Naoshima : the Japanese contemporary art island

This little japanese island (located in the inland sea) is a true marvel and is known throughout the world ! It is famous for its contemporary art museums with very original architecture, but also for its sculptures that are scattered throughout the island. For my 3rd stay in Japan, it was time for me to discover unique place in the world !

The concept

It was in the 1980s that the concept was born : Soichiro Fukutake, a famous Japanese businessman, decided to associate with the famous architecte of the time, Tadao Ando, to give a second life to this island. Together they designed several museums, of which the most famous is Benesse House. The concept that was developed on this island is the linking of art, nature and architecture : this is a perfectly successful wager !

The Benesse House

This museum is a true marvel. It should be noted that the building’s architecture in itself is worth a visit : rough concrete is combined with large openings which offer a breathtaking view of the sea. Most of the permanent collection is based on post-war contemporary art. Personally, I do not know a great deal about art and apart from a few works which really charmed me, it was more the place’s architecture that captured my attention.

(© Benesse House)

(© Benesse House)

The restaurant

Luxury accommodation

This museum opened in 1992 and also acts as a luxury hotel. It is a real blessing for lovers of contemporary art who get the opportunity to sleep in a museum. The rooms are perfectly integrated in the space and the style is super minimalist and ultra contemporary. Be warned, though, that you need to book early : the rooms fill up very quickly, even in November, and by doing it a month and a half before, I could unfortunately not find any availability …

The Beach Suite with its minimalism design : so in love ! (© Benesse House)

My favorite : the Chichu Art Museum

The visit continues with the Chichu Art Museum where my great favorite is. “It’s magnificent” was the only sentence I continuously repeated ^^ It was also designed by Tadao Ando and its architecture is quite different from the previous museum : it is half underground ! You have the impression of entering into a bunker and you walk past types of rough concrete curvatures to get into the building.

Daylight enters in only a few places to illuminate the artworks. Here there is only a very small collection that is present : there is a place for each artist, such as Claude Monet, Walter de Maria and James Turrell. For me, it really is a place not to miss in Naoshima !

So in love with the museum architecture by Tadao Ando (© Benesse House)

This work by Walter de Maria : hard to explain why but I love it !! (©Benesse House)

The Lee Ufan Museum

The 3rd museum I visited was the Lee Ufan Museum. With the exception of a few of his works, the Korean artist didn’t have me totally convinced … However, like the previous museums, the building is exceptional and the view of the sea really charmed me.

The Silent Room : work by Lee Ufan (© Benesse House)

My advice

To me, these are the 3 places not to miss if you are passing through Naoshima. Obviously, it all depends on the time you have to spend on visiting the island. It should also be noted that there are lovely beaches and lookout points to go and discover. If like us, you have sunny weather, you should go and take advantage of the island in itself.

In conclusion, I would say that you definitely need to visit Naoshima if you love art. I would not necessarily include it in a first trip to Japan as certain travelers do, but rather for an additional trip.

There are a lot of things to discover like this public bath (and always with design !!) (©Benesse House)

Practical information

• Although the island is small (8km2), exploring it on foot is quite challenging … Think about renting a car when you get off the ferry. Personally, we had a rental car that we were able to take with us on the island.

• It should be noted that on Mondays, all the museums are closed, except for the Benesse House. This is definitely the best day to discover the island in complete peace and quiet. If you have 2 days to spend in Naoshima, take the ferry on Monday morning, visit the island and its surroundings as well as Benesse House during the day then spend the night there. The next day, you can therefore visit the other museums.

• Cafe Benesse is perfect for having a small break with a view of the sea. The setting is exceptional … but the quality of the food is not necessarily up to standard. Opt for a Perrier;)

• Taking pictures is forbidden in museums, which is why most of the pictures that appear in the article come from official sources.

• There is more information on the website http://benesse-artsite.jp/en/

Tempted by an excursion on Naoshima island ? Do you already know about this little area of Japan ? Feel free to send me your comments or questions by posting them on social media.

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