A unique island town tucked away along the Seto Inland Sea, Naoshima is known as Japan’s “art island” for the many art museums, exhibitions, and installations found in the area. For art lovers, a visit to Naoshima brings art to life through a multitude of contemporary and modern art along with a variety of architectural wonders and sculptures.
History of Naoshima
At the beginning of the 1990s, Naoshima was little more than a remote island getaway but went through a progressive transition to obtain and promote both art and artists. As the years have passed, Naoshima is now an inclusive and collective project promoting culture, art, and community and known as a one-of-a-kind destination in Japan, and worldwide. A quick ferry ride, a visit to Naoshima is easy to access from Honshu island and is a memorable experience unlike anywhere else in Japan.
How to get to Naoshima
Getting to Naoshima art island is not difficult and is best accessed from Okayama which can be reached by Kyoto, Osaka or Tokyo via bullet trains. From Okayama, there is a train that goes directly to the port town of Uno. Once in Uno, to access Naoshima there is a ferry to the Miyanoura Port which is about a 20-minute boat ride.
How to get around Naoshima
Once on the island, there are a few ways to get around and view the many museums and exhibits. Unfortunately, there is no such “island pass” that permits access to all of the museums, so it is important to remember that museum entrance tickets need to be purchased accordingly. To get around there are buses, bike rentals as well as a shuttle. The shuttle, however, comes from the Benesse House which offers a hotel shuttle that drives past many of the main island attractions and is only open to hotel guests. The island buses are easy to use, but one of the most enjoyable ways to explore is with a bicycle rental to view both the art exhibits and the natural beauty of the island.
Major Art Attractions of Naoshima
While there are many installations big and small, here are some of the major attractions worth visiting in Naoshima:
Chichu Art Museum
Designed by well-known architect Tadao Ando, the Chichu Art Museum is one of the highlights and attractions of Naoshima Island. Opening its doors in 2004, the museum itself is a design wonder along with the exhibitions inside. Much of the physical building is underground with innovative use of light to showcase both the structure and the artwork inside, some of which is from Monet and Walter De Maria.
3449-1, Naoshima-cho, Kagawa-gun, Kagawa Prefecture
Operating as both a museum and a hotel, the Benesse House is a focal point of Naoshima Island. With pieces and installations by Shinro Ohtake, Hiroshi Sugimoto and David Hockney, the museum is inspiring and inviting. Another key attraction found just a few steps from the Benesse House is the famous pumpkin sculpture the “Kabocha” fro Yayoi Kusama.
Gotanji, Naoshima-cho, Naoshima-cho, Kagawa-gun 761-3110, Kagawa Prefecture
Art House Project
Situated on the east side of the island in a fishing village of Honmura, the Art House Project is an eclectic mix of older traditional houses and a collection of artist workshops that have been repurposed into artist exhibitions. Among the many artist’s expressions found in these now abandoned homes, there is also a shrine and temple in the area along with coffee shops and cafes.
Naoshima-cho, Kagawa-gun 761-3110, Kagawa Prefecture
For an immersive and cultural experience, a visit to the Naoshima bathhouse known as I♥YU will not disappoint. Designed and created by Shinro Otake, this eclectic and unusual use of repurposed materials brings the functional bathhouse to life. Incorporating recycled materials from all over the island and surrounding area, the space is quirky, colorful and fun.
Towels and soap are available for purchase to utilize in the sento (bathhouse).
2252-2, Naoshima-cho, Kagawa-gun 761-3110, Kagawa Prefecture
Naoshima offers visitors not only art exhibits, galleries and unusual architecture but there are also many quaint cafes and a charismatic atmosphere. The island has a laid-back quality with a slower pace that is welcoming to visitors and offers a deep appreciation for art and design. Beyond the museums, Naoshima Island itself offers visitors natural beauty, beaches, and a charming fishing village.