Every three years in the heart of the Niigata countryside, the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale is held. It showcases a range of contemporary works from both Japanese and international artists, and the art installations dot the landscape in places like rice fields, train stations and even abandoned buildings.

This year’s event commenced on July 29th and runs all the way until the 17th of September, so there’s still plenty of time to check it out. If you’ll be in Japan during those dates and enjoy modern art, the triennale is well worth a visit.

There are hundreds of works to see, but here are some that I’ve enjoyed the most thus far.

Leandro Erlich, Palimpsest: Pond of Sky

Leandro Erlich has a permanent piece inside the Echigo Tsumari Satoyama Museum called “The Tunnel”, but his newest piece here is Palimpsest: Pond of Sky. The open courtyard area of the museum has been painted with what looks to be a reflection of the building itself, and then filled with water. As well as his pieces here in Niigata, Erlich is also well known for his work at Kanazawa’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art entitled “The Swimming Pool“.

Jimmy Liao, Kiss & Goodbye

Situated at Doichi Station is Liao’s piece called Kiss & Goodbye. The art installation here is inspired by a children’s picture book which goes by the same name, and is covered with bright colors and animals. You can also head inside the decorated building here for more artworks and a video about the premise of the picture book.

The Satoyama Art Zoo (various artists)

This zoo might have you in for a surprise – instead of real, living animals, all the creatures you can see here are artworks! There’s everything from cattle made from hay to deer made of metal, a giant salamander made of wire and much, much more. Visiting the Satoyama Art Zoo is a great way of seeing several art pieces at once if you’re limited on time when visiting the Triennale.

Ahmet Öğüt, The Drifters

One of the event’s most unique pieces has to be Ahmet Öğüt’s “The Drifters”. The art installation involves a car drifting on two wheels on the side of a main road. Öğüt’s inspiration for the artwork was inspired by this concept of “Arab Drifting” and by the fact that many cars involved in drifting are Japanese. It’s definitely a quirky sight to see as part of the rural landscape.

Of course, these are just a small sampling of what is on offer at the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale. More information about the artworks you can see at the event can be found on their website.


If you’re headed to the event from Tokyo, hop on the Joetsu Shinkansen bound for Echigo-Yuzawa Station. From there, catch the Hokuhoku Line to Tokamachi Station, and the Echigo Tsumari Satoyama Museum is a short walk on foot from there. The museum here acts as a hub facility and has many artworks from the triennale on display – and if you don’t have private vehicle transport, there are various bus tour routes that depart from here.


I'm Kim, and I've lived in Japan for the last five years. I've traveled to 38 of 47 prefectures during that time, and I love sharing my travel adventures with others!
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