I don’t think the boar was expecting to meet me that day, as I screeched to a halt on my rental bike. It was a warm afternoon on Momoshima (百島) island off the coast of Hiroshima Prefecture when I stumbled upon a wild boar in the middle of an open field. If it wasn’t for my bike’s rusty brakes sending a bone-chilling shriek into the air, I might have been able to observe the hog from afar for a few moments longer. As it pranced off (yes, boars prance!) into the thicket of trees, it crossed my mind what a curious sight it was to see such an elusive creature out in broad daylight. As it turns out, it’s easy to find your own secluded corner of the island, one that has attracted not only boar but a new generation of visitors and inhabitants looking for their own slice of island paradise.
With the island’s dwindling population in past years, the increasing number of empty houses, ample land, and breathtaking seascape of the surrounding Seto Inland Sea has given people a new reason to visit Momoshima – as a luxury-infused glamping-style getaway at Setouchi Hideaway Resort Ciela, and as a creative hub for practicing artists at Art Base Momoshima. As I made my way around the island on a late February morning, sunlight streaming down on my face, I ventured out to discover the rich opportunities Momoshima offered for its newest arrivals.
Glamping at Setouchi Hideaway Resort Ciela
To start my day, I hopped onto the cheerfully-colored blue and red-spotted ferry from Onomichi (尾道) port for a 30-minute ride to Momoshima. At Momoshima’s Fukuda Port, I selected one of the several free rental bikes stationed nearby to cycle five-minutes to the island’s glamping-style accommodation at Setouchi Hideaway Resort Ciela. If you’re anything like me and like the idea of camping without giving up the modern comforts of a bath, bed, and kitchen facilities, then Ciela’s glamping-style (combining “glamorous” and “camping”) accommodations may be just the ticket to your heart. This stylishly renovated guesthouse is equipped with all the modern conveniences of a hotel, but with all the amenities you’ll need to fulfill your camping desires, such as barbecues, lounge chairs, fishing poles, and even a hammock for a day of lounging in the sun.
Inside, Ciela is equipped with cooking supplies and utensils, a movie projector, and a PS4 gaming system. Though despite these modern luxuries, I doubt they would tempt you away from spending the majority of your time at Ciela outside with oceanfront views and white sandy beaches just steps away from the front door. Even in the cooler month of February, the crystal green water at the beach’s edge looked inviting enough to dip my toes into. I love a good ocean swim, and in the height of balmy summer weather in Japan, I could only imagine the hours I could spend swimming in those refreshingly cool waters.
Adding Luxury to a Japan Glamping Experience
For an additional luxury component to your stay, you can reserve a private dinner of Setouchi-inspired seasonal dishes prepared by a chef who will come directly to the guesthouse. Ciela can also help organize a sea kayaking excursion, where you can take in the setting sun or watch as “Umihotaru,” a kind of ocean crustacean, illuminates the shallow waters with a magical, phosphorescent glow at night.
In order to enjoy the full breadth of luxury and relaxation that Setouchi Hideaway Resort Ciela offers, an overnight stay would be necessary. As my island visit lasted only a day, I could only look wistfully back on the guesthouse and its sandy beaches as I cycled to my next destination on the island.
Setouchi Hideaway Resort Ciela owner was renovated by Takagake-san, a local resident on a nearby island.
Japanese Modern Art at Art Base Momoshima
While this quiet island in the Seto Inland Sea has attracted those with relaxation on their minds, Momoshima is experiencing another revival of creativity from artists living, collaborating, and making art on the island. My next stop was Art Base Momoshima, an abandoned school-turned-art-center and museum. In 2012, world-renowned artist Yukinori Yanagi headed the conception of Art Base Momoshima, and along with four fellow artists, turned the school into a modern art museum. Along with Yanagi’s artwork, the museum has a permanent collection of work by other internationally acclaimed artists whose works are also exhibited at leading contemporary art museums such as the UK’s Tate Gallery and NYC’s Museum of Modern Art. The museum also hosts special themed exhibitions held once a year featuring upcoming and established artists, giving art-lovers another reason to visit the island.
Beyond the main museum are an old cinema turned-permanent installation of work by Yanagi, a coin-operated neon sign of a postwar Japanese flag with a sun design, and Goemon House, a restored traditional Japanese home that’s been converted into a guesthouse and gallery.
Yukinori Yanagi “Hinomaru Illumination” 2010 / neon, neon transformer, programming circuit, painted steel, steel frame, slag and water.
Chu Enoki “LSDF 020” inside restored Japanese home, Goemon House
Unlike in bigger city centers where space is at a premium, the island’s abandoned school and surrounding vacant houses have given artists ample opportunity to create larger-than-life artworks. Additionally, some of the empty homes have been renovated for Art Base’s artist-in-residence program, with three to fifteen artists living on the island at one time, firmly cementing the island as an art-infused destination for artists outside of the city. Whether you’re a fan of contemporary art or not, a visit to Momoshima is a worthy detour to see the potential island life has for creatives.
Quiet Island Life of Momoshima
I cycled the island’s narrow, rural streets for the rest of the afternoon before ending my visit with my wild boar encounter. Like the other inhabitants of the island, the boar had carved out its own peaceful slice of the island, and I couldn’t imagine a more fitting end to my Momoshima visit. Just as many come to the island for ocean relaxation and solitude, you’ll likely relish in a quiet island life of your own as you unwind in the natural beauty of the Setouchi region.
How to Get to Momoshima
From Hiroshima Station, catch the JR Shinkansen Train headed to Tokyo and get off at Fukuyama Station (福山駅), transfer to the local train bound for Mihara to Onomichi Station (尾道駅) (54 minutes), then walk four-minutes to Onomichi Port Terminal (尾道港). From Onomichi Port, catch the ferry headed to Tsuneishi Port (常石港), and get off at Fukuda Port on Momoshima (福田港, 百島) (25 minutes on an express ferry or 53 minutes on a regular ferry). There are approximately ten ferries between Momoshima and Onomichi per day. Check the Bingo Shosen Website for a detailed ferry schedule.
From Shin-Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo Station, catch the JR Shinkansen headed for Hakata, then transfer onto the local Sanyo line at Fukuyama Station (福山駅) until you reach Onomichi Station. It takes approximately 2 hours to reach Onomichi Station from Shin-Osaka and Kyoto, and 4 hours from Tokyo.
Photographs and text by Mika Senda
Art Base Momoshima Extra Information
We are currently accepting visitors by appointment only on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays throughout the year. Due to the effects of the coronavirus, the annual autumn exhibition is still undecided.
Opening days: Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (by appointment only, reservations required through the official website)
Hours: 10:00 – 17:00
Admission: 1,500 yen for adults, 1,000 yen for university students, free for high school students and younger. Admission: Adults 1,500 yen, university students 1,000 yen, high school students and younger free.
Special pizza is available for lunch. (Reservations are required in conjunction with the tour. If you do not have a reservation for lunch, you can use the cafe attached to the museum. Parking lot: Available (on the ground of the art base)
For more information