Naoshima: The Art Island / アートアイランド直島

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Hello again! This is Melisa from Studio Sally. Today I wanted to talk about our trip to one of the most interesting islands in all of Japan: Naoshima. Naoshima is one of the largest islands located north of Takamatsu in Kagawa Prefecture and can be easily accessed via a 50-minute ferry ride. This island makes up part of the 12 islands located in the Seto Inland Island Sea or Setouchi in Japanese, lies between three of the four main islands of Japan (Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu). This area is now internationally known as one of the largest spots to see and become a part of the experience of contemporary art. The combination of beautiful and tranquil beaches, glorious forest-filled hills and delicious cafes, we would have never thought of making this one of our must-see art-inspiration spots. If possible, we highly recommend renting a bike once arriving to get the most of this unique and art-filled experience.
Check out Setouchi Official website for more details about Naoshima and other art islands.

こんにちは!STUDIO SALLYのメリッサです。


Naoshima is separated into three different areas: Miyanoura, Honmura and Museum Area. The Miyanoura area is the first section you see as you arrive from the ferry station. This area contains some galleries such as the Miyanoura Gallery 6, outdoor works such as the famous “Red Pumpkin” by Yayoi Kusama and my all-time favorite, Naoshima Japanese-style sento bathhouse, “I Love Yu” created by the renowned Shinro Ohtake. This bathhouse creates a unique fusion between 60’s and 70’s style Japan and modern contemporary style decorations reflects Ohtake’s artistic mind. This sento includes walls displaying 1970’s Japan photos, interesting mosaics of erotic Edo era paintings and a huge elephant in the middle of the room (literally). This bathhouse was created with the idea of making a relaxing environment where international and Japanese tourists can come together after a long day on the island. If you aren’t too shy to get naked in front of strangers, then this is a highly recommended stop.Below is the link to the Official Naoshima Island website.

直島は宮良野、本村、博物館の3つのエリアに分かれています。フェリーの到着地点からは宮之浦エリアが見えます。ここには宮内浦ギャラリー6、草間彌生の「レッドパンプキン」、私の大好きな直島の日本風の銭湯、有名な大竹伸朗氏が作った「I ♡ 湯」があります。

The next area is the Honmura area where the Tadao Ando Museum and the Art House Project are located. The Art House Project is Ando’s collaboration with various artist to create the unique and magnificent house galleries. This art project consists of the renovation of seven Japanese-style houses, each with their own particular beauty and history. The houses reside in residential areas populated by Naoshima residents and each house has been turned into a work of art itself. My favorite house was the “Minamidera” featuring the work between Ando and James Turrell’s creation called “Backside of the Moon”. From the title you might guess what this experience is all about, but I won’t spoil it for you because it is something you need to “see with your own eyes”.

直島の住民が住む住宅地の各家が芸術作品に変身しています。私の好きな家は安藤氏とJames Turrellの作品”Backside of the Moon”の作品を特集した”Minamidera”でした。

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The final area is the Museum area containing three different art museums: Chichu Art Museum, Lee Ufan Museum and Benesse House. The Chichu Art Museum contains artwork by artists such as Claude Monet, James Turrell and Walter de Maria housed in a building designed by Tadao Ando. Most of the building is housed underground within the hilltops of Naoshima. However, despite its design the museum has an abundance of natural light which effects the appearance and ambience of the space and artworks on display based on the time of day and season.

The Lee Ufan Museum was created as a result of the collaboration between Tadao Ando and the internationally acclaimed artist, Lee Ufan. The semi-underground building contains a variety of paintings and sculptures by Ufan creating a unique harmony between nature, art and architecture.

The last museum, the Benesse House Museum, is one of the first museums to integrate a hotel in the same building. The museum is made up of four buildings scattered across the shoreline of Naoshima. This facility was created with the concept of “coexistence of nature, art and architecture” designed by Tadao Ando. Inside the museum are works done by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Shinro Ohtake and Hiroshi Sugimoto. There are also a variety of outdoor works on display created in unison with their natural environment formulating an even more dynamic experience.





All museums are accessible via city bus and shuttle bus which takes you to each of the three museums along the island. Even if you decided to bike around the island (which we decided to do), you are not allowed to enter the road leading towards the Lee Ufan and Benesse House Museums. Instead, you need to take the shuttle bus from the Chichu Museum Ticket House to the other two museums otherwise you are forced to walk around 15-30 minutes by foot.

The entirety of Naoshima cannot be enjoyed in a single day (especially because the last ferry stops running around 5pm on weekdays and 7pm on weekends). We highly recommend you stay at one of the many Naoshima guesthouses, Airbnbs or at the Benesse House Hotel to get the best of this unique island. Moreover, a variety of delicious local cafes are located within each section of the island and should definitely be one of your pit stops in between areas. Visiting Naoshima in Kagawa Prefecture was an experience we will never forget and hope to come back to see more of what the rest of the Setouchi Art Islands have to offer.



Thanks for reading! I hope you have been inspired to make the stop to this wonderful (less well-known) sightseeing spot to Naoshima. It was filled with invigorating art and exquisite natural beauty. Until next time!



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