The art island.
Somehow, off the beaten track, but don’t let the apparent difficulty to get there stop you, you won’t regret it. You’ll be in for a slightly out-of-space ride composed of indoors as well as outdoors exhibits, and even a mix of both (look for it!), all in beautiful island scenery.
There are three main museums to visit: the Chichuu museum & two other in the Benesse area.
All three are worth the visit, of course. As well as the art exposed, the buildings in themselves are pieces of art entirely, as well as the visitor experience. So take the time to look at the art, but also at the architecture.
Also, know that if you are fortunate (in every meaning), you can stay for the night in the Benesse house area, at a very nice looking hotel, and have dinner in the museum itself, which you can get to visit after hours.
Info on the museums here:
Scattered around the island, open your eyes wide and look out for the hidden pieces !
Some art is obviously visible, and even very famous. But some other is also intriguing or will take a several steps to understand. I will not say more, or it might ruin the experience.
How to get there and around
In order to get there, you must have guessed it, you’ll need to take a ferry.
Several routes exist, so we’ll only talk about the one we’ve used.
Naoshima makes for a full day out from either Kurashiki or Okayama
We were staying in Kurashiki.
From there, take the train to Okayama, preferably from the central station, not the Shinkansen station, which is further out of town. Then change trains to Uno.
Took us about one hour. From Uno, there’s a quick walk to the ferry pier, right across the street. Ferry ride is about 20 minutes to Miyanoura. All in all, you’ll need about 1 hour from Okayama, and one and half from Kurashiki.
While we’re talking about Kurashiki and Okayama, both towns are worth the detour.
Kurashiki for its cute small historical area along the canal. Very calm, and some potery shops along the way. Also nice is the maze of traditional streets which host many restaurants.
In Okayama, you’ll find the Koraku-en gardens, one of the three most renown gardens. But you’d need to allow a little more time if you’d wish to see it.
Ferry timetables and more info here:
Once on the island, the main art area, the Benesse area, is located rather far away from the pier. You have several options, mainly the free shuttle bus or renting a bike.
Both have pros and cons:
– the shuttle bus doesn’t come by so often. On the plus side, you can hop on and off wherever you wish.
– biking means more liberty, but you’ll have to leave your bike at either entrance to the Benessee art area, meaning you’ll have to walk back to it, and it’s longer than it seems. We actually took the shuttle back to our bikes!
If you choose to rent a bike, go splurge and get the electrical one, because you’ll have to expect a hilly road to the Chichu museum. 1000 yen for the day.