Art & Architecture on Naoshima Island

About a year ago, one of our former colleagues told me about this ‘art island’ in Japan and I immediately added it to my bucket list for our travels through Japan. As it’s not too far from Hiroshima, it was a no brainer that we should go and visit. Below are some tips for you, in case you are planning to travel there, as it can seem a bit tricky to plan everything logistically.

How to get there from Hiroshima or Tokyo: Take the Shinkansen to Okayama and from there, take a local JR train to Uno (there are some direct and some non-direct trains) from where you can take a ferry to the island. Make sure you check out the train times to Uno and the ferry times, as otherwise, you might face an hour wait. Once you arrive on the island (it’s only a 15-minute ferry ride), take the bus to your hotel, or visit the tourist center at the ferry station and ask them how best to get there. Be careful – there are two ferry ports! There are frequent ferries to Miyanoura Port (about 1-2 per hour) and only 2-3 per day from Honmura Port. For example, we arrived at Miyanoura Port and then took the bus to our hotel, which was in the Honmura town area, and to leave the island, we checked the ferry times in advance and then took a ferry from Honmura Port early in the morning.

How long to stay on Naoshima island: It’s worth to stay at least 1-2 nights on the island to see most of the artwork. We stayed for two nights and got to see about 80%. If you stay longer, you have more time to enjoy yourself on the beach or visit the other small nearby islands.

Where to stay on Naoshima Island: Almost anywhere on the island is fine, as you can walk, cycle or take the bus everywhere. If you go for a special occasion, try to stay at Benesse House, and otherwise, just decide whether you wish to stay more remote or within a little town center, such as Honmura.

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Traditional Japanese houses line the streets of Honmura on Naoshima Island

By the time we arrived on the island, it was already late afternoon and we decided to just walk around a bit and started looking at the ‘Art House Project‘, where you can visit several houses that contain artwork but are also art in itself. The houses are scattered all over one area of the island and fortunately, you get a stamp card and can visit them throughout several days. The art house that left the deepest impression on us, was one where you go inside in a small group and it’s pitch black. A guide brings you to the middle of the house and asks you to sit down and you just sit there in darkness until, after a few minutes, you start seeing a shape in the distance that becomes brighter and brighter. Creating, positioning and changing artwork through natural light actually was a theme throughout the different art museums on Naoshima Island.

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Honmura Port. Can you see the bubble-shaped building in the mirror?
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Functional artwork: Honmura Port waiting room & bicycle parking

Walking around the island (especially the Honmura village where we stayed), we noticed more and more different types of outdoor artworks everywhere that were incorporated in everyday life.

There are also many small and cosy cafes and restaurants on the island…

Konnichiwa CafeOn our second day on Naoshima Island, we needed to maximise our time and focus on the two museums that we wanted to see the most: Chichu Art Museum and Benesse House Museum. As it was raining a little that day and we couldn’t be bothered waiting around for the bus, we just walked through a forest area to both museums, which was not far and a relaxing walk in nature.

Chichu Art Museum was really one of a kind and can’t really compare to any other art museum we’ve visited before. Its architecture is one of a kind, combining nature, light and art in an underground structure and portraying artwork, just in a few spacious rooms, that makes you question everything. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos anywhere in these museums! You’ll just have to go and see for yourself.

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One of many art sculptures at Benesse Park
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Cherry blossoms in front of the famous yellow pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama
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And this is me! Hello!

Have you visited Naoshima Island or one of the surrounding art islands?

– Her


More blog articles on travels near Naoshima Island:

6 Comments Add yours

  1. You have some really beautiful photos! I’d considered staying the night on the island but heard there wasn’t much to do after 6pm or so, did you find this the case?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would actually highly recommend staying on the island (if you ever go back), as you end up doing all the museums until about 6pm (Chichu also had a special night-time thing on when we went) and then by the time you get back to your hotel and have dinner… we also enjoyed just walking around the port in the evening, you get a good night sleep and another day of enjoying seeing the museum and outdoor art!

      Like

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