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Ugly Japan: The Seto Inland Sea. What!?

If you follow me on social media…

Wait… First, if you don’t follow me on social media, you really should. I left Twitter, possibly for good – and you should too, its owner who shall not be named is going full-Nazi-sympathizer. Are you sure that your follower count is worth supporting and associating yourself with him? However, I’m on too many platforms at the moment, so you should find one of your liking:

  • Mastodon & Firefish. My new social media home. It is awesome in so many ways (I’ll write about it again one day), it’s not owned by anyone and there are many more reasons to make your home there. Oh, if you don’t know Firefish, it’s a bit like Mastodon and both communicate seamlessly with each other. You can follow a Firefish account from a Mastodon account, and vice-versa. I tend to post more serious things on Mastodon and lighter things on Firefish. I “tend to.” It’s not a hard rule.
  • I’m also on BlueSky and Threads, to see where these two things are going, but I don’t trust them. (and it’s a shame that all Francophones seem to be flocking to BlueSky at the moment)


Now that you follow me on social media, you know that I regularly post views of the Seto Inland Sea from my neighborhood. They’re usually stunningly beautiful like this one:

Seto Inland Sea Oshima

I hope you like them and that they make you want to be here. The Seto Inland Sea truly is dreamy and is one of the most beautiful places in Japan (I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the country, I mean it…)

However, just like any Instagrammer, I only show you part of the truth.

For example, if I rotate to the right from the previous picture, you see this: Takamatsu Port!

Takamatsu Port in the distance

Takamatsu Port is not a horrible place, far from it. It’s even one of my favorite parts of town.

However, as you can see, once again, there is a freaking evil cruise ship moored in the port.

A few years ago, the mayor decided to welcome more and more of those in town. Not caring for the pollution and environmental destruction they generate. If you don’t know about cruise ships’ destructiveness, you can read this for example, or this. There are many more sources.

The worst part? The economic benefit is really not that big.


I also could mention the construction site that you can see on the right of the ship.
Yes, it’ll be beautiful when it’s finished. Yes, it was designed by SANAA, but every time I see it, I can’t help but think that it’s being built on one of the last green spaces in town.

A huge patch of grass where everyone could play however they wanted. Such a place didn’t generate any revenue. It had to be replaced by concrete quickly.  That’s how pretty much any Japanese elected official thinks. The worst part? They decided to build this instead of renovating its predecessor – located in another neighborhood – which is an architectural wonder.

And let’s not get into the parking and traffic problems it will generate when big events are held there.


The other thing about my “Setouchi pictures” is that I rarely show you Honshu, Japan’s main island, on the other side of the sea.

Well, visibility was pretty good today, so let me show it to you:

Okayama South Coast

Factories, lots of factories. And this part of Honshu (in Okayama prefecture) is considered rural and underdeveloped. Indeed there are some patches of nature between the factories. You can see them if you zoom in more.


So, yes, my “Setouchi Pictures” show you the truth, but they don’t show the whole truth.


Sometimes, I get frustrated that Shikoku is often ignored when people talk about Japan.

But sometimes, I’m also relieved when I think about how the rest of Japan looks and is.


That is why I’m not sure what to think when some big outlets (even the NY Times did it, luckily they did it when the borders were closed) describe it as “the last part of real Japan that you really should visit” and such.
I really really hope mass tourism never comes here.

But I’m more and more worried, especially because there are also more and more talks about bringing the Shinkansen here.


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2 thoughts on “Ugly Japan: The Seto Inland Sea. What!?”

  1. Nice article. I’m sad to hear about cruise ships docking in Takamatsu. The cruise industry is horrible and destructive. I don’t understand the appeal of spending most of a vacation with thousands of people on a boat with nothing more than manmade gimmicks for pleasure. Not to mention how these ships pollute the oceans and quite often have frightening outbreaks of illness.

    I remember discovering that field near Takamatsu port and relaxing in the open air structure that was there, imagining that it was used for all sorts of activities throughout the years. There were some young people dancing and picnicking at that moment and I was impressed that such a minimalist building and green space existed there to be enjoyed.

    I also stumbled upon Kagawa Gymnasium near the velodrome race track. What an amazing structure! It’s design had me puzzled but fascinated. Sad to hear it may be demolished.

    The ugly part of Takamatsu for me was the industrial ship building (or repair?) site to the north west of the port. I bicycled over there thinking the ferris wheel I saw was an amusement park, but it turned out to be the site of an old book shop! The air over there was not pleasant at all, probably from all the industrial activity.

    I was impressed by little Kitahama-cho nearby. The birth of small creative spaces like Blue Stories and the cafe and restaurants in the area was lovely to see. The photo book shop and gallery was also wonderful. I spent a lot of time there patronizing the businesses. It’s a great example of thoughtfully gentrifying old buildings and warehouses. Oddly, it became a favorite destination for me.

    I can see why you love Setouchi and Takamatsu. The calm sea, the islands, and of course the wonderful people. I hope the government is careful to manage the threat of over-tourism and find the right balance for the area.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Peter.
    I see you know Takamatsu quite a bit.

    Yes, the lawn and the “Big Tent” (that was the official name of the structure) by the port were such wonderful spaces used in so many ways (official or not) by so many people.
    But they didn’t bring money to anybody. The new structure will also be multi-purpose, but it won’t be a “free” space anymore.

    The industrial area is of course ugly (although I do like the Ferris wheel on top of the bookstore, probably the largest bookstore in town, I assume it’s there because the land is cheap? no idea, it’s been a mystery for years) but my idea with the “Ugly Japan” is to find ugliness where people don’t expect it, I guess.
    I’m not sure how you got here, so just in case, I also have a blog that celebrates the beauty of the area: Setouchi Explorer.

    Take care.

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