Naoshima, Japan – Benesse Art Museum with Children

An afternoon at Benesse Art Site

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naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale burger bar

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.

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale hamburger

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 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

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 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

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.

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

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.

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

I think the boys were bit disappointed with more queues, whereas I was happy to just enjoy the architecture.  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

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?

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale benesse oval house

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale benesse house sunset

The terrace off the restaurant offered us a stunning view of the setting sun over the Seto Inland Sea.

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale pier

naoshima honmoura setouchi tirennale benesse house reataurant

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

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.

I highly recommend visiting Naoshima and Teshima. Both islands are a fun way to see and explore modern 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.

Teshima, Japan – An Art Lover’s Dream Island

Cycling around Teshima to visit art sites on the island.

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teshima ferry seto inland sea

Teshima ieure port seto inland sea setouchi triennale

An early start was on the agenda today as we had planned to go by ferry to Teshima, one of the islands close to Naoshima and part of the Setouchi Triennale 2016. An art festival set on 12 different islands in the Seto Inland Sea. The first boat was to leave Honmoura port at 8.05. Twenty minutes later we arrived at Ieura port on Teshima.

teshima ieura overgrown house architecture

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale staircase

To get around the island and to see the different art works we had to rent bikes. We were not allowed to take ours on board due to the small size of the boat. We found a bike rental not far from the port and hired electric bikes, as we wanted to be back at 13:00 for the boat back to Naoshima to visit the Benesse art sites. Teshima seemed even more remote than Naoshima and there were plenty of abandoned buildings. Trying to get people to visit these remote islands was one of the reasons behind setting up the art festival. Many of the younger population on Teshima had left over the years, as they did not seem to have a future here and moved away to the bigger cities.

teshima ieura corner shop convinience store

teshime ieura cat cafe

Our first stop was Il Vento, a crazy house/restaurant, camouflaged by patterns, stripes and dots, inside and out, by German artist Tobias Rehberger. We felt slightly dizzy after walking through it and could not imagine sitting there to enjoy a coffee or even food as it was also intended to be a restaurant.

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale il vento tobias rehberger

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale il vento stairs

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale il vento tobias rehberger

We cycled on to Teshima Yokoo House, by Tadanori Yokoo, which was turned into an art installation with a colourful Zen garden. Jerome really liked this house as it had a glass floor inside and we could see the water flowing underneath into the garden.

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale yokoo house

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale garden

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale house entrance

Before moving on to the next artwork we stopped at a Café for a coffee and some of the delicious, straight out of the oven, cheese rolls. We were very conscious of the time and decided to move on faster than we would have normally done.

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale bakery

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale cafe nomado

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale cacti

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale local farmer

The Needle Factory by Shinro Ohtake was the last artwork here in Ieura port for us to see. The artist, together with the local people had placed an unused wooden hull from a shipyard in Uwajima. The idea behind it was to make people aware of the history of Teshima. The needle factory used to be a big employer for the local woman, but had closed decades earlier to due the fading demand. Today most locals live off fishing and the rice they produce.

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale shinro otake

We cycled on, leaving the village behind, up a curving road, we were glad we had hired electric bikes, to Tom Na H-iu, a sculpture by Mariko Mori. The sculpture was set in the middle of a pond inside a thick bamboo grove. The sculpture is connected to a computer of the Kamioka Observatory and glows every time a supernova explosion is detected. Needless to say we were not lucky enough for it to happen. Jerome said afterwards that this was his favourite artwork of all.

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale Mariko Mori

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale cyclin

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale rice fields

Further up the hill, past lush green rice fields, backed by the blue Inland sea we reached the village of Karatooka. Dotted though the village were several art works and restaurants. I would have loved to stop at Shima kitchen, to sit on the wooden boards in the shade and enjoy a lazy lunch.

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale karato oka restaurant

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale karato oka village architecture

teshima ieura setouchi triennale yellow telephone

From now on it was down the hill, the warm breeze barely cooling us, to Teshima Art Museum. We assumed we would be able to get tickets straight away but were proven wrong. The next available time slot to enter the museum was an hour later. We were not aware that our Triennale ticket did not grant us instant access to all the art sights; also we had to pay an additional entrance fee on top.

teshima ieura setouchi triennale  road

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale dragon flies

We decided that an hour would give us enough time to ride all the way down to Karatohama to visit Les Archives du Coeur, an installation where we listened to recorded heart beats of people from all over the world. If you wanted to you could have your heartbeat recorded and added to the collection against a fee of 1,540 Yen. The archive was housed in a hut on a deserted beach with hundreds of dragonflies buzzing around us.

teshima ieura setouchi tirennale karato hama anchors

teshima ieura setouchi triennale llobet pons

teshima ieura setouchi triennale lighthouses

The cycle back to the Teshima Art Museum would have been muscle tearing if we had not had the electric bikes. We entered the museum along the path winding through the forest to the entrance of the dome like white washed structure that peeked out between the green terraced rice fields. We took off our shoes and entered the building. Inside we found a peaceful, tranquil space with a huge round hole in the ceiling that is open to the elements of nature. We sat down and noticed some water drops running down the floor. In fact water slowly drips and seeps onto the floor through small ping-pong sized balls and tiny holes in the concrete floor. I wish we could have stayed here for longer but we had to rush back to Ieura to get our ferry back to Naoshima. We had expected there to be more in the museum than “just” the building, especially after paying the extra entrance fee.

teshima ieura setouchi triennale teshima art museum

teshima ieura setouchi triennale teshima art museum inside

teshima ieura setouchi triennale bakery sign

teshima ieura setouchi triennale coffee vending machine

teshima ieura setouchi triennale seafood cracker

Teshima was a gem of an island and I know now that I would plan in an overnight stay to have more time exploring and seeing the other side of the island.

Naoshima, Japan – An Island Dedicated To Art

The first day on Naoshima, an art island in Japan.

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An island dedicated to contemporary art? Yes it does exist, in Japan, and we were going to spend the next two days there.

Naoshima is a small island in the Seto Inland Sea not far from Okayama. It has been a popular destination for art lovers from all over Japan and the world since 1992 when the publishing firm Benesse opened the Naoshima Arts Centre. The firm had asked Tadao Ando, a self taught architect from Osaka, to design a building to house this international art exhibition centre on the southern side of Naoshima island. This was not the only reason I had booked two nights in the small Minshuku Aisunao in Honmura on the island. This year Naoshima was also part of the Setouchi Triennale 2016, an international art festival that included 12 islands in total. The art festival was first held in 2010 and then every three years. The aim of all these projects was to bring back vitality to these islands that have long suffered from both an aging population and declining younger presence over the past few years.

naoshima japan car ferry terminal uno port

uno port japan setouchi triennale art festival

To get to our Minshuku we drove to Uno port where we boarded yet another ferry to sail to Minoura port on Naoshima. I had booked tickets for the Triennale online before leaving for Japan and these needed to be collected at the information cubicle next to the ferry terminal, which is a good place to pick up leaflets and maps of all the islands and art installations.

naoshima ferry uno port

naoshima japan ferry granny scooter

The journey to the island took about 20 minutes and the ferry was surprisingly busy. After we docked in Minoura we parked our car and started exploring some of the art and exhibitions in town.

naoshima japan ferry lamps design

naoshima ferry chair table design

naoshima japan ferry blind passenger cat

naoshima japan ferry port arrival

naoshima japan ferry port yayoi kusama pumpkin

First was the James Bond museum, a room dedicated to the James Bond novel “The Man With The Red Tattoo” by Robert Benson. This follow up novel to the original series is partly set on Naoshima and locals are still hoping that one day there will be a movie adaptation. The museum was very small, really only one room with the history of all the James Bond movies ever made and some art installation, interesting to see, especially if you are into films and James Bond especially.

naoshima japan restaurant architecture

naoshima japan miyanoura street architecture

naoshima japan miyanoura playground rides

naoshima japan miyanoura police statin wanted

We then strolled on through the streets of Miyanoura port, which is easily walk able, past cafes, residential houses mixed with art installations.

naoshima japan miyanoura washing line

naoshima japan miyanoura minshuku entrance

A must visit is the “I♥︎湯” public sento, here Artist Shiro Ohtake created a modern take on the traditional Japanese public bathhouse together with Naoshima Tourism Association. The bathhouse is meant to be a place for locals and visitors to mix and rejuvenate. When seeing the crazy colourful exterior of the building at first sight, you can already imagine what it might be like inside.

naoshima japan miyanoura onsen

naoshima japan miyanoura setouchi triennale art everywhere

Men and women are segregated, as it is the norm in most public bathhouses, plus in the shared bathrooms in hotels and Ryokans. Therefore Jerome went with Chris and I had to go on my own. As is the tradition, first I put my clothes into one of the lockers provided and then thoroughly cleaned myself with the showers along one side of the wall – in Japan, never get straight into the bath without cleaning yourself, and never get any shampoo or soap near the bath water either – oh and make sure you are naked too! I recommend bringing your own shower gel and shampoo, as this will not normally be provided by the bathhouse although it would be in a hotel.

After a thorough clean, I stepped into the hot water of the bathtub with the other bathers. I was the only gaijin but that did not matter as I enjoyed relaxing while enjoying the art surrounding us.

On the wall dividing men/women was a giant elephant and to the back a winter garden with cacti and other plants, plus a mosaic of tiles. There were lots of woman with their children in the bath – Jerome has always loved going to an onsen since he was little.

After a while I could feel the heat getting to my head and I showered of with cold water, got dressed and sat outside the colourful building waiting for the boys to come out.

naoshima japan miyanoura onsen entrance

naoshima japan miyanoura onsen vending machine

After our refreshing bath, we then walked towards the harbour front to see the Naoshima pavilion by Sou Fujimoto. This sculpture consists of a white metal cage that can be entered at the front. We all climbed in and enjoyed the view and light through the mesh.

naoshima japan miyanoura setouchi triennale sculpture

naoshima japan miyanoura setouchi triennale sou fujimoto

naoshima japan miyanoura sou fujimoto sculpture

Our next stop was the “Red Pumpkin” by Yayoi Kusama, also called the “Queen of Polka Dots”, which we had already spotted when we came into Miyanoura port in on the ferry. I have always been a huge fan of her joyful art and Jerome and I had visited her exhibition in London earlier this year and others before. Her art seems to be great for children as it is very colourful and some of her art pieces are interactive. The great thing about the red pumpkin is that we could go inside and look out of the round windows.

naoshima japan miyanoura port yayoi kusama pumpkin

naoshima japan miyanoura ferry yayoi kusama

naoshima japan miyanoura port

naoshima japan miyanoura port yayoi kusama bus

By now it was time to check into our Minshuku in Honmoura port, a short drive over the hill from Miyanoura port. Aisunao, our minshuku, was not accessible by car due to its location on one of the pedestrian side streets, so Chris and Jerome took our luggage, while I went to park the car on a public car park next to Naoshima Hall. Our room at Aisunao was a traditional tatami floored space on the second floor of this small B&B.

naoshima japan naoshima hall architecture

naoshima japan parking lot

naoshima japan honmura port

naoshima japan aisunao minshuku entrance

Around the corner on the harbour front is the tiny Café Konichiwa, our choice for dinner that day. Entering the small cafe it felt like being in someone’s living room. They only served 3 different set menus, however the food was freshly prepared and tasted delicious.

naoshima japan honmura port cafe konichiwa

All in all we had already fallen in love with this sleepy little art island, a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the big cities.