March 1st, 2021

Whirlpools form like fiddlehead ferns in the gentle waters by Setoda port. Emerging around coves and channels, they are induced by tidal currents, and signal the hidden drama beneath the surface.

The tidal currents carry nutrients and fish from the Pacific Ocean and have long powered this key waterway, which has been a locus of migration and trade between Asia and the Japanese archipelago since the Yayoi Period 2,000 years ago.

Setouchi was the entry point to the Japanese heartland for the Yayoi people who migrated north from the Yangtze area to the southern tip of Korea, and then across the Sea of Japan to northern Kyushu. Skilled seafarers, they spread along the Sea of Japan and through the Inland Sea. Some lived on coastal plains, where they established rice-farming polities, while others, who became known as the Azumi people, remained closely connected to the sea, and increased their presence among the Setouchi islands. They became key intermediaries between the Yamato heartland in Kanto to the east and Korea and the Tang Dynasty. Numerous relics from the Yayoi Period have been found on Ikuchijima, including burial mounds and pottery, but few traces of this period can be seen in the landscape today.

Though many places are defined by what it claims — what originates there and what still exists there, we seek to not necessarily define Setoda singularly.  As a place of transit, the locale has been shaped by its relationships to other places over generations. Azumi exists to express this multiplicity of influences, and continue its legacy of hosting visitors who add to its narrative.  

As an exercise of our imagination, we imagine what the seafaring communities may have brought with them from China and Korea, how they may have read and responded to these islands: how they may have identified rich soil for planting rice, read the winds and stars, and picked plants. We imagine how, in later a millennium, the island became known for its salt trade and Kyoto craftsmen left their mark on the Horiuchi compound that has evolved into the grounds of Azumi Setoda.