Japan’s Hipster Art Island– NAOSHIMA
General Information About Naoshima
If you ever visit western Japan, Naoshima is a must-see cultural art island filled with modern and contemporary art, situated in quaint Japanese history and tradition.
Located in the Setonai-Sea, which connects Honshu (mainland Japan) with Shikoku island, Naoshima is a port city historically known for fishing and salt production.
Naoshima is said to have derived its name from the honesty of the people. “Nao” stands for honesty, and “Shima” means island. Although “Naoshima” (Nao-island) makes it sound like there is only one island, to the contrary it is comprised of 27 distinct islands that float in the Setonai-Sea.
Once known for its heavy industry, today Naoshima is being reborn as an eco-friendly, artsy town that will lead Japan and the world in the 21st Century.
Naoshima Benesse Art Collection
Don’t miss the fantastic art that the Benesse Corporation has installed over several decades to beautify Naoshima. Throughout the island, you will encounter eye-catching sculpture and installation art by world renown artists, such as Kusama Yayoi.
Art situated next to the ocean, which is unusual, is bound to excite your visual and artistic senses. What better time can be spent than enjoying both the beautiful Setonai-Sea AND art? Talk about having the cake, and eating it, too!
A sculptural artwork by Yayoi Kusama, located right next to the white sand beach.
Art is not only located outdoors, but also indoors, just in case direct sunlight is tiring you out! The artwork inside is just as phenomenal. One such indoor art collection can be found at the Naoshima Benesse House Museum.
Is it said that because Benesse could not fit all of the art it was accumulating over the years, it gradually decided to take the art outdoors and make the entire island its art museum! (now THAT’s a lot of art!)
Although edgy and modern, the Benesse Art Museum is careful not to destroy the ambience and tradition that Naoshima originally retains.
All of its architecture and artwork is calculated to fit right in with Naoshima’s great nature and old architecture, as not to destroy what Naoshima already has to offer to its visitors.
The combination is a uniquely modern-yet-traditional experience, only attainable in a place such as Naoshima– rich in protecting tradition yet having an outward look to change and future.
An example of how modern architecture collaborates with rich nature.
Tired of viewing art after art? No problem! Just rest inside the museum and enjoy some cafe with some delicious sweets. Recharge, then continue on with your adventure!
Curious about the local religion or religious architecture?
The Go’o Shrine, which has been in existence since the Edo Period, has been renovated by contemporary architect Hiroshi Sugimoto. Basing the design on traditional Shinto architecture and combining it with his own artistic values, Sugimoto transformed the Go’o Shrine into a must-see modern religious architecture that will continue to coexist with the people of Naoshima.
Looking for spunky architecture instead?
The “Haisha,” which means “Dentist” in Japanese, was once a real dentist’s office. It has been transformed into an artwork/art home by artist Shinro Ootake. Some parts of the building is sculpture, and others are paintings and murals.
Kadoya is another architecture reformed and transformed into contemporary art by artist Tatsuo Miyajima. Once used as a home 200 years ago, today Kadoya offers beautiful installations within that is difficult to discern from just looking at the exterior.
As they say, “Never judge a book by its cover!” Kadoya is sure to blow away your expectations and imagination!
One of the most famous Japanese architects, Tadao Ando has also renovated an approximately 100-year-old wooden house into a contemporary art museum.
The Ando Museum offers fresh art that people today can appreciate, situated inside Naoshima history and a glimpse into the past of how people used to live in Japan.
Another architecture by Tadao Ando is “Minami Dera” which is home to an artwork titled “Backside of the Moon” by US artist James Turrell.
Terrell captured the atmosphere of the old Minami Shrine and uses symbols and techniques that emphasize how this once lively shrine coexisted with the people and served as a place of gathering and communication for the locals.
So, why should you visit NAOSHIMA?
The answer is simple– to enjoy art, tradition, and beautiful nature…
There are also other places that this blogpost did not cover that are must-sees, but we don’t want to overwhelm you with all that Naoshima has to offer.
Grab your ticket and suitcase, and head out to this island town– it is guaranteed to relax your mind as well as sparking new inspiration and leading to a new discovery of Japan!
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