Naoshima   直島

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The giant gourd Yayoi Kusama

Highlight of the collection of the Benesse House, yellow squash peas Yayoi Kusama arranged on a pier jutting out to sea.

Benesse House

While concrete, Tadao Ando has designed a museum / hotel while simplicity

The Oval Room

Combining contemporary architecture, nature and simplicity of the oval room Tadao Ando is a staple of the Benesse House.

Chichu Museum

The highlight of the museum Chichu granite ball 2.2 m diameter designed by Walter de Maria.

Chatting Niki by Saint Phalle

Chatting Niki by Saint Phalle, one of many works of this artist exposed to Naoshima.

I ♥ 湯

I ♥ 湯 bath is one of the last sites celebration of art in Naoshima, retro pop style, it was built so that people can also take advantage of the success of the island.

The Island of Art

There is no temple, shrine or medieval castle to visit on this small island in the Inland Sea, instead you'll find seven spaces dedicated to contemporary art.

Naoshima is not a small, peaceful island like the others. Strange things can be found here, and it draw visitors from around the world...

This small island (3,400 inhabitants on about 8km2) between Takamatsu and Okayama long made a living in the refining industry. In the late 1980s, this left the island deserted and devoid of any prospects.


Two men decided to act: the mayor, who wanted to rejuvenate his island, and Tetsuhiko Fukutake, founder of the Benesse Corporation (specializing in education, and especially online courses). Both started looking for a good place on Naoshima to set up a children's summer camp.

The camp opened in the summer of 1989, and Mr Fukutake chose an architect to complete the project: Tadao Ando, ​​also behind the 21_21 Design Sight in Tokyo, designed small white yurts whose sleek lines fit perfectly into the environment of Naoshima. The first sculpture was then placed on the island: The frog and cat by Karel Appel.

But Mr Fukutake wanted to push the project further, and in 1992 he built a hotel/museum, again with the help of Tadao Ando. Later the Oval Room, where water, sky, nature and architecture blend in perfect harmony was also created by Ando and added to this building. Benesse House, a luxury hotel and refuge of a large collection of contemporary art, was born.

Naoshima Today

The Art House Project, Chichu Art Museum, the public baths I ♥湯 (pronounced "I love you"), the Ando Museum and Lee Ufan Museum now complete the list of places dedicated to contemporary art on the island.

In these museums, there are works by Monet, Andy Warhol, and Jackson Pollock. But the rest of the island is also worth a look: in the streets and on the coast are scattered sculptures of Niki de Saint Phalle, Karel Appel and many other artists. The famous giant pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama still remains the star of the beaches of Naoshima.

The whole island can be explored in two or three days, but beware, all the museums (except Benesse House) are closed on Mondays. The rental bikes are helpful for getting between sites, and frequent buses are also available.

This idea, of showcasing the heritage of the Seto Inland Sea island by way of contemporary art, continues to grow: Teshima, Inujima, and other islands around them host temporary pieces and renowned museums. Every three years the Setouchi Triennial is held, during which artists display works and hold performances on Naoshima, Teshima or Inujima. The next will be in 2019.

Getting to Naoshima

The island is accessible by ferry from Shikoku via the city of Takamatsu, from Honshu via the city of Uno, from the nearby island of Shodoshima, which is also worth visiting for its olive groves, or even from Kobe (about ¥5,000, travel time around three and a half hours)!

For full schedules and different ways to get to Naoshima, the Island Tourist Office offers a complete page here.

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