6 unusual but fantastic places in Japan – Naoshima (直島)

Naoshima – Where art and life intertwine

Greetings! Welcome to the third installment of our series about unusual but fantastic places in Japan. Today we are going to talk about the art of the island of Naoshima, an island in the Kagawa prefecture, looking over the Seto inland sea. Naoshima is filled with places devoted to modern art. Below is just a selection of the possible locations to visit.

One of the art pieces on Naoshima

One of the art pieces on the island

Museums

We’ll start off with the Chichu Art Museum designed by Ando Tadao (安藤 忠雄). It houses artwork from Claude Monet in the form of large murals, James Turell’s “Open Sky” room and the “Time/Timeless/No Time” installation by Walter de Maria. Most of the museum is built underground and uses natural light to make the art pieces visible. A unique viewing experience!

aerial view of the Chichu museum

aerial view of the Chichu museum

Next is the Benesse House, which is at the same time a resort hotel and a modern art museum. Outside the museum and guest rooms even more art can be found: about twenty pieces of art can be found in the surrounding area, which consist of lawns and beaches. All of this comes with a price though, as one night costs about 25.000 yen (about 190 euro).

some of the guest rooms at nightfall

some of the guest rooms at nightfall

Lastly we introduce you to the 007 Museum, a museum dedicated to the James Bond novel ‘the man with the red tattoo” by Raymond Benson. The museum hopes to attract enough attention to the novel so that it would be made into a movie. Art of actual Bond films is also displayed, next to fan art of the novel.

cover art of the novel

cover art of the novel

Art House Project

On the eastern coast of Naoshima lies the port town of Honmura, which houses the Art House Project. This project consists of several abandoned houses, workshops, a temple and a shrine which have been changed into art installations and offer a place for modern art artists to host a venue. Most of the buildings look normal from the outside and blend in perfectly with the scenery, but inside artists have changed things around. In the center of town you can find the Honmura Lounge, where you can find all of the information about the project and the artists.

a miniature statue of liberty inside one of the houses

a miniature statue of liberty inside one of the houses

Art festival

Naoshima is also one of the islands that hold the Setouchi Triennial, an art festival held on the islands in the Seto Inland Sea every three years. It is held over the course of three seasons (spring to autumn) and exhibits 100 new artworks by Japanese and international artists. The artworks are found on different sites on the islands and often abandoned houses or places have been used to make a new piece of art. The next Triennale is planned for this year and starts on March 20th. No reason not to visit this place anymore!

the Seto inland Sea

the Seto inland Sea

Getting there and getting around

Naoshima is easily accessible by ferry from Uno on the main island or Takamatsu on Shikoku. The island itself is quite small and all museums, ports and the two towns can be reached on foot within the hour. If biking is more your thing, fear not! Bike rental is available in Miyanoura port, with the option of electric bikes. This might come in handy as the island is quite hilly.

the island from above

the island from above

Though the main focus of the island is art, nothing stops you from exploring the island further. It has a nice Mediterranean climate and a relaxing day at the beach or a mountain hike is not out of the question. Either way, when you are exhausted you can always end your day at the cat cafe Nyaoshima in Honmura!

one of the cats in cafe nyaoshima

one of the cats in cafe nyaoshima

On this note we end our quick look into Naoshima. As always, feel ree to comment or send us a mail is you have any questions!

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