Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale
When art meets nature and stays there for a while... Only every three years!
“In summer, cultivate the fields; in winter, cultivate the mind.”
This is the belief behind the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, one of the world’s largest international art festivals. Based in rural Niigata Prefecture, it’s an expansive indoor and outdoor art exhibit, sweeping across the Echigo-Tsumari region, including Tokamachi city and Tsunan town, every three years.
Taking place typically from the end of July to mid-September, the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale is a two-month-long regional project aimed to develop and revitalize the Echigo-Tsumari region with a romantical emphasis on the relationships of humans and their natural environment. Featuring art with the purpose of bringing together local nature and culture, the festival showcases around 150 new works expanding upon more than 200 existing art pieces.
The long exhibition, which first came about in 2000, features both Japanese and international artists, and even the world-renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has a permanent installation on the grounds.
Art in nature
Artwork and exhibits are on display in rice fields, beech forests, unused school buildings and houses. It’s an adventure that inspires the five senses and invites you to experience the people, customs of rural Japan. Some of the striking natural beauty you’ll see intermittent with the artwork include Kiyotsukyo Gorge and Hoshitoge Rice Terrace.
One example of the types of unique exhibits you’ll find there are cave paintings that show “art that is born in the place where humans inhabit.” The event will also include dance performances, dishes prepared with regionally grown ingredients and guided walking and bus tours of the area.
While the region is likely unfamiliar to tourists, Echigo-Tsumari lies deep within Japan’s “snow country,” a rural region covered in heavy snow for six months out of the year. Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata introduced this Japanese region to a global audience with his famous novel “Snow Country,” a tome of isolation heightened by the region’s characteristic snowfall that can pile up to 5 meters high.
In addition to the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale festival, you can also enjoy the Summer Festival and the Snow Art Project festival which take place every year.
Know before you go
Check out the list of artwork and locations on the official English website and download the official area map so you can plan your trip accordingly. The best way to access the festival’s many exhibits and pieces is to buy the multi-use art passport for ¥3,500. (High school and university students can get a discount on it). Simply show the passport at entry and you’re on your way to discovering the aesthetics of Tokamachi!