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Naoshima: Japan’s Art Island is a Minimalist Dream

Naoshima is a small island located in the Seto Inland Sea. Tucked away from Japan’s typical tourist hotspots, this place has been off the radar until recently. Naoshima has been gaining international interest in the past few years, and more tourists are making their way to explore this gem in Shikoku. The main attraction here is art—museums and installations are scattered across the island. So, if you are in need of some minimalist inspiration, check out Japan’s art island.

Benesse Art Site Naoshima

Naoshima’s art is not a random act. All art pieces and related activities are the work of a long-term project by Japanese educational company Benesse Holdings and non-profit organization Fukutake Foundation. It took nearly 30 years and included building multiple museums and art installations around the island. With ongoing activities, Benesse and the Foundation hope to nurture culture and education in the region. One ongoing activity is the Setouchi Triennale Art Festival, when the art island hosts even more art. At this time, 100 or so additional artworks are exhibited on Naoshima and nearby islands. If you miss the festival, which only happens once every three years, don’t worry. You can still enjoy the multiple permanent works around the island.

Contemporary with a touch of Traditional

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You’ll find plenty of contemporary art walking around the island

Many of the artworks on Naoshima are contemporary pieces. The most well-known are two large pumpkin sculptures by Japanese pop artist Yayoi Kusama. In fact, the renowned artist’s works have become a symbol of Naoshima. You can find one by the port and one by the beach. You’ll also see works by many other artists like James Turrell, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Andy Warhol, and Yukinori Yanagi. If you have little interest in contemporary art, this island still has something to offer. Some pieces by Claude Monet can be found in the Chichu Museum.

Please note that some works are only viewable to guests staying at Benesse House. Most of the museums do not allow photography.

Minimalism and Nature

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The Chichu Museum was designed by Takao Ando and is subterranean

Equally as captivating on Naoshima is the architecture. Many of the main museums on the island feel very modern and organic at the same time. Creating these peaceful spaces is Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Self-taught, Ando designs spaces that are complex but effortless, and his works emphasize beauty in simplicity. The spaces he creates connect people with nature. On Naoshima, some of Ando’s notable works include:

Benesse House

Benesse House is a hotel and museum perched on the hilltops of Naoshima. With large windows looking onto the sea and surrounding forests, the space represents the concept “coexistence of nature, art, and architecture”.

Lee Ufan Museum

Located in a valley with hills on one side and the sea on the other, the Lee Ufan Museum is the perfect spot to take in Naoshima’s natural beauty. The building is partially underground and features clean, minimal lines. In front, a tall pillar and a large stone embellish a white rock garden.

Chichu Museum

The Chichu Museum reflects on the relationship between humans and nature. Despite being built into the hills, the space has plenty of light. In fact, Ando’s design utilizes the changing light to alter the ambience and how the art is viewed.

Access

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Explore contemporary art and minimalist architecture in nature on Naoshima

Naoshima is easily accessible by ferry from Takamatsu Port in Takamatsu City (Kagawa Prefecture) or Uno Port in Tamano City (Okayama Prefecture). Multiple ferries depart every day. For more information, visit the access page of Benesse Art Site Naoshima.

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WRITTEN BY:

Tokyo-based expat and freelance writer, blogger, and artist. Wife to a Parisien. Let’s chat luxury, food, and travel. Can speak 日本語(ish) and français(beginner) Twitter: @fleurdelilah Instagram: @fleurdelilah

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