Naoshima Island is one of the most interesting art projects I’ve come across during my travels. Since 1989, the small island, located in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, has slowly been transformed into a series of art installations and museums. Threatened with depopulation, the island was revitalized by the cultural foundation Seto Inland Sea Project, which poured money into creating these contemporary art projects.
To visit the three main art areas of Naoshima, you can rent a bike, ride the public bus, or walk. I walked the whole route, totaling probably 10 km. It was a cool, but sunny day, and I enjoyed every bit of the trek along the twisting, narrow road. Much of the route yielded sea views. Towards the south of the island, the Chichu Art Museum, as well as the Lee Ufan and Benesse House are the main attractions. Pumpkin is also located there.
Over on the east side, the town of Honmura features the art house installations. These are a collection of five installations scattered around the village. One was created out of an abandoned house.
Regular ferries sail to Miyanoura, on the west side of Naoshima, from both Takamatsu and Uno. You could day trip it to Naoshima, but better to stay overnight to get a fuller experience. There is budget accommodation in Miyanoura and more sophisticated lodging at the Benesse House. I stayed at Little Plum.
I wouldn’t say venturing to the island for just one museum is worthwhile, but rather visiting the island altogether is a meaningful endeavor. The combination of sleepy island, quirky accommodation, randomly placed installations, and excellent museums all contribute to the unique experience of visiting Naoshima. For me it was one of the highlights of my Japan trip.