Header image courtesy of Rena (via Unsplash)
As spellbinding as much of Japan can be, some visitors are particularly inspired by the island of Naoshima. It’s a contemporary art lover’s paradise and offers the unique opportunity to stay in a hotel that is part of an art museum. It’s an excursion to note, worthy of two days if time allows. Here are our recommendations on how to make the most of 48 hours in Naoshima.
Located just a 20-minute ferry ride from Uno Port, Naoshima is a haven for contemporary art lovers. This small island, set in the Seto Inland Sea, began to grow as an art mecca in the 1980s and is now home to five art museums, littered with concrete art structures all around town. On an island full of art, there is nowhere else more appropriate to stay than in a stylish art museum. Designed by lauded Japanese architect Tadao Ando, Benesse House is a slick and stylish property that is not a luxury hotel, but rather a contemporary art museum equipped with comfortable and stylish guest rooms. To truly splurge and spoil yourself, a stay in one of its Oval block suites is recommended. Set on the highest vantage point of Benesse House Museum, these suites boast the best views of the inland sea below. Whichever of the four complexes you stay in—whether the Park, Beach, Museum, or Oval—you can enjoy exclusive after-hours access to the Benesse Museum.
Benesse House’s free shuttle from their various buildings to the art museums make getting around Naoshima extremely easy. For the more active guests, bikes can be hired, but walking around on foot is fine, too.
Exploring the art of Naoshima is an absolute must during your 48 hours on the island. With more than five art galleries that feature the work of the late French Impressionist Claude Monet, contemporary American multimedia artist James Turrell, Japanese sculptor Yayoi Kusama, and many other very well-known names, there is plenty to keep a visitor amused for the day.
Also highly recommended is a day trip to the island of Teshima, a 20-minute ferry ride away from Naoshima—another small Japanese island dedicated to modern art. On arrival at Teshima port, rent a bike and cycle to Teshima Art Museum. It’s one of the coolest art museums you may ever see—appearing at first a little like a minimalist volcano. Have a few light bites and a drink at the adjacent café, all made with local produce. After your rewarding cycle, art-gazing, or a walk around, enjoy lunch at Umi No, with its outdoor terrace and reasonably-priced fresh local dishes, before returning to Naoshima.