Tsunagi, Kumamoto: A World View From the Sea
Art Viewing and SUP Experience (2 hours)
This program takes place in the Akasaki district of Tsunagi, a town located in the southern part of Kumamoto Prefecture. The town’s former Akasaki Elementary School, a school built right on the sea, and Bentenjima, a small uninhabited island that joins the land at low tide, create a unique landscape that highlights the connection between land and sea.
In the past, this area inspired creatives such as writer Michiko Ishimure and world-renowned photographer Eugene Smith. In recent years, Tsunagi has become the location for numerous art projects organized by the town’s own museum, the Tsunagi Art Museum. Around Akasaki, there are currently two outdoor, large-scale works of art on display: Inn of Souls by contemporary artist Yukinori Yanagi and Sea Crossing by artist Yasuaki Igarashi.
In the first part of the program, participants will be able to explore and experience these outdoor art pieces. Afterward, participants will embark on a SUP ride in the sea. Enjoy the sound of waves beneath your board, the refreshing wind that blows through the air, and the salty scent of the water. During the SUP ride, you will be able to sharpen your senses and connect more deeply with the art around you.
This program welcomes participants of all levels, so even those with no previous SUP experience are encouraged to join. In addition to teaching the basics of SUP, the guides will capture the experience with photos and videos taken by GoPro and share them with you after.
A homemade lunch by locals can be provided at mealtime for an extra fee. (Advance reservation required).
- ● A program to appreciate and experience works of art that connect both land and sea
- ● First-time SUP riders are welcome! We will guide you through the basics, step-by-step
- ● Enjoy a peaceful and meditative time while riding SUP
- ● Visit the Inn of Souls, an immersive work of art created by renovating an abandoned elementary school swimming pool
- ● Listen to a reading of the poem Souls written by Michiko Ishimure. This poem inspired the Inn of Souls art piece
- ● Take in the art piece, Sea Crossing, which visualizes society’s connection with land and water. (Exhibition period: about 2 weeks from September 26th of the Lunar calendar every year)
- ● GoPro photos and videos of the SUP experience are taken by your guide and will be given to you after the experience
Tsunagi’s “Community Building Through Art”
Tsunagi is located in the southern part of Kumamoto Prefecture and has a population of approximately 4,500 people. The concept of “Community Building Through Art” was adopted by the town in an effort to revitalize the community following the negative effects of Minamata disease. The Tsunagi Art Museum is the main location for this project and supports artists and local residents in collaborating to create works of art throughout the town. We will visit two art pieces that were developed as part of this revitalization effort, Inn of Souls and Sea Crossing.
Yukinori Yanagi: Inn of Souls
Yukinori Yanagi is a contemporary artist who was born in Fukuoka, Japan. His works contain messages that question social issues and can be found in museums around the world. Inn of Souls is a large-scale outdoor piece that features a renovated swimming pool in the former Akasaki Elementary School. This work questions the history of mankind and was inspired by Michiko Ishimure’s poem called Souls. Michiko Ishimure has produced many works about Minamata, a town next to Tsunagi. After visiting the Inn of Souls, participants will take part in a SUP tour of the Yatsushiro Sea. In one of her poems, Michiko Ishimure described this body of water as a place where “the sea and sky join together”.
Yasuaki Igarashi: Sea Crossing
Yasuaki Igarashi is an artist who was born in Chiba Prefecture. His works have been exhibited in Japan and around the world including in Fukuoka, Peru, and Antarctica. In his work, Sea Crossing, Igarashi collaborated with the local community to revive a festival that was close to being abandoned. The art piece features numerous strings that are stretched from Bentenjima Island to the mainland which symbolizes the connection between land, sea and the people of the region. Sea Crossing is on display for about two weeks each year, coinciding with the Bentenjima Festival that takes place on September 26th of the lunar calendar year. It can only be viewed during this exhibition period.
A School by the Sea – The Former Akasaki Elementary School
Akasaki Elementary School was the only elementary school in Japan built by the sea. It closed in 2010 but has since become a venue where two artwork pieces are currently exhibited.
Beginners Welcome! Our professional guides are here to help
SUP stands for “Stand Up Paddleboard”, and is a water sport where participants stand on a long board and paddle to move through the water. In this program, participants will be able to experience the world of viewing two art pieces from the sea. Beginners as well as those with previous SUP experience are all invited to join as you will be taken care of by experienced guides. After learning the basics of SUP and completing a safety check, we will paddle to the island of Bentenjima to see the Sea Crossing art piece.
Connect with Michiko Ishimure’s Poem Souls
The art piece, Inn of Souls was created by renovating the pool of an abandoned elementary school into a body of water that represents the abundant life of the Yatsushiro Sea. This sea was depicted in the poem, Souls, written by Michiko Ishimure, an author who has produced many works about a neighboring town called Minamata. During this program, participants will be able to listen to a reading of this poem and participate in relaxing meditation while riding SUP on the sea.
Taste a handmade Tsunagi Bento Lunch
Enjoy eating a homemade bento during lunchtime. While eating, we will share recommendations for where to visit while in Tsunagi. (Extra fee and advance reservation required)
＼Testimonials of Past Participants／
- ・I had a great time participating in this program and felt safe and comfortable the entire time. The other participants were very friendly and I enjoyed how easy it was to communicate with each other. It was refreshing to see SUP itself as a work of art.
- ・I was very impressed not only with the art pieces we saw but especially with the kindness of the guide! I hope that more people can experience feeling the meditative swaying of the waves while doing SUP.
Photo: Koichiro Fujimoto（Where captions aren’t included）
Minimum 2 people / Maximum 6 people
Former Akasaki Elementary School
〒869-5605 165 Fukuhama, Kumamoto, Ashikita District, Tsunagi (nearest point)
※By public transportation
5 days before the tour. (Ex. For a tour on 10/10, please reserve by 10/6)
Advance payment by credit card via the application form
・Please wear a rash guard over your swimsuit or shorts over your leggings.
|What to Bring||
Swimsuit, rash guard, sandals with a strap or water shoes, hat, sunglasses, water/drinks, snacks, towel, change of clothes.
・For single-person SUP, participants must be at least 120 cm tall, at least 12 years old, in good health, and able to understand the safety instructions.
|Notes about SUP||
If you wish to cancel your reservation, please contact us as soon as possible.
We recommend you visit these places before or after the program to experience more of Tsunagi.
Tatzubutzu Carved Buddha Statues：
A 5-minute drive from the former Akasaki Elementary School. This is an outdoor project created by artist Tatzu Nishi where 33 Buddha statues have been carved directly into the forest’s trees.
An outdoor work created by contemporary artist Yukinori Yanagi that was inspired by the works of a local writer, Michiko Ishimure. Here, in a ginkgo grove, recitations of Michiko’s poems can be heard. This is located next to the artwork, Tatzubutzu.
A 10-minute drive from the former Akasaki Elementary School. Open 10:00-17:00. This municipal art museum opened in April 2001 and has served as a hub for artistic and cultural activities in the Minamata and Ashikita areas of Kumamoto Prefecture. Closed every Wednesday.
A 10-minute drive from the former Akasaki Elementary School or a 3-minute walk from the Tsunagi Art Museum. Open 9:00-21:00. Yukari Ohira’s artwork, Tsunagu, is on permanent display in the lobby. Closed on Mondays.
A 10-minute drive from the former Akasaki Elementary School. Open 9:00-18:00. This store sells local specialty products selected based on environmentally friendly farming methods as well as tastiness.
A 10-minute drive from the former Akasaki Elementary School. Open 10:00-21:00. A hot spring located on top of the mountain, accessible via ropeway. From the hot spring, one can enjoy a spectacular view of Tsunagi and the sea below. Closed on the first Wednesday of every month.
UNA Laboratories COVID-19 Prevention Measures
UNA Laboratories is committed to ensuring the safety of our customers, staff, and community. In accordance with municipal, national, and industry guidelines for the prevention of infectious diseases, UNA Laboratories is implementing the following measures:
- 1. Guides will wear a face shield during tours.
- 2. Guests are requested to wear a mask.
- 3. Hand-sanitizing alcohol will be provided.
- 4. We will check your temperature and general physical condition at the start of the tour. UNA Laboratories reserves the right to refuse tour participation if a customer’s temperature is over 37 degrees Celsius.
- 5. We strive to maintain adequate social distance throughout the tour, so the maximum number of participants will be capped at six.
Travel Planning: Implementation
- UNA Laboratories Inc. (Fukuoka Prefectural Governor Registration #2-951)
- 3-12-22-302 Yakuin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture 810-0022
- TEL: 092-982-7956E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Domestic Certified Travel Supervisors:
Aya Tamura, Noriko Yahata, Rei Watanabe
- Business Hours:
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday (Closed Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays)
- *Requests received outside of business hours will be processed the following business day.
- *Domestic Certified Travel Supervisors are responsible for transactions held at the sales office that processes customers’ travel. Please do not hesitate to contact the aforementioned Domestic Certified Travel Supervisors with any questions or concerns regarding the travel contract.
- Mon-Sun 11:00-13:00, 16:00-18:00
* Tour times may change depending on the schedule of low tide
*Evening tours are conducted according to the time of sunset
- 2 hours
- Recommended Age
- 12 years and older, 120 cm and taller
- 6,000yen (tax included)
- Included in the price:
・SUP tour equipment rental, SUP tour experience, entrance fee to the Inn of Souls, insurance
・Bento lunch (600円 extra charge, advance reservation required)
Please select this option when you apply for the tour if desired.