It was the first time in my life that I heard about this island. And island within better known ones. All of them part of Japan. The well-known Honshu or Hokkaido, and suddenly…Naoshima.
My sister proposed to squeeze it in, in a rather short trip to Tokyo and Kyoto. She had been to Japan some years before and she was looking for more. So, we ended up adding the Art Island in our itinerary.
Naoshima is part of a group of islands located at the Seto Inland Sea. It’s a unique destination for art lovers.
The Benesse Corporation (one of the largest education companies in Japan) has directed the creation and operation of the island's museums and other projects since the late 1980s.
It was partly funded by Japanese billionaire Soichiro Fukutake as well as the Mitsubishi Group.
The idea was to make art more accessible to people and to help re populate these islands.
HOW TO GET THERE
It wasn’t that easy. We flew into Osaka, and had a bus waiting that drove us to Kobe for lunch. (We wanted to try kobe beef in Kobe). We had so much of the marble looking beef that we could hardly walk back again into our bus.
From there driving was about 3 hours to Uno Port where we boarded a ferry for a 20 minutes ride to Naoshima island and then again a bus drove us to our hotel.
On the way back we took the reasonable mean of transport in Japan: a train. We departed from Okayama station that is about 40 minutes drive from Uno port to our next destination: Kyoto.
How to move around
Bike is a smart idea. This island is magical and it’s worth to experience the open spaces. You can feel the sea breeze and enjoy the nature closer. Moreover you’ll find art all over.
Nevertheless take into account the little hills. Well, you can rent an eBike though.
Since we traveled with my mother the bike was not a choice for us, so we contacted the hotel some time ahead of our arrival and they arranged.
Undercover Tip: There aren’t enough bikes for tourists. Try booking in advance.
These two places are very close to Miyanoura Port:
They have some art bikes in the form of Kusama Yayoi’s polka dots.
TVC Opposite to the port
The island has one taxi.
The town bus that takes you around the island for $1.
Undercover Tip: Pay cash on the bus as you exit. (have coins ready before riding)
Benesse House Museum
a facility integrating a museum with a hotel, based on the concept of "coexistence of nature, art and architecture." One of the pleasures of visiting Benesse House is unexpectedly encountering works of art, not only within the walls of the Museum but also while strolling around the grounds, enjoying the abundant natural beauty of the Inland Sea region.
Ticket $ 10 (no reservation required)
The building was designed by Tadao Ando and it boasts a permanent exhibitions of works by Claude Monet, Walter de Maria and James Turrell.
Views from the cafe at the top are also super impressive.
Ticket $ 19
During high season, an online reservation is highly recommended because of the popularity of this museum. Tickets are sold to a limited number of visitors for each 15-minute period.
TIP: You have to take your shoes off to enter Monet’s waterlilies so take easy to put back on
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The Ando designed semi-underground structure houses paintings and sculptures by Lee Ufan spanning a period from the 1970s to the present day. It’s a museum for contemplation.
Ticket $ 10
Art House Project takes place in empty houses scattered about residential areas, and turns the spaces themselves into works of art. There are 7 houses. You can buy a ticket to visit 6 houses and then buy a ticket for the Kinza house. It’s radical. Different. Don’t miss it.
Ticket $14 for all houses.
Tadao Ando Museum
Contrasting elements of past/present, wood/concrete, light/shadow overlap in this space which condenses the essence of Tadao Ando’s architecture. Learn about Ando’s work and Naoshima’s history through photographs, sketches, and models.
Ticket $ 5
By the ferry port you will find the “Red Pumpkin” by Yayoi Kusama.
Avoid visiting on Mondays. This is the day all the museums are closed. It’s also best to avoid weekends and public holidays when it gets very crowded.
WHERE TO STAY
If you want to stay overnight, consider Benesse House Hotel. It’s the classical minimalist Japanese hotel but…designed by Tadao Ando.
High quality artworks, from guestrooms and corridors to the beach (where a polka dot Yayoi Kusama pumpkin sits on a pier).
If you stay at the hotel, you are allowed to visit the museum early morning or late evening after your dinner.
Dinner at the Japanese restaurant was exquisite. Flawless.
Undercover Tip: Before planning your trip, make sure to consult the Benesse Art Site Calendar.