Last Updated on November 27, 2020 by queenie mak
Teshima Island in Japan is the second-largest island in the Seto Inland Sea and is full of contemporary art and architecture. Part of Kawaga Prefecture, toxic waste was illegally dumped on the island for many years, but it has since been cleaned up and transformed into an art destination.
Today, Teshima Island has a population of 1,000 people, home to the thriving fishing industry and beautiful natural landscape. Moreover, Teshima is 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.
Not many people have been to or heard of Teshima Island. I learned about the famous Japan art island from travel magazines and blogs many moons ago. I saw an image of a unique concrete art installation at Teshima Art Museum and knew I would visit it someday. Definitely one of the highlights of my solo trip to Japan!
So if you want to get off the beaten path in Japan and experience art in the most transcending way, then you must visit Teshima, Japan.
What you need to know before visiting Teshima
Before you visit Teshima Island, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Japan. I included a lot of information including how to get around Japan and other travel tips.
Here are additional travel tips that you may find useful for travelling to Teshima:
- Before you visit Teshima, familiarize yourself with this Teshima map
- Stay overnight in Uno or Naoshima as Teshima does not have a good budget accommodation
- See both Naoshima and Teshima as they are both fantastic art islands of Japan.
- The best way to see Teshima Island and all the museums is by riding an electric bicycle
- English signs are everywhere – you will not get lost!
- There aren’t a lot of food options on the island. Buy lunch at 7-Eleven near Uno train station before getting on the ferry
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How to get to Teshima
Teshima is a small island in the Seto Inland Sea, right next to Naoshima.
First, you have to get to Okayama. If you are taking the train to Okayama, you could be coming from Osaka from the east or Hiroshima from the west. Check Hyperdia for schedules and fares. Here are the sample routes:
Travelling from east: Osaka to Okayama
- Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen: from Shin-Osaka Station to Okayama Station
- Time: 45 minutes
- Cost: from ¥5,940 (covered by JR Pass except for Nozomi and Mizuho trains)
Travelling from west: Hiroshima to Okayama
- Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen: from Hiroshima Station to Okayama Station
- Time: 40 minutes
- Cost: from ¥5,940 (covered by JR Pass except for Nozomi and Mizuho trains)
For Okayama to Teshima, take a train to Uno and then ferry to Teshima.
From Okayama to Uno
- JR Uno Line: from Okayama Station to Uno Station
- You may need to change trains at Chayamachi Station (across the platform) depends on which train you are taking
- Time: 50 minutes
- Cost: ¥590 (covered by JR Pass)
From Uno to Teshima
- Walk five minutes from Uno Station to Uno Ferry Port
- Catch a ferry or passenger boat to Teshima Ieura Port (ferries go to both Ieura Port and Karato Port in Teshima, but most visitors will arrive in Ieura Port)
- Time: 25 to 40 minutes
- Cost: ¥770
- Check for Teshima ferry timetable here
How to get around Teshima
Even though the island is small, the distances between the galleries and museums are quite far. Some people would walk it (I saw people walking around), but I think that is somewhat difficult (even for someone who is an avid walker!). Or you can walk and incorporate the bus option where you pay ¥200 each ride (check bus schedule here).
But to make the most of your time on the island, your best option is to rent an electric bicycle. An electric bike will cost ¥1,000 for four hours (¥100 for an additional hour after that). You can rent one as soon as you disembark from the ferry. The electric part of the bike does a lot of work! The bike picks up speed quite quickly, especially while going uphill. If you have never ride an electric bike before, rent one in Teshima!
Related Post – Best activities for solo travellers
Where to stay in Teshima
Teshima accommodation is quite costly and far and few in between. My advice is to either stay in Uno Port where you can get great accommodation and lots of food options nearby. Or stay in Naoshima (near Miyanoura Port or Honmura Port) because you won’t have to go very far to find your accommodation after your ferry ride from Teshima.
Below are suggestions for budget and mid-range accommodations in Uno Port and Naoshima.
- Hym Hostel ($$) – a spacious renovated room in a retro warehouse in Uno, close to both Uno Station and Uno Ferry Port. The room comes with a comfortable bed, table and chairs, and a kitchenette.
- Check prices and reviews: Airbnb
- Shimayado Aisunao ($) – get a semi-western style room for one near Honmura Port in Naoshima island.
- Check prices and reviews: Agoda
- Francoile ($$) – located near Honmura Port, the bed and breakfast on Naoshima island has only two rooms. Each room comes with twin beds in a modern and clean interior.
- Check prices and reviews: website
Where to eat in Teshima
There are only a handful of food options in Teshima and they are all located near the art attractions. Otherwise, stock up on some snacks at 7-Eleven in Uno before going to Teshima.
Below are some budget and mid-range restaurants and coffee shop suggestions. I also included food recommendations in Uno. You can find more information about each location in the attached google map by clicking on the individual pin (see interactive map below).
- Osaka-ya Shokudo ($) – located near Uno Station, the homey restaurant serves a delicious meal including grilled fish with rice, miso soup and side dishes for about ¥600.
- Omachido ($) – just minutes away from Uno Ferry Port, try one of their shaved-ice desserts. Pick any seasonal fruits to your dessert. It will be one of the best things you’ve ever tried!
- Teshima No Mado ($) – right next to Teshima Yokoo House, you can find simple meals and coffee in the restaurant full of retro furniture and design.
- Shima Kitchen ($$) – serving Japanese food made with local Setouchi ingredients in a traditional Japanese house. The house itself was an old folk house but is now renovated into a restaurant with beautiful wooden verandas. Designed by architect Ryo Abe and menu curated by a chef from the Marunouchi Hotel in Tokyo.
- Bollard Coffee ($) – under Hym Hostel in Uno, try one of their caffeinated beverage.
- Teshima Art Museum Cafe ($$) – grab a coffee and snack at the ultra-modern cafe right next to the museum shop.
- 7-Eleven ($) – there is one by Uno train station.
- Supermarket ($) – the one right by Hym Hostel that has a great selection of prepared food.
Teshima Island: how to see the art island in 1 day
When you plan your visit to Teshima, make sure to check the calendar to see which exhibits are open in Teshima. The ferry schedule will run according to the museum schedule.
Take the 11:10 am ferry to Teshima Ieura Port and return to Uno Ferry Port via passenger ferry at 4:25 pm. Once you are there, rent an electric bike for ¥1,000 (for four hours). That should be sufficient time to see all the Teshima attractions.
Bike clockwise around the island by following the main road. Here are the places you will see:
- Teshima Art Museum
- Les Archives du Coeur
- La Forêt des Murmures
- Teshima 8 Million Lab
- Needle Factory
- Teshima Yokoo House
1. Teshima Art Museum
Created by artist Rei Naito and architect Ryue Nishizawa, Teshima Art Museum is built on Mount Myojin where the concrete installation is open to the air and nature. The entire structure resembles a water droplet as it hits a surface. Inside the thin concrete structure, water continually infuses from the ground creating movement as the water pools together.
Absolutely one of the best installations I have seen and I have seen many. I remember seeing images of this couple of years ago and wondered if I will ever see it in person. The experience of being in the space was transcending and one of the most spiritual feelings I have ever experienced. Completely worth the entrance fee of ¥1,540.
While photographs are not allowed within the space, there are a few great vantage points in the rice fields where you can take some fantastic photos.
2. Les Archives du Coeur
For an entrance fee of ¥510, you will experience an unusual and exciting gallery that features the human heartbeat. Created by Christian Boltanski, the Les Archives du Coeur focuses on the heartbeats of people.
In the Listening Room, you can search and hear the heartbeat of an individual from the database.
In the Heart Room, you enter into a dark space and hear the heartbeat loudly along with a light simulating the sound. And if you want to participate, you can record your own heartbeat and include it in the exhibition as well.
3. La Forêt des Murmures
Bike up Mount Danyama and see the 400 wind chimes hanging off the branches of the trees in La Forêt des Murmures. The sound of the wind chimes conjures emotions and is used as a reminder about life and the passage of time.
Also, you can even engrave the name of beloved ones for a fee, in which the name will be engraved in your own handwriting and hung in the forest at a later time.
The cost to see the installation is free.
4. Needle Factory
In the Needle Factory, see the 17-meter long wooden hull form that is used in making fishing boats in an abandoned sewing needle factory. The hull form was manufactured over 30 years ago but was never used for its intended purpose.
The artist, Shinro Ohtake, focused on the theme of “restoration of the sea.” By bringing an abandoned wooden hull form from a shipyard in Uwajima to Teshima, the idea is to remember how people and culture are so closely connected to the sea and how the sea provides life and abundance in our lives.
Admission is ¥510.
5. Teshima 8 Million Lab
“Yaoyarozu” means 8 million in Japanese. The word is used to describe how god is in almost everything from animals, plants, etc.
In the small gallery space of Teshima 8 Million Lab, you can see art installations by Sputniko!, in which the artists created other reiterations of “yaoyarozu” as we are a nation continuing to evolve from science.
Admission is ¥510.
6. Teshima Yokoo House
Teshima Yokoo House is a unique art gallery and a joint venture for artist Tadanori Yokoo and architect Yuko Nagayama. In the residential house, they used colours creatively and artwork to enhance the space in the museum.
In the main house, eleven vibrant artworks are displayed effectively throughout the space while the pond continues from inside of the house to the stone garden. Red-tinted glasses are placed strategically to enhance the space as well.
My favourite was the outhouse which is a silo with small patterned tiles, mirrored floor and ceiling. It was a weird feeling standing on the reflective surface where it creates an illusion of the wall continuing further than it should.
Admission is ¥510.
Related Post – How to spend one month in Japan from Tokyo to Hiroshima
Day trips from Teshima
Fun day trips from Teshima is possible because of various ferry routes in the Seto Inland Sea. Naoshima and Inujima are both great options if you want to experience art and culture on other islands in the Seto Inland Sea.
Assuming you love contemporary art and architecture (which is a big reason why you are visiting Teshima), that means you cannot miss Naoshima.
Just west of Teshima, Naoshima is another small island full of contemporary museums, galleries and art installations. Spend your day visiting Chichu Art Museum, Benesse House Museum, Ando Museum and take photos of Yayoi Kusama’s Yellow Pumpkin or also known as the Naoshima Pumpkin.
Going from Teshima to Naoshima is very easy. Scheduled ferries run between Teshima Ieura Port and Naoshima Miyanoura Port and Honmura Port. Check the Naoshima ferry timetable before you go island hopping.
Include both Naoshima and Teshima in your itinerary. I prefer to visit Naoshima on day 1 and Teshima on day 2 because Naoshima has more attractions than Teshima. So you want to see the majority of the attractions first, have a good night’s rest in Uno (or Naoshima), and continue on Teshima the next day. On day 2, you have the option of either staying in Uno again or have sufficient time to return to Okayama or anywhere else and continue with the rest of your journey.
A lesser-known island in the Seto Inland Sea, Injujima is a tiny art island just north of Teshima. While you are in Inujima, tour around the little island to see the rural villages and Inujima Art House Project. And visit Inujima Seirensho Art Museum where it features modern art in the industrial surroundings.
Only a few ferries run between Teshima and Inujima. Check the timetable before you make a trip to Inujima.
Are you ready to visit Teshima Island?
I hope you enjoyed the post helpful in planning your trip to Japan! Both Naoshima and Teshima are pretty amazing places, and they are the best contemporary art island in Japan. I highly recommend both islands!
And if you have any questions, leave a comment below!