The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Naoshima Island, Japan’s Artistic Haven

by Alexandra

Naoshima Island in the Seto Inland Sea is famous for its modern art museums, architecture, and sculptures. Part of Kagawa Prefecture, the island with its Mediterranean atmosphere, sandy beaches, and sunny weather, combined with a laid-back, rural feel is a relaxing getaway from Japan’s large urban areas such as Tokyo and Osaka.

Where technology makes you speedy, up-to-the-minute, and all-over-the-place, Naoshima calms, grounds and slows you so that you feel as if you’ve stepped into a meditative shrine.

Naoshima Island may be small, but it is full of curiosities to tickle the mind. Years ago, artists & residents breathed life back into its abandoned buildings and began carving creations from their wildest imaginings. The result? Beaches speckled in sculptures, houses erupting art from every orifice, and intriguing walk-through exhibits in unexpected places.

Are you looking for a unique travel experience that will ignite your senses and leave you feeling inspired? Look no further than Naoshima Island, the “Art Island” of Japan. This small island in the Seto Inland Sea has undergone a remarkable transformation, from a struggling fishing community to a thriving center of art and culture. The island’s stunning natural beauty provides the perfect backdrop for its world-class art installations and museums, which seamlessly blend art and architecture in a breathtakingly beautiful way. From the iconic Yellow Pumpkin to the stunning Chichu Art Museum, Naoshima Island is a must-visit destination for art lovers and travelers seeking an experience that is truly one-of-a-kind. In this article, we will take a closer look at the art and culture of Naoshima Island, and provide you with all the information you need to plan your own unforgettable journey to this unique and enchanting destination.

Art on Naoshima Island

There is so much to see and explore that you won’t want to miss out on. First of all, let’s talk about the major art installations on the island. One of the most iconic installations is the Yellow Pumpkin, by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. This sculpture has become an emblem of Naoshima Island, and it’s easy to see why. Its bright yellow color contrasts beautifully with the blue ocean and sky.

The Benesse Art Site Naoshima

But the Yellow Pumpkin is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to art on Naoshima Island. The island is home to the Benesse Art Site Naoshima, which is a series of art installations across the island. The Benesse Art Site is a collaboration between the Benesse Corporation and the architect Tadao Ando, and it’s one of the most ambitious art projects in Japan. The Benesse Art Site features a variety of art installations and museums, including the Chichu Art Museum, the Lee Ufan Museum, and the Benesse House Museum.

The Chichu Art Museum is one of the highlights of the Benesse Art Site. This museum was designed by Tadao Ando, and it’s built directly into the hillside. The museum features artwork by Claude Monet, Walter De Maria, and James Turrell, among others. The Lee Ufan Museum is another must-visit destination for art lovers. This museum features the work of Lee Ufan, a Korean artist who has lived in Japan since the 1950s. The museum is located in a beautiful garden, and the artwork is displayed in a way that is meant to evoke a sense of harmony with nature.

Other notable art museums and galleries on Naoshima Island

Aside from the Benesse Art Site, there are also other notable art museums and galleries on Naoshima Island. The Ando Museum is dedicated to the life and work of Tadao Ando, and it’s a great place to learn more about the architect who helped shape the island’s art scene. There’s also the Art House Project, which features a series of traditional Japanese houses that have been converted into art galleries. Each house features a different artist, so it’s a great way to experience a variety of artwork in one place.

Naoshima - Art Destinations in Japan

Where to stay on Naoshima Island?

Let’s talk about accommodations on Naoshima Island. There are some amazing places to stay that will make your trip even more memorable. One of the most popular places to stay is the Benesse House Hotel. This hotel is part of the Benesse Art Site, and it’s a work of art in its own right. The hotel was designed by Tadao Ando, and it’s built into the hillside overlooking the sea.

One of the great things about staying at the Benesse House Hotel is that you get access to the entire Benesse Art Site. This means you can explore the art installations and museums at your leisure, and you don’t have to worry about missing anything. Plus, the hotel has its own private beach, so you can relax and unwind after a day of exploring.

The Naoshima Camping Ground is a great choice if you’re looking to get back to nature. You can rent a tent or bring your own, and the camping ground is located right by the sea. There are also several guesthouses and traditional Japanese inns on the island, which offer a more authentic Japanese experience.

The island’s art scene is one of a kind, and staying at the Benesse House Hotel is the perfect way to fully immerse yourself in the experience. So why not plan your trip today and discover all that Naoshima Island has to offer?

Getting to Naoshima Island

It’s actually pretty easy to get there, and there are a few transportation options depending on where you’re coming from. If you’re coming from Tokyo or Osaka, the easiest way to get to Naoshima Island is by taking a train to Okayama Station. From there, you can take a ferry to the island. The ferry ride takes about 20-30 minutes, and it’s a scenic trip across the Seto Inland Sea.

Getting around the island

Once you’re on the island, getting around is pretty easy too. There are buses that run regularly between the major art installations and museums, so you can easily hop on and off as you please. You can also rent a bike or an electric bike if you prefer to explore the island on your own. The island is fairly small, so you can easily see everything in a day or two.

If you’re staying at the Benesse House Hotel, they also offer a shuttle service that will take you around the island. This is a great option if you want to make sure you don’t miss anything and you want to travel in comfort.

Overall, getting to and around Naoshima Island is pretty easy, and it’s definitely worth the trip. The island is a hidden gem that is still relatively unknown to tourists, so you’ll be able to enjoy the art installations and museums without feeling crowded or overwhelmed. So why not plan a trip today and discover all that Naoshima Island has to offer?

Exploring Naoshima Island

One of the best ways to explore the island is by taking a bike ride or a walk. You can rent a bike from one of the rental shops on the island.

Another popular attraction on the island is the Art House Project. This is a series of art installations that are located throughout the town of Honmura. The installations are housed in traditional Japanese houses, and they are designed to interact with the surrounding environment.

If you’re looking for a more active way to explore the island, you can also try kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding. There are several rental shops on the island that offer these activities. It’s a great way to see the island from a different perspective.

Finally, if you’re interested in the history and culture of the island, you can visit the Naoshima Folklore Museum. This museum is housed in a traditional Japanese house, it features exhibits on the history and culture of Naoshima Island.

Overall, Naoshima Island is an incredible destination that is sure to leave you feeling inspired and rejuvenated. Whether you’re a fan of contemporary art or you just want to experience the natural beauty of Japan, this is definitely a place worth visiting. So why not plan your trip today and discover all that Naoshima Island has to offer?


View from the Benesse House

Top places to see in Naoshima:

  1. Chichu Art Museum – The museum building, designed by Ando Tadao and itself a work of art, is mostly located underground. It solely utilizes natural light to illuminate the artwork. This creates a viewing experience that is heavily influenced by the surrounding natural environment. The museum houses a small but impressive collection of works by artists including Claude Monet, James Turrell, and Walter De Maria.
  2. The Benesse House – The Benesse House is a modern art museum and resort hotel. The complex consists of four buildings: the Museum, Oval, Park, and Beach, all designed by Ando Tadao. Each building features its own unique artwork and guest rooms. The main attraction of the Benesse House is its modern art museum. This museum displays work created by many different artists from both Japan and abroad. These works are that was inspired by the natural surroundings of Naoshima and the architecture on the island. Overnight guests staying at the Museum and Oval buildings can enjoy 24-hour access to the museum.
  3.  Art House Project – Charming little village turned into a modern art destination. The Art Houses are a collection of abandoned houses and workshops. As well as a temple and a shrine – that have been converted into venues and art installations for artists from Japan and around the world.
  4. Naoshima Bath “I♥YU” – kitschy and wonderful, a fitting way to end the day is with a soak here after a full day of enjoying art.

Other Activities on Naoshima Island 

Naoshima Island offers much more than just art. You can rent bicycles and explore the island’s stunning landscapes. Cycling around the island is a great way to discover its beauty while enjoying a leisurely ride.

You can also enjoy the sandy shores and crystal-clear waters of the Seto Inland Sea. Among the most popular beaches are Miyanoura Beach and Inkyu Beach, which offer great swimming opportunities and a relaxed atmosphere.

Strolling through the Honmura district is another must-do activity on Naoshima Island. The district is home to the Art House Project, a collection of abandoned houses transformed into art installations. You can stroll through the narrow streets and admire the unique artworks, which include Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin” and James Turrell’s “Minamidera.” In addition to the Art House Project, the Honmura district is also home to several local cafes and shops where visitors can enjoy traditional Japanese food and buy souvenirs.

Lastly, watching the sunset at the Naoshima Pavilion is a breathtaking experience. It’s a serene and peaceful way to end the day on Naoshima Island.

Dive deep into Naoshima’s art and artists

Reading about Naoshima and its artists offers a unique opportunity to experience the convergence of contemporary art, architecture, and nature.

  1. Naoshima: Art, Architecture, Nature” by Fram Kitagawa. This book is a comprehensive guide to the art installations and museums on Naoshima, including the Benesse Art Site, the Chichu Art Museum, and the Lee Ufan Museum.
  2. Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity!” by Sarah Suzuki. This book is a children’s introduction to the life and work of Yayoi Kusama, with colorful illustrations and simple explanations of her artistic concepts and techniques. It is a great way to introduce young readers to the world of contemporary art and the vibrant, playful universe of Kusama’s art.
  3. Tadao Ando: Complete Works 1975-2014” by Philip Jodidio. This comprehensive book offers a complete overview of Tadao Ando’s career and features detailed photographs and drawings of his projects. It includes his iconic works on Naoshima, such as the Chichu Art Museum, Benesse House, and the Lee Ufan Museum.
  4. The Chichu Art Museum: Tadao Ando Builds for Claude Monet, Walter De Maria and James Turrell” by Tadao Ando. This book focuses specifically on the Chichu Art Museum, one of the most iconic buildings on Naoshima.
  5. The Art of Lee Ufan: Marking Infinity” by Lee Ufan. This book offers an in-depth exploration of the work of Lee Ufan, one of the most prominent artists featured on Naoshima.

Book your tickets now and experience the wonder of Naoshima Island!

Naoshima Island is a unique destination that offers a perfect combination of art, nature, and culture. Whether you’re an art lover or just looking for a peaceful getaway, Naoshima Island has something to offer. So plan your visit today and immerse yourself in the beauty and creativity of this artistic haven in Japan.


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