Naoshima is one of 7,000 islands located in the Seto Inland Sea. It is a small island that has only about 7.8 km2 of land, but it is a very famous island, attracting a lot of tourists because it is regarded as an art island. You can enter this unique island from both sides of the sea, from either Uno Port in Okayama Prefecture, or from Takamatsu Port in Kagawa Prefecture. The island belongs to Kagawa Prefecture.
History of the Island
In the early 20th century, Mitsubishi Corporation built a copper refinery on the island. At that time, copper refineries generated a lot of sulfurous acid gas which kills trees and contaminates water, so they weren’t allowed to build new factories in the mainland anymore. Naoshima at that time had financial problems, so they accepted the refinery.
Many trees had died on the island, but because of the movement against pollution Mitsubishi tried to reduce the harmful gas and the town planted new trees.
In 1987, Soichiro Fukutake, the owner of Benesse Corporation bought land on the island and started the ‘Naoshima Cultural Village Project’ with the help of Tadao Ando, a famous architect, and Naoshima Town. It is since then that the island has recovered. Now, if you visit Naoshima it is hard to believe that the island was once heavily damaged by environmental pollution.
Benesse Museum and Benesse House
Benesse House Fukutake built the Benesse Museum in 1992, which is the core facility of the project. It is a contemporary art museum with 10 guest rooms. Then, he added three hotels around the museum, Oval, Beach, and Park. These hotels are really artistic and you will feel like you are staying in a museum. The area is like a park, and many sculptures are installed in it. Famous work ‘Pumpkin’ by Yayoi Kusama can be seen on the quay.
In 2005, Fukutake built the Chichu Museum. Chichu literally means ‘in the ground’. The main part of the museum building was built under the ground so that the building doesn’t ruin the beautiful scenery of the island. It has become one of the representing works of Tadao Ando. The museum is like a maze, and there are several art rooms by three artists. One room exhibits 5 water-lily paintings of Claude Monet. Walter De Maria created a space defined by a specific measurement, a 2.2-meter diameter sphere, and 27 wooden sculptures applied with gold leaf. The works of James Turrell present light itself as art. Arranging the intended viewing experience involved tailoring these rooms to Turrell’s own specifications.
Lee Ufan Museum
In 2010, the Lee Ufan Museum opened. Lee is a Korean sculptor, and he wanted to make this museum like a cave. The museum was constructed by a collaboration of Lee and Tadao Ando.
Art House Project
Art House Project is a project that started in 1997 in the old village of Honmura. Here, they use old folk houses as exhibition rooms, and there are 6 sites scattered all around the village. So you can enjoy walking in the old town while you enjoy the art project. The artists who participated in the project are James Turrell, Tatsuo Miyajima, Hiroshi Senju, and so on. If you buy the Art House Project Multi-Site Ticket, you can visit all 6 sites.
Access to Naoshima: 20 minutes by ferry from Uno Port in Okayama Prefecture.
50 minutes by ferry from Takamatsu in Kagawa Prefecture. Then there is a local bus to visit museums and the Art House Project.