Second day of our trip we visited the Benesse Art Site on Naoshima (直島) – a place that I had been longing to visit. Naoshima as an art site is very much unlike other traditional art exhibiting establishments. Art installations are randomly (or maybe calculated, anyway) placed at different spots on the small island in Setouchi Inland Sea (瀬戸内海). The whole island itself is a museum. Reminder – the art facilities on Naoshima are closed on Mondays.
Sculptures on the way to the ferry pier
More art installations at the ferry pier
From Takamatsu we hopped on a ferry to get to Miyanoura Port at Naoshima, the ferry ride took an hour. Best to check theferry timetable as they run on an infrequent schedule.
The hour’s ride on the ferry was comfortable, there were normal rows of seats on board, and bigger groups could choose seating area with sofa and coffee table. There were TV and wifi. Or the upper deck, which was extremely windy in March – should be fantastic in May.
On our way to Naoshima
Ferry decorated with dots, the signature of Yayoi Kusama
Right next to the ferry terminal at Naoshima was the Red Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama, this sculpture was really popular. Artist wonderfully transforms her hallucinations with dots into art that everyone enjoys. There’s also the Bunraku Puppet by Jose de Guimaraes and the Naoshima Pavilion by Sou Fujimoto, all located near the ferry pier.
Red Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama
Naoshima Pavilion by Sou Fujimoto
Bunraku Puppet by Jose de Guimaraes
Our route was to head towards Ando Museum at Honmura Area, then visit Benesse House Museum (and have lunch there) and Chichu Art Museum. One way of touring around the island would be cycling which we did not opt for (windy and hilly). We took the Town Bus (again, check timetables first).
Ando Museum is like a shrine for the Japanese architect Tadao Ando. The building itself is a small traditional Japanese wooden house, with the interiors redesigned and renovated by Ando. The entrance is not easy to notice, a metal plate closed to the ground telling you “this is the museum”. It’s not a big museum, but it’s a good starting point for the island, as it displays the sketches and models of Ando’s work, including the museums on Naoshima. You get to see how the Naoshima art site and museums are conceptualised and developed.
After Ando Museum and a stroll around the area, we hopped back to the bus for our next stop, Benesse House Museum. The Town Bus terminates at Tsutsuji-so, where visitors will need to take the free shuttle bus from there to the Benesse House Area where Benesse House and Chichu Art Museum are located.
Waiting space for bus and ferry also an art installation
Benesse House Museum houses many interesting pieces of contemporary art, like Jonathan Borofsky’s Three Chattering Men and Yukinori Yanagi’s The World Flag Ant Farm. The building itself, work of Ando, is part of the exhibition. No pictures here as photography is strictly forbidden inside the museum.
We had lunch at the cafe there, sadly the squid ink curry with rice was already sold out, settled for the pasta instead, quite nice… Actually there were quite a few cafes in the Honmura Area but too small for our group, so we chose to eat at the museum cafe.
Next stop – Chichu Art Museum. We missed the shuttle bus from Benesse House Museum so we took a 20-min-downhill-and-uphill-walk there. After reaching the entrance building and paid for entry, the walk to the museum itself took another 5-10 minutes (as they courtesy bus broke down). “Chichu” literally means inside the ground, the museum was mostly underground with a lot of skylight. This museum houses works by Claude Monet, Walter De Maria, and James Turrell, and of course Tadao Ando’s concrete architecture is also a part. James Turrell’s Open Field was fascinating. (again, no pictures, photography not allowed)
Chichu Art Museum (地中美術館)
To catch the last ferry at 5pm from Miyanoura Port for Takamatsu, we had to take the 4pm shuttle bus from Chichu Art Museum and changed to the 4.13pm Town Bus from Tsutsuji-so. We were in a bit of hurry so we missed some of the outdoor art installations, including the famous Pumpkin (the yellow one) by Yayoi Kusama, we caught a glimpse from the shuttle bus though.
Famous Yellow Pumpkin viewed from the shuttle bus
My health app told me that I walked over 16,000 steps on the island. So rest time then dinner near the hotel. We found a bigger izakaya (informal Japanese tapas restaurant) near the shopping street area opposite the hotel.