Complete Guide to Naoshima – Japan’s Art Island

Red pumpkin Yayaoi Kusama Naoshima Shikoku

Naoshima is an art island located in the Seto Inland Sea in Japan. It has been getting more attention lately due to the beautiful sea and a number of modern museums and galleries which house impressive artworks. Becoming a new center of contemporary art, there are more visitors coming to the island from all over the world. This scenic island is located in the Shikoku Region, a beautiful region that isn’t discovered by the large crowds of tourists. In this article, we will share things to do in Naoshima focusing on art museums that will touch your heart!

How to get there

From Tokyo and Osaka, you can take the Shinkansen to Okayama prefecture. Regular ferry service is available from the Uno Port to the Miyanoura Port, the main gateway on Naoshima. It takes only 20 minutes by ferry to get to Naoshima Island. Check the article below, we explained more details and other options there!

How To Get To Naoshima Island - The Contemporary Art Island
Noashima is the famous art islands located in between Kyoto and Hiroshima. When you are looking for a cultural getaway, this is a great option! In this article we will explain the different ways of travelling to the island.

When is the best time to visit Naoshima?

Naoshima

Naoshima can be enjoyed any season since it has relatively mild weather throughout the year.
Summer is probably the best season to visit Naoshima if you want to enjoy the beautiful sea and lush summer plants. Spring could be another option for those who prefer mild weather and avoid the crowds during the summer vacation season! Summer is the most popular time to visit Naoshima, so if you prefer quiet time without waiting in line at the museums, visit there in winter.

Enjoy arts in Naoshima

Red and Yellow Pumpkin

Once you arrive at the Miyanoura Port, you will be welcomed by a symbolic piece, Red Pumpkin created by a famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. It has lots of black dots on it, and is always packed with tourists to try to take pictures! Another famous pumpkin can be found in the place which is 10 minutes away by bus. Yellow Pumpkin stands silently in perfect harmony with the peaceful sea.
In August 2021, Yellow Pumpkin got washed away by Typhoon No.9 and unfortunately got damaged. Currently it’s not on the exhibit but still there are many people visiting the spot on the pier where the yellow pumpkin used to be.  

Yayoi Kusama has created many artworks with dot motifs and it is said that she has suffered from schizophrenia from her childhood and she kept drawing dot motifs to get away from the hallucination. These dot motifs are considered as protection from her disease and she chose pumpkins for her artworks with a message that nothing is the same, everything has different shape and size and that makes it beautiful.

Chichu Art Museum

Chichu Art Museum
準建築人手札網站, CC BY 2.0, via flickr

Founded in 2004, Chichu Art Museum is one of the most popular art museums in Naoshima. Most of the museum is underground, which makes it an unique structure that perfectly matches the surroundings in harmony with nature. You can enjoy stunning artworks by world-famous artists and talents such as Claude Monet, Walter De Maria, and Tadao Ando who designed this museum. Natural light coming through the modern structure helps you observe the authentic pieces with different impressions depending on time and the weather. Online reservation is required for all visitors prior to their visit.

Opening hours

10am – 6pm (Mar. to Sep.) 10am – 5pm (Oct to Feb.)

Admissions ¥2,100 (Adults) Free admission for under 15 years old

Lee Ufan Museum

松岡明芳, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lee Ufan Museum is another museum also designed by Tadao Ando. The simple and sophisticated design resonates with a large collection of artworks by Lee Ufan, a world-renowned artist. The stunning paintings and sculptures give us an opportunity to reconsider ourselves and the modern society through an artificial experience.

Opening hours

10am – 6pm (Mar. to Sep.) 10am – 5pm (Oct to Feb.)
※Closed on Monday

Admissions ¥1,050 (Adults) Free admission for under 15 years old

Benesse House Museum

663highland, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As one of the biggest and most popular museums on Naoshima, Benesse House Museum offers a range of services and experiences for tourists. Since its opening in 1992, it has been welcoming a number of tourists with a concept of “coexistence of nature, art and architecture.” You can find interesting works such as paintings, pictures, sculptures, and installations displayed everywhere even outside the building. There is a fancy Japanese restaurant and a café serving pleasant dishes at the museum too. It also plays a role as a hotel to offer comfortable accommodation for tourists as well!

Opening hours

10am – 6pm

Admissions ¥1,050 (Adults) Free admission for under 15 years old

Ando Museum

chinnian, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Don’t forget to check the Ando Museum which houses informative photos and sketches on Aondo’s works and achievements! It also helps you learn about the history of the island while walking around the 100-year old traditional Japanese house in Honmura village. Gokuraku-ji Temple is another must visit spot just across from the museum. It is a Shingon Sect temple dating back about 1,200 years ago. Designated as Tangible Cultural Property, it gives you a traditional experience completely different from modern museums around! 

Opening hours

10am – 4:30pm
※Closed on Monday

Admissions ¥520 (Adults) Free admission for under 15 years old

Art House Project

cotaro70s, CC BY-ND 2.0, via flickr

Art House Project is an unique project aiming to revitalize the island through the renovation of old houses into works of art in Honmura Village area. Started in 1998 with “Kadoya”, the first renovated location,  there are currently 6 other locations including “Ishibashi”, “Haisha”, “Gokaisho”, “Kadoya”, “Go’o Shrine”, “Minamidera”, and “Kinza”. Each of them has respective features and offers a variety of benefits for both locals and tourists such as galleries and a helpful information center. It is a perfect place to enjoy artworks that can be found in harmony with the local community while exploring the historical area! 

Gotanji Beach

Situated in the south of the island, Gotanji Beach offers a relaxing time surrounded by nature and the beautiful sea. The sea is shallow and doesn’t get deep for a quite distance, which allows you to swim in the clear water. In summer, the Naoshima fire festival is held around the beach with more than 1,800 fireworks beautifully lighting up the sky.

Naoshima Hall

naoshima
Stephan Ridgway, CC BY 2.0, via flickr

Naoshima Hall is a community center designed by Hiroshi Sambuichi. The beautiful roof is completely covered with Japanese cypress, and the walls inside of the building are coated in spotless white with Shikkui, traditional Japanese plaster. The unique design enables an automatic air circulation, which means the air inside the building is replaced with fresh one regularly without electricity! The hall plays a role as a center of social community, and is used for multi-purposes such as cultural activities for local people!

Naoshima Bath “I♥︎湯”

naoshima
chinnian, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Naoshima Bath “I♥︎湯” is an unique public Onsen designed by Shinro Otake, a famous Japanese artist. This bathhouse is decorated with fabulous artworks such as paintings and sculptures. The staff is welcoming and friendly, and you can purchase a cute designed towel with an original logo on it. It is an ideal spot to get refreshed while enjoying the fantastic art, it will be a totally different bathing experience in Japan!

Opening hours

1pm – 9pm
※Closed on Monday

Admissions ¥660 (Adults) ¥310(under 15 years old)
Free admission for under 3 years old 

If you have time: visit other art islands

Teshima

Naoshima is definitely the most popular art island in Japan, but there are other islands where you can enjoy artworks in the Seto Inland Sea. Teshima is another art island which is 20 minutes away by ferry from Naoshima.
Teshima Art Museum is a unique museum shaped like a water droplet falling from the sky which is designed by artist Rei Naito and architect Ryue Nishizawa. The breeze, natural light and the sound of bird chirping coming from the open ceilings, you can immerse yourself with harmony in nature at the museum.  Beautiful views of the rice terrace can be enjoyed around the museum which was rebuilt when the museum was opened being a part of the project. 

Teshima Art Museum
Kentaro Ohno from Tokyo, Japan, CC BY 2.0, via flickr

Les Archives du Cœur is another unique museum collecting the sound of people’s heartbeats from around the world created by Christian Boltanski. You can also record your own heartbeats and it will become a part of the archives. 

How to get to Teshima from Naoshima 

Take a ferry from Miyaura Port to Ieura Port.
You can get around the island by bus or bicycle (rental bicycle is available)

Shodoshima

Shodoshima is another option for exploring the different art islands on the Seto Inland Sea.
It will take 30 minutes to get to Shodoshima by ferry. Some artworks can be seen around Tonosho Port. Metal sculpture again… by Kim Kyoung-Min, Gift of the Sun by Choi Jeong Hwa, the golden olive leafs shaped artworks that were co-created with local elementary school students, and ART no SHOW Terminal which was renovated from the old ferry terminal to open to exhibit artworks and the event space.

Gift of the Sun
Gift of the Sun by Choi Jeong Hwa
Photo by Kentaro Ohno, CC BY 2.0, via flickr

Georges Gallery is a hidden place which was renovated from the old house, it was a part of 2019 Setouchi Triennale by photographer Georges Rousse. It was one of the rare places where you can still see his artworks since his works are usually destroyed after the exhibition. The highlight is a big golden circle in the middle of the traditional Japanese room which can be seen only from a certain point.

How to get to Shodoshima from Teshima

From Karato Port (the south side of Teshima), take a ferry to Tonosho Port.

Where to stay

MY LODGE Naoshima ―Very comfortable room with a beautiful ocean view, this simple lodge makes you feel like staying at your friend’s place.

Guest house Roji to Akari ― Located in front of Minamidera which is one of the Art House Project, this guest house was renovated from the traditional house. Quiet area to stay.

sana mane ― Glamping resort where you can stay in a dome style tent, surrounded by mountains. In front of the tent, you can have a private beach to yourself!

Tours in Naoshima

Naoshima Art Island Guided Tour
Naoshima Island is known for its impressive outdoor sculptures, unusual architecture, and modern art museums. Expand your understanding of this impressive location by exploring the island with a guide who used to work at a museum in Naoshima. A private tour means you can ask questions along the way, and learn from your art enthusiast guide. Highlights include the “Polka-Dot Pumpkin” statue, Benesse House, and Chichu Art Museum.

Naoshima Full-Day Private Tour with Government-Licensed Guide
This value-packed trip with a government-licensed and experienced multilingual tour guide is a fantastic and efficient way to explore Naoshima! Once a rural island on the verge of becoming a ghost town, Naoshima is now a world-class center for contemporary art due in large part to contributions from Japan’s top achitects, including museums, a boutique hotel, and bathhouse. The area features a captivating result of avant-garde blending with rural natural beauty. Let us know what you would like to experience and we will customize a eight-hour tour that’s best for you!

【Private Tour】Naoshima Island 1-day cycling tour from Uno
Naoshima is the main island of a township made up of twenty-seven islands administered by Kagawa Prefecture. The island has a documented history going back to the Heian period, but today it’s known for its contemporary art museums, which draw visitors from all over the world, especially during the Setouchi Triennale art event held every three years in the region. Since the island is part of the Seto Inland Sea National Park, there are strict rules for the visual impact of new buildings, so many of the art museums are built into the ground, creating an interesting aesthetic of their own. You can enjoy to go around Naoshima island by bicycle (with power-assisted bicycle, e-bike) with Private English Speaking guide.

Visiting a remote island will be a completely different experience from visiting only urbanized areas. Get unwind on the refreshing island while exploring the impressive museums and galleries! 

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Happy traveling!

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