We took an hour drive south of Okayama to the town of Uno, where you catch the ferry to Naoshima. The drive there was enjoyable. We got lost along the way (my fault) but that led to us driving along the coast which was beautiful. Don’t you love it when your mistakes turn into something amazingly unexpcted?
Naoshima use to be a fisherman’s island but when the industry plummeted, most people left the island. Now, it’s become one of the most beautiful and unlikely places to see art. There’s a lovely blog post by Annabelle Orrick on the backstory of how this amazing collection ended up in Naoshima, a city far from the bright lights of Tokyo.
After a twenty minute ferry ride, we were on the island!
There are two ports you can arrive at, Honmura & Miyanoura. We choose the one closer to the art houses, Honmura. Miyanoura is closer to the museums if that’s first on your list.
The art houses are a series of old Japanese homes that were purchased and turned into exhibits. Most of the exhibits don’t allow photography but it wouldn’t have captured the experience anyway.
Piece of advice for first time visitors, head to the visitors center first. There you can buy your ticket for a multi-entry for 1030 yen or a single entry ticket. You can also pick up a map. We initially thought the houses would be easy to spot but they are so embedded in the neighborhood we needed the map to pinpoint the locations. You can find more info on tickets here.
There’s art everywhere. Like this little guy who was sitting on a fence.
One of the sites we visited was the Go’o Shrine, pictured above. A bit down the hill, you enter a small passageway that leads you to an underground stone chamber. There you can see the continuation of the glass stairs, linking earth to heaven above.
We rented bikes for about 500 yen for the day & rode down the island along the coast. The view was spectacular. You feel like you’re in a dream.
One of my favorite pieces was this large polka dot pumpkin, created by Yayoi Kusama.
From the beach, you can catch a free shuttle that will take you up the hill to the Benesse Art Musuem, the Chichu Art museum, and the Lee Ufan art museum. We were only able to catch the Benesse since the other museums have a last entry time around 5:00pm and close at 6 pm.
I don’t even know where to begin to describe the Benesse. I am not a huge art person but I was swept off my feet by the beauty of this museum. The architecture of the building itself is worth the entry fee. It’s the kind of place that feels like it should be in a big budget spy film, where the two spies meet to exchange a briefcase of information. Or a place where a big gala is being held and a diamond is about to be stolen.
The art pieces fit so perfectly in their environment and the connection of inside & outside space is breathtaking. For example, this stone. Lay down here and look up at the sky. Just take it all in.
I was not suppose to take this photo but it was so beautiful I could not help myself (please forgive me!). The cracks you see in the flags were created by ants. That’s right, ANTS. Each flag is connected by a series of tubes so they could travel across the “globe”.
We ended the day here at sunset and had an amazing view as the sun crested against the sea and mountains.
The last ferry from Honmura leaves earlier. We missed it to catch the sunset so we caught a later ferry from Miyanoura. There’s a bus that will take you across the island or you can walk. It only takes about 30 minutes but it gets pretty dark at night so I recommend bringing a flashlight.
We squeezed as much in as we could for a day trip to Naoshima but I would love to go spend a weekend there. I really want to visit the Chichu musuem and spend more time exploring the island. I feel very lucky that it’s close to me in Okayama. It’s nice to not have to go to a big metropolitan area to enjoy art. I much prefer this combination of nature & art.
I hope everyone will visit & support this beautiful place.