Last Updated on August 1, 2020 by queenie mak
Have you heard of an art island in Japan called Naoshima? How about the Naoshima Pumpkin? If you into contemporary art or modern architecture, a fan of Yayoi Kusama‘s one-of-a-kind polka dot artwork or Tadao Ando‘s concrete architecture, then you must get off the beaten path and add Naoshima to your Japan itinerary.
Part of Kagawa Prefecture, Naoshima is a small island and home to 3100 residents. Back in the 1980s, Japan wanted to revolutionize the art scene and create a world-class attraction. While contemporary art is blending into the natural landscape of the island, the focus is to create a space as Japan’s cultural and educational centre.
Today, Naoshima is a famous art island in Japan that has an eclectic mix of contemporary artwork from paintings, sculptures, installations and architecture. And it is a destination for all modern art lovers.
And it is easy to get to Naoshima. I’ll show you exactly how to get to Naoshima no matter where you start your journey in Japan and my one-day itinerary touring around the pumpkin island.
What you need to know before visiting Naoshima
Before you plan your own Naoshima itinerary, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Japan. I included a lot of tips on how to get around Japan and other travel tips.
Here are additional travel tips that you may find useful for travelling to Naoshima:
- Before you visit Naoshima, familiarize yourself with this Naoshima map
- Also, check the calendar for closure dates for all the attractions on the island
- There are many bike rentals in Naoshima near Miyanoura Port and an electric bicycle costs ¥1,000 (4 hours).
- Even though biking around is much more fun, walking around the island is possible.
- Save time by booking your advance ticket for Chichu Art Museum and choose 11:00 am time frame because it gives you sufficient time to walk from Miyanoura Port to Chichu Art Museum.
- The last two ferries back to Uno Port are 5:35 pm and 7:02 pm.
- See both Naoshima and Teshima as they are both amazing art islands of Japan
Related Post – Japan one month itinerary: from Tokyo to Hiroshima
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How to get to Naoshima
Naoshima is a small island in the Seto Inland Sea, about 30km south of Okayama in Okayama Prefecture. Whether you are travelling from Osaka to Naoshima from the east or Hiroshima to Naoshima from the west, the efficient train system will get you there in less than an hour.
But first, you have to get to Okayama City. Check Hyperdia for schedules and fares. Here are the sample routes:
Travelling from east: Osaka to Okayama
- JR Shinkansen: from Shin-Osaka Station to Okayama Station
- Time: 49 minutes
- Cost: from ¥6,140 (covered by JR Pass except for Nozomi and Mizuho trains)
Travelling from west: Hiroshima to Okayama
- JR Shinkansen: from Hiroshima Station to Okayama Station
- Time: 40 minutes
- Cost: from ¥6,140 (covered by JR Pass except for Nozomi and Mizuho trains)
From Okayama to Naoshima
Once you arrive in Okayama, take a local train from Okayama to Uno. Then walk five minutes from Uno Station to Uno Ferry Port to catch a Naoshima ferry.
Train: Okayama to Uno
- JR Uno Line: from Okayama Station to Uno Station
- Time: 58 minutes (may need to change trains at Chayamachi Station which is across the platform)
- Cost: ¥590 (covered by JR Pass)
Ferry: Uno to Naoshima
- Walk five minutes from Uno Station to Uno Ferry Port
- Catch the next Naoshima ferry or passenger boat from Uno Ferry Terminal to Miyanoura Port in Naoshima
- Time: 20 minutes (about every hour)
- Cost: ¥300
- Check Naoshima ferry schedule here
How to get around Naoshima
Walking is absolutely doable for the one-day itinerary. But there’s a bit of walking. From Miyanoura Port to Chichu Art Museum is about 20 to 30 minutes depends on how fast you walk. From Benesse House to Honmura Port is about 30 to 40 minutes and from Honmura Port back to Miyanoura Port is at least 30 minutes.
You can also do a combination of walking and bus. There is a paid bus route from Miyanoura Port to Tsutsuji-so (Museum Area). Each bus ride cost ¥100.
There is also a free shuttle bus. From Tsutsuji-so, you can catch a free Museum shuttle bus that will take you to Benesse House Museum, Lee Ufan Museum and Chichu Art Museum. Check the schedule for both buses here.
If you do not want to walk long distances or take public transportation, rent a bicycle. A regular bike costs ¥300 and an electric bicycle costs ¥1000.
There are car rentals as well but it isn’t necessary to rent a vehicle when there are so many other great options to tour the island.
Where to stay in Naoshima and Uno
Naoshima accommodation is budget-friendly, but they are pretty basic in my opinion. Choose either hostels or guesthouses. They are cheap and cheerful but nothing fancy.
I wasn’t able to find a place I really wanted to stay, so I opted to stay in Uno, which was perfect because I was also visiting Teshima Island as well.
Here are some suggested accommodation in Naoshima and Uno:
- Shimayado Aisunao ($) – get a semi-western style room for one if you want to stay on the island. Near Ando Museum in Honmura Port on Naoshima island.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Hym Hostel ($$) – a spacious renovated room in a retro warehouse in Uno, close to both Uno Station and Uno Ferry Port. The room comes with a comfortable bed, table and chairs, and also a kitchenette.
- Francoile ($$) – The bed and breakfast on Naoshima island has only two rooms. Located at Honmura Port, each room comes with twin beds in a modern and clean interior. There’s a cafe downstairs.
- Check prices & reviews: website
- Benesse Hotel ($$$) – the hotel is set on the hillside as a separate building from the Benesse House Museum. Designed by Tadao Ando, you can book a one-of-a-kind room on Naoshima. One of the best Naoshima hotels but it is not cheap! Also, book in advance as there are not that many rooms.
- Check prices & reviews: website
Related Post – How to save money by booking Airbnb accommodation
Where to eat in Naoshima and Uno
There are excellent food options in both Naoshima and Uno. Since I planned the day to bike around the island, I stocked up on some snacks like onigiri (Japanese rice ball) and sandwiches from 7-Eleven. You might want to do the same because restaurants can only be found around Miyanoura Port, Honmoura Port and inside the museums.
Below are some budget and mid-range food and coffee shop suggestions.
- Osaka-ya Shokudo ($) – located near Uno Station, the homey restaurant serves grilled fish set with rice, miso soup and side dishes for about ¥600.
- Omachido ($) – just minutes away from Uno Ferry Port, you can try a shaved-ice dessert with your favourite fruit.
- Little Plum ($) – a popular choice in Miyanoura Port that serves delicious food and great cocktails.
- Chichu Cafe ($$) – located inside the Chichu Art Museum, you can enjoy a coffee or lunch with a magnificent view of Seto Inland Sea.
- Bollard Coffee ($) – under Hym Hostel in Uno, the coffee shop serves a great espresso.
- Francoile Cafe ($) – grab a caffeine break at the bed and breakfast cafe in Honmura Port in Naoshima.
- 7-Eleven ($) – there is one by Uno Port train station and one in Miyanoura Port in Naoshima.
- Supermarket ($) – the one right by Hym Hostel that has a great selection of prepared food.
Naoshima one day Itinerary
You can spend a full day on Naoshima Island and see everything at a leisurely pace. Once, you arrive at Miyanoura Port, follow the path and walk anti-clockwise around the island. Follow the numbers on my interactive map and see the best contemporary art on Naoshima Island.
But before you plan your trip to Naoshima, check the calendar for closure dates. It would be a shame if you arrive at the art island and everything is closed.
1. Red Pumpkin
There is a giant red polka dot pumpkin welcoming you as your ferry pulls into Miyanoura Port. It is Yayoi Kusama‘s Red Pumpkin. You can see it from the ferry as you approach Naoshima. Get close to the pumpkin – you can even go inside!
2. Chichu Art Museum
If you are a fan of Tadao Ando, then you must visit the Chichu Art Museum. The geometric concrete building exemplifies Tadao Ando’s signature design where simplicity and spatial relationship are both emphasized. With the use of concrete, metal, glass and wood, each material juxtaposed each other most interestingly. The architecture is immersed into the ground in the surrounding garden because he didn’t want to have an exterior design for the museum.
Within the museum, artwork and installations by Claude Monet, James Turrell and Walter De Maria are tastefully placed in different parts of the museum, complementing the space Ando designed. You can see five paintings from Monet’s Water Lilies series, an art installation by Walter De Maria and an interactive area called “Open Sky” created by James Turrell. The museum is a must-see as it is one of the best contemporary art museums in Naoshima!
I wish I had more photos of the Chichu Art Museum but visitors are not allowed to take photos inside. But take my word for it, these are some of the best installations I’ve seen.
And do yourself a favour by booking your ticket online to avoid the long queue. Simply choose the date and time and pay for your ticket. I picked 11:00 am and I had enough time to walk from Miyanoura Port to the museum.
On the day of your visit, show the barcode ticket from your email at the ticket centre. The entrance fee is ¥2,060.
3. Lee Ufan Museum
Opened in 2010, Lee Ufan Museum combines Tadao Ando‘s architecture and Lee Ufan‘s contemporary artwork. For ¥1,030, you can see large installations of stone, concrete and iron by the Korean contemporary artist in both inside and outside of the museum. There are installations on the outside of the museum and close to the beach as well.
4. Benesse House Museum
Designed by Tadao Ando, the museum-hotel is set on a hilltop because he wanted to make the most of the landscape.
For ¥1,030, you can see the permanent collection that is placed on several floors of the open-spaced building. My favourite is Kan Yasuda’s “The Secret of the Sky.” An installation of large white marble with soft curves. But the idea is about connecting with space and the open roof with a view of the sky.
And if you decide to stay overnight, it is possible to stay in one of the rooms in Benesse Hotel also designed by Tadao Ando. Check availability directly on the museum’s website.
5. Yellow Pumpkin
Also known as Naoshima Pumpkin, Yayoi Kusama‘s Yellow Pumpkin is all over Instagram! She is famous for her polka dot motif, and this is her first outdoor sculpture. The Yellow Pumpkin was one of my main inspirations for my solo trip to Japan.
The Naoshima Pumpkin is also a part of the Benesse House Museum ground which includes other open-air works scattered along the perimeter of the building and the beach.
6. Ando Museum
It is only appropriate to have Ando Museum on Naoshima island! He was involved in designing many buildings in the last 25 years in Naoshima including Chichu Art Museum, Benesse House Museum, Lee Ufan Museum and Ando Museum.
In the Honmura area in Naoshima, there are many houses over 100 years old, and he selected one of them for Ando Museum. While preserving the architectural integrity of the old wood house, he continued to use contemporary materials like concrete to create an inviting space. He used old and new, contrasting elements while incorporating lighting into the design. The contrast of light and dark is the quintessential Ando design.
For an entrance fee of ¥1,030, you can see all of Ando’s ideation sketches, drawings and notes for all of the projects mentioned.
7. Art House Project
Artists used six empty houses in Honmura Port and turned them into art exhibits for the Art House Project in Naoshima. It feels a bit like a scavenger hunt as you search for all of the houses scattered in the neighbourhood. Pay a fee of ¥410 to view one house or ¥1,030 to see all six houses. Tickets can be purchased at Honmura Lounge and other locations.
8. Miyanoura Gallery 6
Opened in 2013, Miyounoura Gallery 6 is set in an old pachinko parlour. where Naoshima residents loved. But today, it is a small gallery space with exhibits that features the culture and history of the Setouchi region.
The gallery is designed with the neighbouring park by architect Taira Nishizawa.
9. Naoshima Bath (I Heart Yu)
The eclectic exterior matches the quirky interior of this bathhouse. Designed by Shinro Ohtake, Naoshima Bath (I Heart Yu) is a functioning bathhouse where residents and visitors can use the bathhouse facilities.
There are a few public viewing dates (although quite selective but still possible) to just view the bathhouse without using the facilities. Check website for exact dates.
If you want to use the bathhouse, make sure you set aside enough time in your itinerary.
Excursion from Naoshima (and Uno)
Teshima is another fantastic art island full of contemporary artwork in the Seto Inland Sea. Spend the day on an electric bicycle and visit Teshima Yokoo House, La Forêt des Murmures, and most of all, you have to see the installation at Teshima Art Museum. It has to be one of the best installations I’ve seen anywhere in the world!
There are ferries from Naoshima to Teshima. However, the ferry schedule is quite limited. I would suggest using Uno has a home base and visit both Naoshima and Teshima. Check the ferry schedule for ferries and plan ahead.
Also, check the calendar before you plan your trip to Teshima. If the museums are closed on a public holiday, the ferry will not operate. To ensure a smooth journey, take a look at the calendar and plan ahead.
Are you including Naoshima to your itinerary?
I hope you enjoyed my Naoshima one-day itinerary and found the information useful. I had a blast visiting Naoshima! It is definitely one of the highlights of my Japan trip!
FYI, similar to Teshima, Naoshima is also part of the Setouchi Triennale where many islands in the Seto Inland Sea participate in a contemporary art event that happens every three years. The next one is in 2022.