It’s been almost 2 years since we left for this road-trip on the island of Shikoku in Japan and I still haven’t finished telling you about it! It’s a good thing because I’m not going to go there anytime soon, so this will allow us to travel by proxy.
Going through the pictures and my memories requires a little effort of memory to be able to transcribe the rest of this trip but I will try to do the best I can so that you can teleport yourself for a moment and why not plan a future visit to Japan (fingers crossed). Let’s go now!
Preparing your visit to Naoshima
Last time, I left you on a “nature and slow” note with this stay in Otoyo with our adorable family in the mountains. This time, I’m going to Naoshima Island, a small island transformed (thanks to the help of the architect Tadao Ando) into a real jewel of contemporary art.
I’m skipping for the moment our intermediate city Takamatsu (which I will detail in a next post) to tell you about our day in Naoshima: Indeed, if you look again at the details of our itinerary, you will notice that we left from Otoyo (Nagafuchi) to reach further north, the city of Takamatsu.
We stayed there for 3 nights and visited Naoshima Island by doing just a day trip. It was intense but it seemed to be the easiest in our case (don’t forget that we had a car which couldn’t be taken with us to Naoshima!). However, you can also choose to stay longer on the island. Here are some tips to prepare your visit:
- Book in advance the tickets of the museums you want to visit on the Benesse art site especially for the very popular Chichu Art Museum: You will be able to choose your visit time. The other museums are more easily accessible without reservation.
- Book your hotel on the same site if you choose to stay longer on the island. Unfortunately, I don’t have any recommendations for you as we were going back to Takamatsu on the mainland in the evening.
- Be sure to bring sunscreen and a hat (bucket hat ?) if you go during the sunny season because there is not much shade on the island.
Getting to Naoshima
To get to this island, there is no other way than by boat. A ferry leaves about every hour from Takamatsu harbor from 8am with a journey of about 50mn (you can also leave from Okayama if you are not from Shikoku)
I already told this story on Instagram but because we forgot our museum tickets in our hotel room in Takamatsu (and I was not sure if they accept the electronic version), we had to go back in a hurry to get them and missed our ferry.
If you are as dizzy as I was (=I was in charge of the tickets), you should know that speed boats (more expensive and faster: crossing in 25mn) also allow access to Naoshima island with different time slots: what we took to catch up and manage to respect our appointment time for the reservation of the Chichu Art museum. Intense, I told you!
So I can’t advise you enough to check all your reservation tickets before you go to the port: My mistake may be useful to you! I’m not sure if ferry/speed boat tickets can be booked in advance on the internet though, but you can find the boat departure schedule here.
There are 2 ports on the island: Miyanoura and Honmura. The ferry coming from Takamatsu arrives at Miyanoura harbor while our speed boat docked at Honmura, further east.
The “cloud shaped pavilion” from the architects Sanaa on the Honmura harbor
Getting around Naoshima
The island is not very big and can be reached by bike or by foot. But if you want to discover the museums and a maximum of artworks scattered all over the island, you can save up time by taking the bus which more or less goes around the island.
Despite our early morning loss of time, we chose to explore the island on foot: we are far from having seen everything but it was nice to slow down the pace and admire the artworks more quietly. (To be able to visit the whole island and all the museums, I think that 2 days minimum would be perfect, for information)
Admire the artworks on the island
“Naoshima Pavilion” by Sou Fujimoto
Just walking around, you won’t be able to miss the artworks that are scattered all along the way. If you are sensitive to the contemporary art and minimalist architecture of Tadao Ando, you will love it.
When you think that before the 90’s, Naoshima was almost unknown to the main public until the Benesse company took a look at it by calling Tadao Ando to “pimple” it into an artistic visual place, it’s pretty crazy!
Here are the works that crossed our path: from the famous pumpkins of Yayoi Kusama to the sculptures of Niki de Saint Phalle, we didn’t know where to look. And everything matches so harmoniously with the surrounding nature!
“Yellow pumpkin” and “Playhouse pumpkin” by Yayoi Kusama
“Another rebirth” by Kimiyo Mishima
“Shipyard Works : Stern with Hole” by Shinro Oktake, “3 Squares Vertical Diagonal” by George Rickey
“The bench” by Niki de Saint Phalle (Sorry for the tourist photo !)
Stairs by Tadao Ando which includes “Seen/unseen Known/Unknown by Walter de Maria
On Naoshima, there are not only artworks in the nature but also museums and art houses. We only took the tickets for the Chichu Art Museum (those we forgot at the hotel!) while for the other museums, since the reservation was not mandatory we wanted to see how the day was going to be to choose to visit them or not.
In the end, we only visited the Chichu Art museum in depth but here is an overview of the others so you can make your choice.
CHICHU ART MUSEUM :
Photos are not allowed inside, so I only have these few exterior shots to offer you but since I bought a book describing Tadao Ando’s work on the island, I have a few glimpses of the works you can admire there.
“Open sky” by James Turell and “the nympheas” by Claude Monet
In this museum with concrete architecture (signed Tadao Ando) are grouped 3 permanent works in 3 different rooms: “The nympheas” by Claude Monet, “Open sky” by James Turrell and “Time/timeless/no time” by Walter de Maria.
Time/ Timeless/ No time by Walter de Maria
As in many places in Japan, you have to take off your shoes before the visit: take care of your socks to honor the place and the art, haha. In any case, the architecture of the place is pure and plays with the light, highlighting the works of art. Conquered I was.
LEE UFAN MUSEUM :
We only went outside this museum presenting, as its name indicates, the works of Lee Ufan, a Korean artist.
BENESSE HOUSE MUSEUM : I regret not having had the time to enter this museum which mixes perfect architectural lines and majestic artworks. We were still able to admire the works of Niki de St Phalle located outside the museum.
ART HOUSE PROJECT : 7 abandoned houses rehabilitated into artworks are located on the side of Honmura harbor. Paintings and sculptures can be admired there.
Haisha : “Dreaming tongue” by Shinro Ohtake
ANDO MUSEUM : which consists of a concrete cube elegantly integrated in a hundred-year-old wooden house.
NAOSHIMA BATH : It is possible to take a bath in this unusual sento with kitsch, colorful and non-minimalist design by Shinro Ohtake.
MIYANOURA GALLERY 6 : designed by architect Taira Nishizawa. I hear it’s closed right now (but between us, is this information really useful in our current situation?)
Eating in Naoshima
CHICHU CAFE : No real time to try restaurants on this island. But we chose to have lunch at the Chichu Café of the Chichi Art Museum and here is the view we had while having our meal.
This cafe offered quick but tasty lunch platters (rice pilaf with beef for my SO and a rice burger with chicken teriyaki sauce for me). Chocolate fondant and ice cream are also offered.
Here are a few other dining tracks I spotted on the island (but didn’t try):
CAFE SALON NAKA-OKU : Omurice (omelette au riz) dans une maison japonaise traditionnelle
NAOSHIMA CAFE KONICHIWA : Curry rice et risotto
MAIMAI : Burger de poisson
APRON CAFE : Produits locaux et menus de saison
I hope you enjoyed this visit of Naoshima island and that it will be useful if you plan to go there: I tried to detail without saying too much, to let you have the satisfaction of discovering new things if you have the chance to step on the ground of this island one day.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments anyway, I’ll be happy to help you out! See you on the next visit: Teshima Island, less popular but not less interesting, rather the opposite! (English transation by Quiterie)