Subtle Scenery by Runa Kosogawa

Marvel at Japan’s Charming Townscape and Art! A Look Into BIWAKO Biennale 2018

The BIWAKO Biennale is an international art exhibition that began in a bid to preserve traditional Japanese houses and buildings. Here are the details and attractions at this event where you will get to enjoy the fusion of Japanese-style architecture with contemporary art.

BIWAKO Biennale 2018

The BIWAKO Biennale is a unique event where you can admire contemporary art pieces inside old Japanese houses while walking around an ancient town that was built around 150 years ago. It is a rare art event that highlights the beauty of old Japanese houses, where contemporary art pieces accent spaces that people occupied in the olden days. Oga Shoten, which serves as the main information desk for the event, is a cafe housed in an old building, so you can come here for a breather when you get tired of exploring the area.

Schedule for 2018: September 15 (Sat) - November 11 (Sun), 10:00 am - 5:00 pm, closed on Tuesdays
Venue: There are 12 venues in the old town of Omihachiman City, Shiga Prefecture
Admission fee: 2,200 JPY/General, 1,500 JPY/Student (high school, college, university), Free/Child (junior high school age or below)

BIWAKO Biennale 2018

12 Naka, Nagahara-cho, Omihachiman-shi, Shiga

Highlights of BIWAKO Biennale 2018

What sets BIWAKO Biennale apart is that you are able to enjoy the depths and nuances of the artworks because they are hung inside dimly lit, old Japanese houses. Guests are bound to feel a surreal sensation when gazing at these contemporary art pieces set in spaces that people used to occupy around 150 years ago. Take in the unique view of these artworks that you won’t get when they are hung against the white walls of a museum!
Another appeal of this event is that it lets visitors tour the old town and Hachimanyama (Mt. Hachiman), accessible via ropeway. The area is also home to a canal called “Hachiman-bori”, and you can go downstream on that canal by riding on a wooden boat paddled by a boatman. Gazing at the old town while your boat goes with the flow of the water... what a magical moment!
Murakumo Gosho Zuiryuji Temple and the Mt. Hachiman Observation Deck, both of which act as event venues, are viewing spots that offer a panoramic view of the sprawling paddy fields and Lake Biwa below. The area is home to castle ruins, so you will get to see various attractions on your way to either venue, including remarkable stone walls and stairways.


What Kinds of Art Pieces Will You See?

In conjunction with the “Kizashi ~ BEYOND” theme for 2018, all the works that are exhibited will make you feel a sense of “kizashi” (omen). In particular, feast your eyes on the main art visual that was created by Runa Kosogawa. The art piece looks soft and easy to crumple, like a petal, but it is actually made of glass.
Another recommended piece is the magnificent work of Chu Enoki that was inspired by anti-war sentiments. It consists of about 7 tons of cartridges (ammunition) piled up into a mountain. Though it is the epitome of solid metallic beauty, it will also make you wonder how those countless cartridges will be used.
There are many other unique art installations, such as an art piece that uses light penetrating from a broken wooden door, and an artwork that evokes as sense of unease by placing cosmic contemporary art pieces in a Japanese-style garden. So, put yourself in the same space as the artwork and see how it makes you feel!

Cartridge by Chu Enoki, 2012, Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art


Rose Blanket III by Makoto Egashira


Tips for the Tour

There are 12 exhibition venues at this event, but two of those can be reached via the Hachimanyama Ropeway. The rest are located close by each other, so if you want to see all the exhibits, then you might need explore for 3 - 4 hours.
The best tour route is to buy a ticket at Oga Shoten and then go around according to the numbers indicated on the pamphlet that will be given to you. There are blue flags at the entrance of every venue, so they should be easy to spot.

How to Get There

You can reach Omihachiman Station in about 65 minutes from Osaka Station and around 34 minutes from Kyoto Station if you take the limited express train. From there, get on the bus going to Chomeiji/Kokumin Kyukamura at Omi Tetsudo Bus Platform 6, which is located at the North Exit of JR Omihachiman Station, and then get off at Osugi-cho Hachimanyama Ropeway (approx. 7 minutes). If you are coming from Tokyo Station, you will arrive at Kyoto Station in about 2 hours and 15 minutes by shinkansen (bullet train).

Reminders When Visiting the Event

The most important thing you have to be careful of when appreciating the art pieces is damaging the works and the houses. One of the artworks has already been damaged this year, which has prompted the event organizers to draw attention to this matter. The main draw of the BIWAKO Biennale is that there are many art pieces that capitalize on the light penetrating from outside and the darkness inside the houses. However, that also makes the venues dim, so there are apparently many places where you have to watch your feet. In particular, if you have a small child in tow, then it would be best if you carry your child while you look at the artworks. Don’t forget to be quiet when you admire the artworks, as footsteps and speaking voices ruin the appearance and aura of the art.

Objectless Prayer by Ng Ka Ho


That’s all on this exhibition where you can enjoy old Japanese homes and contemporary art at the same time! Not only is there a lot to see at this event, but there are plenty of tourist attractions near it, so take this guide with you and check it out for yourself!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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