer artist residency I will be doing on the tiny island of Megijima in Japan’s Seto inland sea. Aichi University of Arts and the Edinburgh College of Art have been helping facilitate this project, which we began planning around September of last year for the Setouchi Triennale.

A walk of the island, a meeting in an old Japanese house with the leadership, lunch with the Aichi team, gathering maps from the community hall, translation meeting, event organizing meeting, fresh fish dinner caught by professor Suizu, and a WiMax wireless router so I can write this blog post.

Now with the hectic setup complete, I am sitting alone in an abandoned hotel with the sea at my ears and a soft, cool, breeze that floats the occasional faint sound of tug boats and ferries inside.

Daytime view from the workspace on the island
Daytime view from the workspace on the island

Over the next few months, Suhee and I will be photographing and interviewing as many of the 150 island dwellers as possible about their history and connection with nature and agriculture, and taking a large amount of time to sit and edit the Final Straw documentary. The two projects, although for different venues, are both tied together rather tightly in concept.

For Megijima, an island with about 140 adults of retirement age or better, and around 1 – 3 kids depending on what time of day you count them, the issue of how this village will continue is a tough one to confront. At the same time, it’s a story which on the surface is not unique in Japan, and one which presents us with a great opportunity to use research, technology, art, and community interaction to bring awareness, inspiration, and hopefully some smiles to Megijima.


Joining us soon will be guests Johann Barbie from Germany, and Songe Lee from Korea, who will help the project with their programming and design respectively. Looking forward to what comes of our time here.

Stay tuned and stay well!

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