Jun
3
2013

Naoshima – The Small Art Island

Have you heard of Naoshima before?
In recent years it became quite popular and promoted as “art island“.
Is it worth a visit? Read this article and you’ll know!

smilie Visited: September 22nd 2012 smilie

Naoshima Art Island

Hot to get to Naoshima

Naoshima is a small island in the Seto Inland Sea between Okayama and Kagawa Prefectures. Officially it belongs to Kagawa Prefecture on Shikoku (map).

The only way to access the small island is by ferry. You can either approach the island from Okayama (JR Uno Station) or from Takamatsu on Shikoku.

Naoshima Art Island

Setouchi Triennale 2013 also on Naoshima

The Setouchi International Art Festival is held every 3 years on various small islands in the Seto Inland Sea. The first festival was held in 2010, so it’s still relatively new.

Setouchi Triennale 2013 dates:

Spring: March 20th – April 21st
Summer: July 20th – September 1st
Autumn: October 5th – November 4th

Over 150 artworks are displayed on 12 islands including Naoshima, Shodoshima, Inujima and Teshima. One reason for holding the triennale is the fact that more and more people leave the small islands to live in bigger cities. Only the elderly stay which causes a lot of problems.

With the Setouchi Triennale there’s hope that more tourists will be attracted and the islands will become more popular among younger people.

Naoshima Art Island

If you’re interested in art and island-hopping, then I recommend the Triennale Passport in order to save money.

Naoshima Art Island

Apart from the art you get to enjoy the beautiful Seto Inland Sea with all the small islands and the laid-back rural lifestyle of the islanders there.

Even if you can’t make it to the International Art Festival, it’s worth going. I also visited when there was no special art festival held.

Naoshima Art Island

This is the ferry you will probably ride if you visit Naoshima. It leaves in Uno stops in Naoshima and then goes all the way to Takamatsu and vice versa.

The ferry ride is rather short. From Uno (Okayama) it takes only about 20 mins and from Takamatsu (Kagawa) about 50-60 mins.

Most people will access the Miyanoura Port which is closer to the Chichu Museum. There’s another port called “Honmura” which is closer to the “Art House Project”.

Here’s some more information about how all the small islands are connected by ferry with each other.

Naoshima Art Island

If you access via Miyanoura Port like I did, you’ll run right into a small tourist information building where you can also drink coffee, rest, buy souvenirs or get a rental bicycle. Personally I’d recommend it. The island is really small, but you’ll get very tired and won’t have enough time if you decide to walk everywhere. A car is absolutely not necessary! There are buses, but I hate waiting, so a bicycle is the most flexible option.

If you decide to visit during the weekends, holidays or during one of the triennale sessions, make sure to come very early or else there won’t be any rental bicycles available anymore.

Also, you should go straight to the Chichu Museum as only a limited number of people can access at the same time and if you go too late, waiting time could be insanely long!

Naoshima Art Island

Maybe a word of warning, if you’re heading to Chichu Museum first, there’s a steep slope you have to overcome first, but once you’re up there the view makes up for it!

Naoshima Art Island

Chichu Art Museum

The Chichu Art Museum (地中美術館) was designed by the famous architect Ando Tadao who also designed many of the other buildings on the island. The artwork is mostly located underground and uses sunlight to illuminate the exhibits.

Tickets cost 2000 yen (1000 yen during the Art Triennale) and can be purchased at the ticket office which is on the opposite side a few minutes walk away from the actual museum.

Photos inside were not allowed that’s why this is the only photo I can show you.
Like I mentioned earlier only a limited number of people is allowed to admire the few artworks inside at a time.
I have to admit I’m really not much into art, but it was a VERY interesting experience. I really liked it. Words cannot describe what I saw and I also don’t want to spoil the fun.
If you can’t afford visiting all the museums on Naoshima (after all they’re quite expensive), then go to this one!

Naoshima Art Island Naoshima Art Island

After I left the Chichu Art Museum I was on my rental bicycle again. I discovered a lot of “interesting” artworks on the way. There’s so much to see! Sometimes you don’t even notice them. It’s a lot of fun when you recognize them, though.

Naoshima Art Island

Does that count as art as well? Either way it’s extremely cute.

Pikachu says: “Welcome to Naoshima!” (by Fuu-chan)

Naoshima Art Island

Art House Project

Next I arrived near Honmura Port where you can find the “Art House Project“.

Scattered throughout the small town there are a few abandoned houses as well as a shrine. All of them feature some kind of art or have been changed into a piece of art. From the outside the houses look like typical Japanese houses, but inside artists from all over the world let their artistic imagination run wild.

Here’s a list of all that belongs to the “Art House Project”.  Entrance fee for each house (apart from Kinza) is 400 yen, but you can also get a pass for all of them for 1000 yen.

 

Go’oh Shrine:

What you see in the photo above is a typical shrine, but the glass stairs are artwork and a pretty awesome one if you ask me.

This was my personal highlight! There’s a secret and very narrow entrance that will lead you underneath the shrine so you can admire the glass stairs from below as well.

When I visited, there was a volunteer guide who gave me a flashlight and provided some background information.

The art installation by Hiroshi Sugimoto is called “Appropriate Proportion” (try to say that quickly three times in a row .. smilie)

Naoshima Art Island

Takahara Castle Ruins:

It is said that there used to be a castle on the hilltop near Go’oh Shrine during the Sengoku period. What you see above marks the remains of said castle and is now an observation platform.

Naoshima Art Island

Haisha:

Haisha is another house that belongs to the “Art House Project”.

Haisha (歯医者) actually means dentist and that’s very fitting as it used to be the office of a dentist once. Not only outside, but also inside you’ll find various art installations by Shinro Otake. There’s even a huge fake “Statue of Liberty” inside.

 

Naoshima Art Island

I was on the way again, but stopped several times to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Can you see why I love exploring small islands?

Naoshima Art Island

And there were just so many things to discover in each and every corner.

Naoshima Art Island

Benesse Corporation’s Art Facilities

Finally I accessed the southern coast of Naoshima where the Benesse Corporation’s art facilities are located. Those include the Benesse House Museum, a beach, a park and “The Oval” which is one of the guest room buildings of Benesse House. All was designed by Tadao Ando who also built the “Chichu Museum”.

The area around the southern beach cannot be accessed by your own means of transportation. I had to leave my bicycle behind. Cars are also not allowed. The only way is to either walk or take a free shuttle bus that stops at all three major museums. While it’s possible to walk all the way to the Benesse House, you might get exhausted, so if possible use the bus!

Naoshima Art Island

The Benesse House Museum (ベネッセハウス) features a superb fusion of nature, art and architecture.

You can stay overnight in one of the guest rooms and then you’ll have 24h access to all the art. However, it’s quite expensive with 25,000 yen+ per night.

Naoshima Art Island

Besides all the internal artwork, it also has some items on display outside from where you have an awesome view over the southern coast of Naoshima.

Naoshima Art Island

Back down and walking along the coast I ran into a lot of “artworks” that – at first sight – were hard to make out as “art” – like these interesting stone formations.

Naoshima Art Island

I really like the mix of nature and art! This way it won’t get boring.

Especially for somebody like me who isn’t so much into art, it’s great to enjoy the beautiful nature of Naoshima as well.

Naoshima Art Island

And there’s really a lot to discover. Not sure if all of that is interesting. I don’t even get why those people took a photo there, but to each their own, right?

Naoshima Art Island Naoshima Art Island

What I enjoyed more where these cute and colorful art sculptures. I especially liked the cat one!

Naoshima Art Island Naoshima Art Island

There were a few of them. Because of the bright colors they really stood out.

Naoshima Art Island Naoshima Art Island

If all that walking and art made you tired, then you can sit down next to this guy and relax.

Naoshima Art Island

The dotted pumpkin of Naoshima

And here it is – the symbol of Naoshima: THE pumpkin! *drumroll*

I’m sure that you have seen it somewhere even if you’ve never heard of Naoshima before.

It was designed by the famous Yayoi Kusama who became really famous abroad. It’s surely also thanks to her that Naoshima gained popularity in recent years.

Naoshima Art Island

Oh, and how popular that pumpkin is! Long waiting lines in order to take a single photo!

Naoshima Art Island Naoshima Art Island

Lee Ufan Museum

The Lee Ufan Museum (李禹煥美術館) is not too far from the Benesse House. You can either walk (~ 5-10 mins) or take a free shuttle bus (~ 2 mins) depending on your schedule.

The building was once again designed by architect Ando Tadao. Displayed are huge stone artworks by the Korean artist Lee Ufan.

To be honest I found this museum extremely boring and didn’t think it was worth the 1000 yen entrance fee. Of course it just might be because I’m not into art and no expert, but if you’re short on time, I would focus on the other two big museums instead!

Naoshima Art Island

007 Museum

Hey, what? James Bond is art as well, isn’t it? Ok, maybe that’s arguable, but there’s a legal reason why they have a 007 Museum on Naoshima!

There’s a James Bond novel “The Man with the Red Tattoo by Raymond Benson that takes place in Japan and partly on Naoshima, but has never been made into a movie.

The people of Naoshima want to get attention and hope that one day that movie will be realized on their small island, possibly attracting even more tourists.

Naoshima Art Island

No admission fee is required. It’s a small museum, so it won’t take too much time. It’s quite hilarious, so if you have a few extra minutes to spare you really should visit. You also should bite your tongue and try to watch the bad, baaad self-made James Bond short movie based on the novel they have there (scroll down and watch the video for more information).

Naoshima Art Island

The museum is just a short walk from the Miyanoura Ferry Terminal. When I went there I was the only visitor.

Unlike all the “real” art museums this doesn’t seem to be popular at all. That’s why I recommend to go there last. For other spots you might have to wait in line for some time, so the earlier you go, the better!

 

 Other sights of interest

There’s also a public bath paired with art installations called “I love Yu“. Yu (湯) means hot water, but also hot spring.

The Ando Museum dedicated to the architect who designed a lot of the buildings on Naoshima opened in March 2013, so it didn’t exist yet when I visited.

And as if all of that isn’t enough already, there’s also a cat café called “Nyaoshima“!

 

If my blog post and the photos still didn’t convince you to visit Naoshima, then you should watch this video. I think it’s not a secret that I’m a huge fan of the way Koichi from Tofugu presents his unique encounters in Japan.

Although I took a short video while I was there, my video equipment is not very good, so I’d rather have you watch Tofugu’s video instead. Enjoy!~smilies

 

T O U R I S T     I N F O R M A T I O N
Opening Hours: Roughly 10:00 – 18:00 for most facilities.
Holidays: Mondays most museums are closed.
Entrance fee: Accessing the island is free, but most of the museums have high entrance fees (around 1000 yen each).
Time required: 1 full day
Contact: info@naoshima.net
Website: http://www.naoshima.net/en/
Access: By ferry from Okayama (closest station is JR Uno Station) or from Takamatsu (the port is not too far from JR Takamatsu Station).

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