Tsunagi, Kumamoto: Gaze Upon Art and a Former Elementary School While Riding SUP in the Sea

Tsunagi, Kumamoto: A World View From the Sea
Art Viewing and SUP Experience (2 hours)

Ride SUP with Bentenjima Island in the background
Enjoy the view of an elementary school built on the sea while riding SUP
Visit Yukinori Yanagi’s Inn of Souls
Yukinori Yanagi's Inn of Souls was inspired by the poetry of Michiko Ishimure
Sea Crossing is on display for about two weeks each year starting from September 26th of the Lunar Calendar
Sharpen your senses and experience a worldly view of different artwork
SUP tours are led by professional instructors
Learn about the development of Tsunagi and its community through art

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
Takaaki Funatsu 船津 崇顕T&D OUTDOORS
Born in Kumamoto Prefecture’s Asagiri Town, Takaaki began working as a SUP guide in 2018. He moved to Tsunagi four years later in April 2022. Takaaki’s hobbies include producing videos, woodworking, fixing motorcycles, growing tropical plants, and roasting coffee
Garaeva Dinara ガラエヴァ・ディナラT&D OUTDOORS
Dinara was born in Kazan, a city located in southwest Russia. She moved to Tsunagi in April of 2022 and has been doing SUP for more than 4 years. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at Kyushu University in International Law and Urban Planning. Her hobbies include creating and designing a wooden accessory brand, yoga, and making videos.
Destination Info

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.

16 sculptures are located throughout the town.

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”.

Inn of Souls was created by renovating the swimming pool of an abandoned elementary school

The surrounding herbs were grown by residents of the town

The “Icarus Cell” allows visitors to see the sea and sky reflected in indoor mirrors

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.

Sea Crossing Photo: Taro Misako

Sea Crossing at Dusk Photo: Town of Tsunagi

Sea Crossing is created each year through collaboration with residents and artists. Photo: Town of Tsunagi

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.

During high tide, the former Akasaki Elementary School looks like a ship floating at sea.

Program Contents

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.

Ride SUP with an elementary school by the sea in the background

Paddles have adjustable length

Free dry bag rental (pictured)

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.

A passage from the poem, Souls written inside of the Inn of Souls

Listen to the poem, Souls near the art installation

Meditate at 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)

Taste a handmade Tsunagi bento Lunch

\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)

Tour Code



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
*The end time may change depending on weather conditions.



Gather and register (former Akasaki Elementary School). Change into clothes in the changing room. If it is cold, wetsuits are available for rent (free of charge).




Begin the Inn of Souls Tour. Time will be set aside to listen to the reading of Michiko Ishimure’s poem, Souls.


SUP experience begins. After a safety lesson, we will view the artwork Sea Crossing and tour Bentenjima Island. During the tour, there will be time for meditation. (Optional)


End of the program. After exchanging feedback, photos and videos will be shared. A handmade box lunch will be provided for those who wish. (Advance reservation required / extra charge)




Minimum 2 people / Maximum 6 people
*The price for 1 person is the same as the price for two people.
If you wish to participate in a group of more than 6, please contact us for details.

Meeting Location

Former Akasaki Elementary School

〒869-5605 165 Fukuhama, Kumamoto, Ashikita District, Tsunagi (nearest point)

※By public transportation
1) Take the Kyushu Shinkansen from Hakata Station to Shin-Minamata Station (about 1 hour and 10 minutes).
2A) From Shin-Minamata Station, take a cab (about 15 minutes).
2B) From Shin-Minamata Station, take the Hisatsu-Orange Railway to Tsunagi Station (10 minutes). Take a cab from Tsunagi Station (about 10 minutes).
2C) Rent a car from in front of Shin-Minamata Station (about 15 minutes)

※By Car
Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes from Hakata. Free parking is available.

Reservation Deadline
5 days before the tour. (Ex. For a tour on 10/10, please reserve by 10/6)
Payment Method

Advance payment by credit card via the application form


・Please wear a rash guard over your swimsuit or shorts over your leggings.
・Please also wear a hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.
・For safety reasons, please wear sandals with a strap, water shoes, or shoes that you don’t mind getting wet.
・If you do not fall into the sea, you will only get wet up to your knees.
・There is a shower to wash only your feet on site.
・For those who wish, after the experience you can bathe in the hot spring,
Shikisai which is located 10 minutes away by car. (Requires an extra fee that is not included in the cost of the experience).

What to Bring

Swimsuit, rash guard, sandals with a strap or water shoes, hat, sunglasses, water/drinks, snacks, towel, change of clothes.
There are no convenience stores or vending machines near the venue. Please bring enough drinks and snacks. You can put these in a dry bag (free rental) and bring them with you during the SUP experience.


・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.
・If it is difficult to control the SUP by oneself, we may arrange for a companion to share the ride or to pull the board by connecting it to the guide’s SUP.

Notes about SUP
  • Because this activity is easily affected by the wind, it may be canceled due to high waves or strong winds, even if the weather is good. We will make a decision and notify you at least 3 days in advance. If you need a decision sooner than this due to accommodation or transportation reservations, please let us know when you apply. If the SUP tour is canceled, the participation fee will be fully refunded. You can also choose to partially refund the SUP fee and supplement it with taking a tour of the Inn of Souls, Stone Spirit Forest, and Tatzubatzu carved buddha sculptures.
  • We reserve the right to refuse participation in the SUP experience if we deem it unsafe for a guest to participate due to their physical condition.
  • For safety reasons, guests will be asked to remove their masks during the SUP experience. The guide will also remove his/her mask except when giving explanations nearby.
Other Notes
  • This is a program that requires participants to travel to the meeting place on their own.
  • UNA Laboratories staff will not accompany guests on this program.
  • All photos are for illustrative purposes only.
  • The insurance included in the experience fee is Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Company Ltd.’s 1-day leisure insurance, which covers liability (for the person himself/herself only): 100 million yen, accidental death insurance: 3 million yen, accidental hospitalization insurance: 90,000 yen, broken bone insurance: 90,000 yen, and emergency medical expenses: 2 million yen.
  • The tour will be canceled in the event that it becomes difficult to smoothly conduct the tour due to the new coronavirus infection situation, wind and wave conditions, or other factors. If the tour is canceled, the full amount of the tour fee will be refunded.
  • No pets allowed.
Cancellation Policy

If you wish to cancel your reservation, please contact us as soon as possible.
In the event of cancellation due to the customer’s convenience, the following cancellation fees will apply:
– Cancellation 7 to 2 days prior: 30% of the fee
– Cancellation on the day before: 50% of the fee
– Cancellation on the day of the reservation: 100% of the fee
Please note that we may not be able to accommodate requests for changes due to the time of year or availability of reservations.

Nearby Recommendations

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.

Stone Spirit Forest:

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.

Tsunagi Art Museum:

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.

Tsunagi Cultural Center:

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.

Tsunagi Hyakkodo:

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.

Tsunagi Hot Spring Shikisai:

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. 1. Guides will wear a face shield during tours.
  2. 2. Guests are requested to wear a mask.
  3. 3. Hand-sanitizing alcohol will be provided.
  4. 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. 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:
  • 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.

Tour Information

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
Not included:
・Bento lunch (600円 extra charge, advance reservation required)
Please select this option when you apply for the tour if desired.