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Naoshima, an island in the Seto inland sea, is widely known as the “art island”. It indeed turned into a piece of art itself, thanks to the Benesse Art Site Naoshima project which encouraged modern artists to use the island for their work. Not only do they have art museums and their works exhibited everywhere on the island, in harmony with nature, but they even have the opportunity to remodel the old traditional Japanese mansions and temples into art pieces.


From Takamatsu city in Kagawa prefecture: take the ferry (50 minutes) from the port of Takamatsu, near the JR Takamatsu Station

From Tamano city in Okayama prefecture: take the ferry (20 minutes) from port of Uno, near the JR Uno Station

1. Art pieces within nature


Standing near the ferry terminal exit in the Miyanoura port of Naoshima, the Red Pumpkin will be the first piece of art to greet you upon your arrival on the island. You might recognize the polka dots design of its artist, the famous Yayoi Kusama. Although the contrast of color with the blue of the sea is very vivid in the afternoon, the atmosphere changes during the night: as a light is turned on inside, the colors turn into those of a pumpkin. You can also go inside of it or take a stroll in the public park around there.


The atmosphere of this sculpture will differ depending on the sky color and the position of the sun. It must be because you look at this art piece within a natural environment that the view on the inland sea across of it or the impression you get from the opposite side feel so special.

In addition to the delicious fishes you will eat in Naoshima, you can enjoy as well this kind of pop art fish.


The appearance of these tree diamond-shaped boards will change too, this time depending of the angle you stare at it: from the side exposed to the sun or its opposite.


This Yellow Pumpkin, another art work designed by Yayoi Kusama, is located on the coast near the Benesse Museum and might make you wonder: “Why is it here? Is it trying to go back to the sea? Did it just come out of it?”. In the afternoon, its yellow becomes prettier in contrast with the blue of the sea. It really just looks like a little-bigger-than-normal pumpkin.



Many people say that the best time to enjoy this piece would be when the evening just starts, because the orange of the setting sun and the yellow of the pumpkin will seem like they slowly melt into one color together. Finally, when the sun totally disappears, a nostalgic feeling will surely overwhelm you.


2. Naoshima – Art House Project

The Naoshima Art House Project is an art project using old empty houses in the Honmura district as art and reviving them. There are currently seven transformed buildings and you will need a ticket to visit them. The theme of this project is focused on expressing art within people’s daily lives.

Probably the most popular revisited building, the Minamidera was made by Tadao Ando in place of the original temple. Inside is displayed an installation by James Turrel.

Go’o Shrine used to be an old deteriorated Shinto shrine from the Edo period (1603-1868). Now with its main building and front structure restored, white rocks spread all around the temple and a staircase made of glass to attract the light in an underground chamber, one could say the temple has truly been reborn as a piece of art.

 This building was originally a dentist house and office, hence the name Haisha (dentist in Japanese). Detritus were used on the exterior and interior to metamorphose it into an artistic creation.

Naturally, the streets themselves with their old traditional Japanese houses deserve to be seen in an artistic way.

 There are several houses or shops where ropes have been used to draw illustrations on their walls.

 At the same time, the residents of the Honmura district participate to the general artistic atmosphere and show off their originality with their sign curtains or doorplates.


3. Chichu Art Museum

準建築人手札網站 Forgemind ArchiMedia/Flickr

In the Benesse House area, there are tree modern art museums including this one: the Chichu Art Museum (literally “art museum in the earth”). Designed by Tadao Ando, it was built underground in order not to harm the beautiful landscape of Naoshima. Due to its popularity, we recommend you to visit it in the morning during the holidays season to avoid a long wait at the entrance.

Telstar Logistics/Flickr

The Chichu Museum mainly uses natural light for the exhibit and features the artworks of renown artists, such as Claude Monet, James Turrell, Walter de Maria, etc.

Chichu Art Museum (English site)


4. Lee Ufan Museum

This museum is a collaboration between Tadao Ando and the Korean artist Lee Ufan. The works of the latter from 70′ until now are displayed inside.

You will find some interesting works outside too: for instance this one, named “Dialogue”, composed of natural rocks and a metallic board.

Lee Ufan Museum (English site)


5. Benesse House Museum

Telstar Logistics/Flickr

Benesse House Museum is a facility also designed by Tadao Ando which combines an art museum and a hotel, where you can choose between various types of rooms. There are also a museum shop and a café for the visitors. Moreover it offers a relaxing panoramic view on the inland sea. This museum itself will be fun even for those who don’t understand modern art, especially for the fans of Ultraman.

Benesse House Museum (English site)


6. Naoshima bath – I love yu


Upon seeing this building, you might wonder what it is. Surprisingly, the answer would be both an art piece and a public bath. The photos are forbidden inside so we can’t show you the interior, but it is an interesting place in which you can actually take a bath and enjoy art works. Situated in the Miyanoura area, there are a lot of guest houses in the neighborhood where you could stay to come to the bath easily. People also uses this place to rest after a walk.


7. Even the cats could be part of the art?

Thanks to the warmth of the inhabitants and the tranquil atmosphere of the island, the cats in Naoshima can live an insouciant and untroubled life. They become themselves part of the art works as they often sleep next to them and make people want to enjoy art in the same way, carefree and serene.


Since the island is not so big, you can see most of the pieces in one day. However we strongly suggest travelers to stay a night in one of the small guest houses, relax in a café and enjoy the tranquil artistic atmosphere. A trip in Naoshima will make you feel like you went to another world. On the other hand, the visitors who do not have much time might want to check the bike rental shop.

Naoshima map (English site)

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