Naoshima, Japan | Exploring the Benesse Art Museums with Children

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale tadao ando chichu art museum

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Lunch at Maimai

We returned to Honmura port after the morning exploring Teshima. We had time for a quick lunch of delicious fish burgers at MAIMAI, located in the pedestrian street parallel to the Ando museum before heading to Benesse Art Museums.

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale burger bar

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale hamburger

Tadao Ando Museum

Refreshed, we walked over to the Ando museum. His architecture had always fascinated me since studying architecture myself at university. Tadao taught himself architecture and has become one of Japan’s best known architects. For the Ando museum he placed a concrete box inside the traditional wooden Japanese house. One of the main features of his buildings is the use of natural light where possible, to lighten up the interior and to play with the shadows this creates, even here he used the natural light coming from a ceiling window to create this effect.

Inside the Museum

Inside the museum we found many sketches of his buildings and some models. He has designed many of the art building here on Naoshima and the Teshima Art Museum, which we had visited in the morning. Again, here you have to make sure to get a ticket in advance, as waiting times can be long, they limit visitors numbers inside the museum due to its small size.


Not far from the Ando museum is the Minamidera, another building created by Tadao Ando. It houses artwork by James Turrell. Unfortunately we were not able to visit the artwork as it was completely sold out for the day.

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale traditional architecture

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale yayoi kusama bke

Cycling to Benesse Art Site

We then got back onto our bikes and cycled along the coast road to the Benesse Art Site. The Benesse Art Site takes over most of the southern side of Naoshima. We knew we were close when we saw the yellow pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama set on a small pier that leads into the Seto Inland Sea.  We got to the porter gate for the Benesse Art Site, but we had to leave our bikes as only guests staying at one of the hotels on the ground are allowed to bring in their bikes or cars into the park like grounds.

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale yayoi kusama pumkin

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale benesse restaurant

Benesse Beach House

We started to stroll on a path along the waterfront where we passed the Benesse Beach House. I wanted to stay here in one of the rooms overlooking the sea, but when I tried to book all the rooms were gone. We walked on, Jerome started to moan as the road was getting steeper and it was still very hot.

Chichu Art Museum

We reached the corner where the road divides towards Benesse Oval and on to the Chichu Art Museum, our next destination, as we needed to be there before closing. Luckily here we found a bus stop and Jerome sat down and refused to walk any further. We did not have to wait for very long and the free shuttle bus arrived. The buses run every few minutes between the gate where we left our bikes, the main museum and hotel, plus the other exhibition centres.

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale tadao ando chichu art museum

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale chichu art museum

Buying Tickets

We got on and it took us to the Chichu Art Museum Ticket Center. We realised afterwards that it would have taken quite a long time to reach the Centre if we would have walked. We had to queue again for tickets and pay an additional amount on top of our Setouchi Triennale tickets and got a slot 45 minutes later allowing enough time for a welcome drink in the shade.

The Building by Tadao Ando

When our tickets were called we walked up the road, past the Monet inspired garden, to the entrance of the Chichu Art Museum. The building itself, again designed by Tadao Ando, is a piece of art. Once inside the impressive space we were kind of disappointed that there was only few art works to see. The most impressive ones were the water lily paintings by Claude Monet which contrasted with the other more avant garde artists. We had to wait again before we were able to enter each of the rooms to see the artwork.

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale tadao ando architecture

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale tadao ando architecture

Enjoying the Architecture

I think the boys were bit disappointed with more queues, whereas I was happy to just enjoy the architecture of Chichu Art Museum.  Once we reached the exhibits I think Jerome found the art quite thought provoking as he was discussing how the artists had achieved some of their designs.

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale cyclists

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale monet garden

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale garden

Benesse House Museum

After exciting the museum we took the bus shuttle back to the Benesse House museum. You can also stay here; the great advantage would be the 24-hour access to the museum. This felt more like a normal art gallery. There was plenty of artwork to see, we did not like all of it but then who would? An added plus, the terrace off the restaurant offered us a stunning view of the setting sun over the Seto Inland Sea.

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale benesse oval house

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale benesse house sunset

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale pier

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale benesse house reataurant

Drinks at Bennesse Beach House

Descending back down to the beach area we took a seat at one of the tables on the terrace and enjoyed a cool drink while we relaxed with the calming view of the sea and the evening light.

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale yayoi kusma

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale crane

Cycling Back to Honmoura

After a short cycle back to Honmoura we had dinner at瀬戸のおうち setouchi. A small restaurant, run by just one woman, who does all the cooking, and looking after the guests alone. The food was a set menu of different seafood with rice and was really tasty.

Highly Recommended

I highly recommend visiting Naoshima and Teshima and the Benesse Art Museum. Both islands are a fun way to see and explore contemporary art with children. The Setouchi Triennale is held every 3 years; therefore the next one will be on 2019. Plenty of time to plan a trip and if you will not be able to go that year, there is enough of permanent art to see and most likely it would be less busy.

5 thoughts on “Naoshima, Japan | Exploring the Benesse Art Museums with Children

  1. omg! vanessa, so many likes in one go, you made my day :).
    on a serious note, thank you for visiting and following, greatly appreciated.
    coincidentally, i’ll be on a family holiday to japan this dec and your posts on your recent japan holidays is a perfect preamble.
    greetings from kuala lumpur, ken.

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