Japan is actually made up of over 6000 islands but only around 400 of them are inhabited with four major ones hosting the majority of the 127 million population. There’s always something exciting and a little exotic about going to islands and one island I’ve wanted to visit for a long time has been Naoshima which is famed for its art.
The island is dotted with calming concrete art installations which is something even I can appreciate and I am severely lacking in knowledge when it comes to this subject! I was quite surprised how long it took me to get to Naoshima from Okayama. Trains to Uno and the boats from the ferry port in Uno weren’t as frequent as I assumed they would be. Thankfully I got up early and had already ticked Korakuen gardens and Okayama-jo castle off my list before 10am.
No sooner had I arrived on Naoshima and I was off to my first port of call whilst most people who had been on the boat went to the tourist information. I went to the 007 Museum which was just two minutes on foot from the ferry terminal. Once I’d finished my James Bond stuff I went to a nearby place to rent a bicycle. It was only 300 yen for the day and no ID was needed at all which surprised me as usually in Japan these things can be overly complicated and very time-consuming. I just signed my name and headed off within minutes on a fairly basic bicycle possessing a basket and no gears!
It felt good to be cycling again but I set off with no real aim and inevitably ended up heading towards the western part of the island which is out of bounds to tourists. Back on track, I decided to head north up the centre of Naoshima and along the way there were some art house projects. I stopped by one but decided against going in as I didn’t want to pay more money (¥410 yen for a single ticket or ¥1030 for the multiple pass) when I knew I’d be going inside the Benesse House Museum.
I was more than content to just see the exterior of such buildings and was probably more impressed with the normal-looking house (above) built in the middle of the road.
The museum area (as it’s known) is private land owned by Benesse House Hotel so non-hotel guests are obliged to park up and continue on to the museums (Lee Ufan Museum, Chichu Art Museum etc) by foot. It was about a 15 minute walk to Benesse House Museum but there were a few places along the way of interest such as the short stone torii gate (below) on the beach right next to the bicycle parking lot.
One of the islands most famous landmarks is “Pumpkin” (below) by Yayoi Kusama where a number of tourists were lining up to have their photo taken.
The hotel’s gardens include a fair few art exhibits (below) such as a blue seat called “Conversation” (designed by Niki de Saint Phalle) which is also on public display as part of Faret Tachikawa in Tachikawa, Western Tokyo.
Across from the outdoor artworks were some stunning landscapes of the Seto Inland Sea and an abundance of sunshine although that may not be so noticeable in the pictures below!
The Benesse Hotel Museum (¥1030 entry) is located on a hilltop in the southern part of Naoshima and allows no photography but needing a few pictures to display in this blog entry I decided to ignore that and captured a few discreet images! I’m certainly no art fan but even I was mildly impressed by some of the many featured exhibits (below) in this complex which opened in 1992.
Not wanting to go back the same way I’d came, I decided to take the shortcut even though I was warned about steep slopes along the way. Normally, they wouldn’t have been any kind of problem for me but with no gears I had no chance, and for the first time since I was a child I had to get off and push the bike up the hill! This was made even more embarrassing as others on electrical-assitance bikes passed me by with smug looks on their faces!
Before I left there were a couple of art exhibits to see in the Miyanoura Port area such as “Red Pumpkin” (below) which, like the other pumpkin art, was designed by the same lady.
The white metal mesh enfoldment (below) is known as Naoshima Pavilion and was designed by architect Sou Fujimoto to commemorate Naoshima-cho’s 60th anniversary of founding as a municipality.
There was a ferry back to Uno Port at 4:02 pm but I’d have had to rush to get that one so settled for the one at 4:35 pm where there was just a short connecting time before I could take the 5:05 pm train back to Okayama. I left feeling very content with what I’d seen on this truly unique island which is forward-thinking in ways so different to the bright lights and technological advances of Tokyo and other such cities.
Click here to read ‘Okayama 2016 Pt VII: 007 Museum In Naoshima’