Naoshima: A Perfect Blend of Art & Nature

Naoshima: A Perfect Blend of Art & Nature | The Enterprise World


Naoshima Island, located in the Seto Inland Sea, is known for its contemporary architecture, museums, and sculptures. It is a part of Kagawa Prefecture. The island with its Mediterranean atmosphere, sandy beaches, and sunny weather, has a relaxing rural feel which is a perfect getaway from Japan’s daily hustle and bustle in the urban areas. The majority of the art in Naoshima is installed by Benesse Corporation, which controls art museums, and sculptures both on Naoshima and on neighboring islands. Although spread across 8 square kilometers only, the island is home to art maestros. It includes works by experts in contemporary art, impressionist paintings, and architecture such as Yayoi Kusama, Claude Monet, Tadao Anto, and James Turrell. 

How to Reach Naoshima Island?

You’ll need to take a ferry to Naoshima island. The island can be reached from two ports: Miyanoura Port which is on the west side of the island and Honmura Port on the east side. The ferries to Naoshima Island depart from Takamatsu Port in Kagawa and Uno Port in Okayama. Electric-assist bicycles are available for rent at Miyanoura Port to have a stroll around the port. Bicycles are not allowed to go to Benesse House Area. Local buses ply from Miyanoura Port to Tsutsujiso. From there, free shuttle buses to Benesse House Museum, Lee Ufan Museum, and Chichu Art Museum are available. 

History of Naoshima Island

Naoshima: A Perfect Blend of Art & Nature | The Enterprise World

Similar to many other parts of Japan, Naoshima was on the way to a decline. A futuristic project led it to turn into an “art island”. Post then, it has transformed into a world-class travel destination for art-inclined travelers all over the world. Renting a bicycle and riding beside the coastline of Naoshima is a lifetime experience. The Seto inland sea on one side and the beautiful and unspoiled nature on the other side is a calming experience. Some of the biggest names of the contemporary art scene and the breathtaking landscape every here and there is a scenic view to witness. 

The project to turn Naoshima into an art island began in 1985. At the same time, the local authorities were approached by Tetsuhiko Furutake, CEO of Benesse Corporation. It is a powerhouse that focuses on the education and publishing industries. He had the foresight to turn the island into a world-class art hub, and the mayor agreed to the pathbreaking idea. The globally famous Tadao Ando has been a key person in this project since the early days. In 1989, he supervised the development of the Naoshima International Camp. This was when the first iconic art pieces were brought to the island, one of them being Karel Appel’s sculpture, “Frog and Cat”.

Top 5 Places to Witness Art in Naoshima Island:

The island is known synonymously as “island of art” which depicts the rich culture and existence of several other art museums. Here we bring to you 5 places to enjoy art, namely, Miyanoura, Honmura, and other places. 

1. Ando Museum

Architect Tadao Ando renovated the 100-year-old wooden house in the Honmura district of Naoshima. The exposed concrete space gives positive vibes to the wooden house. The house is left old on purpose and amalgamated with the modern style of architecture. The wood and concrete, light and dark, these contrast elements depict the architect’s philosophy on architecture. Inside the museum, there are displays of sketches, photographs, and models that tell the story of Tadao Ando’s close connection with the history of Naoshima. 

2. Lee Ufan Museum

Lee Ufan is an internationally acclaimed artist who is primarily active in Europe. Many of his paintings and sculptures from the 1970s to the present are depicted here in a partially underground building designed by Tadao Ando. Pre-booked and paid private tours guided by the museum are also available. 

3. Benessee House Museum

Naoshima: A Perfect Blend of Art & Nature | The Enterprise World

In 1992, this was opened to be a combination of a museum and a hotel. The idea behind it was to impart the experience of being with nature, art, and architecture. The art pieces are installed throughout the entire building. Some pieces are even scattered near the coastline and forest surrounding the museum. So, roaming around to have a look can be fun. Tadao Ando designed the building on a hill that overlooks the Seto Inland Sea. The structure helps to guide the island’s nature inside via its large open areas. 

4. Chichu Art Museum

Tadao Anto has designed the Chichu Art Museum. It is built below the earth’s surface intentionally, to avoid taking away from the Seto Inland Sea’s beautiful landscape. Inside, one can see five pieces from “Water Lilies,” an oil painting series by Claude Monet, a leading artist of impressionism. Other noteworthy art includes Walter De Maria’s installations lit by natural light only and the three installations by James Turrell that celebrate light itself. 

5. Naoshima Bath

It is an art facility and hot spring created by artist Shinro Ohtake. It was created as a place for social interactions between tourists from Japan, and abroad and Naoshima locals. The exterior reflects the worldview of Shinro Ohtake, and the interior is filled with elaborate art. The bathtub, wall paintings, ceramics, and mosaics in the bathing area are all made using the scrapbook method. Visitors can enjoy a lifetime experience of the amalgamation of art and a bathhouse.

Restaurants in Naoshima Island:

1. Aisunao

It is a popular lunch outlet in Naoshima island, known for serving a single vegan set meal featuring small vegetable dishes and their famous brown multigrain rice. Opens at around 11:30 am, and despite the long wait and limited seating, the service is fast. The place uses locally grown food which adds to the local artsy vibe. The brown rice is locally grown and fermented to become macrobiotic. 

2. Kinosaki Udon Naoshima

Naoshima: A Perfect Blend of Art & Nature | The Enterprise World

This restaurant is known for its handmade udon and flavorful tempura. This cozy eatery is common for locals which gives it an authentic and reliable. Even in the cafeteria setup, the place gives out a warm and friendly atmosphere with a very accommodating owner. 

3. Terrace Restaurant

This is owned by an English family that offers an authentic Japanese sushi experience despite delusions. Run by Japanese staff, the restaurant has a scenic view of the beach, making it one of the best spots on the island for sunset enthusiasts. 

4. Uogashi 7070

It offers a delightful dining experience with delicious meals for both dinner and breakfast. The mindful preparation of the food ensures that every bite is relished. It makes it a truly enjoyable dining experience. Though somewhat pricey, the high-quality and fresh ingredients make it well worth the cost. 

Is Naoshima Worth the Visit?

Naoshima is well worth visiting if you are a contemporary art fan. It is a great escape from the busy cities and a relaxing way to unwind. Cycling around in the mild sun, enjoying the scenery, and admiring some unique art and architecture. The Naoshima island is home to some of the best art in Japan, so it’s natural that the inhabitants and restauranteurs would be artistically expressive too. Each place has its unique flair, collectively as much a part of the experience of the art itself. The food with a scenic nature view adds to the lifetime experience. 

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