Inoue Yui

“Project for Exploring Honokuni

Inoue Yui is a native of the city of Toyohashi in Aichi Prefecture. She led the project members to conduct fieldwork throughout Honokuni, taking human activities such as migration and trade as the starting point for re-thinking how our world works. This project began in November 2021.

Honokuni is an old name for the Higashi Mikawa region in the eastern part of Aichi Prefecture, signifying a country of abundant harvests. Honokuni refers to the area on both sides of the Toyokawa River as it flows down from the mountainous area of Oku Mikawa, including the Toyohashi Plain and extending to the Atsumi Peninsula.

Inoue and the researchers gathered flotsam from the coast open to the Pacific Ocean and from the sea area protected by the Atsumi Peninsula, collected clay soils from around some of the many ancient kiln sites in the area, and observed stones on riversides in the Toyokawa river basin to study their provenance. These activities gave them a feel for the roots of the land. They also learned how to make some of the decorations used in local festivals and rituals, and listened to folk stories as they toured some of the actual locations that appear in the tales. Throughout their activities, they elicited the cooperation of experts and local people to help them discover more about Honokuni.

This exhibit is based on the idea of Honokuni being a node for active exchange of people, things, and information since ancient times, with sea, river, and land routes linking East and West passing through the area. Inoue formed an image of the region as a naturally occurring marketplace, emerging in an area where people tended to converge. The venue is set up as a space incorporating trading goods created based on materials and techniques that Inoue and the project members acquired, or on local stories that they discovered. It also incorporates artifacts and other exhibits that bring to mind landscapes derived from the climate and natural features that gave the region its characteristics, or that hint at the many and diverse links between the region and the outside world.

On a number of days during Aichi Triennale 2022, the researchers are turning the exhibition space into a marketplace,* a workshop where people can exchange things (or knowledge, skills) for trading goods.

* The marketplace is scheduled for the weekends of August 20/21 and September 24/25.

Selected Works & Awards
Her major exhibitions include: Soft Territory, Shiga Prefectural Museum of Art (2021; Japan); Yokohama Paratriennale 2017 (Kanagawa, Japan); and SOKO LABO, Setouchi International Art Festival 2016 (Kagawa, Japan).
  • Installation view at Aichi Triennale 2022
  • Project for Exploring Honokuni, 2021–2022
  • Photo: ToLoLo studio

Reflection by the Artist:
“This is the Beginning”

Talk by Inoue Yui

The Project for Exploring Honokuni, the Higashi Mikawa region in the eastern part of Aichi Prefecture, was inspired by the area’s long history as a node, a strategic location, for trade and transportation. An international art festival also attracts artists and audiences from outside and offers a place for exchange between people, objects, and cultures, so the two are compatible in that sense, too. My idea was to hold ichi, a marketplace where things are exchanged and traded, to express that the region is a meeting point for various things.

Project members conducted extensive research on Honokuni, gathered local resources to produce trade items, and introduced age-old wisdom behind them and the region’s history to the visitors. In return, those visiting from outside told us about the lands they are connected to. This is how the project was structured.

I’ve been intrigued by human activity and human-land relationships, like migration and settlement, which drive my artistic creation. But I also felt disappointed that many of the rich insights I gained from my research were lost while turning them into artworks. A system like a marketplace allows members to exchange their information and stories with the visitors directly.

Of course, most people coming to the Aichi Triennale 2022 have no prior information about the project, so it is not easy to explain to them what we are trying to realize with ichi. Eventually, we settled on starting with a casual chat, like “where did you come from today?” I think this process actually made the project different from typical workshops, in which people participate and produce something. Some of the project members were good at making things, and others were familiar with holding workshops, so I was able to assign responsibilities according to each of their strengths.

In the beginning, I was planning to organize the project with the marketplace at the core, but the workshop period lasted only for about four days during the Triennale. Also, if we changed the exhibits one after another during the festival, we would run out of things to show at the end. These were some of the reasons why I decided to include documents and texts we analyzed during the research and ideas born during the process as part of the display. That being said, the idea was to show everything together without distinguishing ichi, where workshops were held, from the exhibition.

There is still so much I don’t know; as I dig deeper, I make discoveries that lead to new ideas. So, I continued my research until the event concluded while preparing for the exhibition. This project has no end, and that is precisely why I want to continue working on it. In the future, I would like to delve deeper into each of the interest areas and opportunities. I believe that this is the starting point, the beginning.

For me, it was an excellent opportunity to learn again about the place where I was born and raised. I’ve lived away from the area in my adulthood, but thanks to the project, I became aware of the abundant information on the land my body possessed and felt joy in seeing the pieces of information linked to each other through the research. For example, how windy it is, how strong the sunlight is, and how different the landscape has become before and after the Toyogawa Canal was built…

Growing up, I heard from my grandmother about the seaweed farming she used to do. She hated picking the seaweed in the winter because her hands were so cold (laugh). My mother told me that the inland sea was clean when they were cultivating seaweed. Later, she felt shocked, even as a child, when they sold the rights for the land and aquaculture to reclaim the land to build an industrial area. A professor at Aichi University said the fish from the sea was delicious, too.

Since I’m interested in how people migrate and settle, I was fascinated by my family history about grandfathers who moved to the area as pioneers. Although I couldn’t include any of these in the exhibit, I also found it interesting to delve into the lives of my family members and learn how they are linked to history and the world.

I do projects that involve research, but I’m really better at making things with my hands quietly. I’m a shy person (laugh). So, it took a lot of courage for me to contact someone I didn’t know and go meet them, but the fact that it was an “research-based project” helped.

It was also good to see the diverse mix of members who participated in the project: some lived in Nagoya City and Nishio City, some were born and raised in the East Mikawa area, some returned here as adults, and some moved here for work. There were also a variety of occupations: some were involved in theater or cultural asset preservation, while others were office workers who also ran a private arts center. There was also a grocery store employee who was involved in an interesting activity on the Atsumi Peninsula (laughs). Some of the project members were good at making things or inspiring new ideas, and others were good communicators, so I was able to assign responsibilities according to each of their strengths.

I had a sense that, by working with other members, I was able to expand the ideas I couldn’t have come up with on my own. It was another reason why I wanted to continue the project even after the Triennale. The same can be said about my relationships with everyone who cooperated with me on my research. I hope to give back to them someday in some way by continuing to carry out the project.

There was someone who actively participated in the marketplace activity, and I felt that the project was deepened by what the person’s contribution. In particular, I remember the text by Minato Chihiro, who was the artistic director of the Aichi Triennale 2016.

In the text, Minato writes, “Where there is a rainbow, one must open an ichi,” which fascinated me greatly. Later, I learned that a book edited by historian Amino Yoshihiko and others stated that, “In medieval Japan, the rainbow was considered a bridge between the world and the heavens, and the act of exchange taking place at ichi held in the border area pleased the gods.” I feel that this text touches on the essence of the project, and it makes me think that I want to put a rainbow in some way the next time I hold ichi. I find that everything interconnecting in this way is part of the fun and excitement of working with others.

(Text by Shimanuki Taisuke)