The Surreal Japan Art Islands

Teshima Museum

Hidden amongst some 3,000 mostly uninhabited islands in the Seto Inland Sea - there lies a cluster of Art Islands filled with surreal art installations, cutting edge museums, and architectural gems.

Want to know more about how to get here, what to see, and where to stay? You're in the perfect place!

table of contents

Itinerary

Day 1 - Naoshima

10 am: Art House Project
Visit the Art House Project, which is comprised of empty residential houses turned into art spaces, weaving in history and memories of the period when they were in use.

Kadoya’s ‘Sea Of Time’ is comprised of a shallow pool with LED counters in the water counting from one to nine at random speeds. They were each individually set by residents of the town.

If you're a James Turrell fan, he has an exhibit called 'Backside of the Moon' that plays with your vision in the dark and concept of space.

Kadoya - Sea Of Time

Kadoya - Sea Of Time

James Turrell - Backside of the Moon

James Turrell - Backside of the Moon

1 pm: Chichu Art Museum

chichu overhead

The Chichu Art Museum is a magnificent work of architectural design by Ando. On top of all that, there is a Monet painting, James Turrell skyroom, and a gigantic art piece by Walter de Maria that will make you feel like you're in the game ‘Myst’.

On Fridays and Saturdays you can make reservations to see the James Turrell exhibit at sunset here: http://www.yoyaku-chichu.jp/e/

chichi turrell
chichu terrell
Clean Ando Design

Clean Ando Design

Walter De Maria

Walter De Maria

Make sure to stop by the picturesque Chichu cafe for a snack on the way out.



3 pm: Lee Ufan Museum
Another Ando creation, the Lee Ufan Museum, boasts some of the cleanest lines and best use of natural light.

lee ufan exterior
lee ufan art.jpg
lee ufan



4 pm: Benesse House Museum

Make sure to reserve some extra time for the Benesse House Museum. Not only is it another beautiful Ando creation, it has some of the most interesting modern art inside.

benesse house museum art
benesse house museum
benesse house patio



7 pm: I♥︎Bath
Get your steam and sauna on at I♥︎Bath, a quirky bathhouse open until 9 pm.

i love bath naoshima
i love bath interior naoshima

Here’s a map of the Naoshima with the many of the points of interested labeled.

map naoshima
 

Day 2 - Teshima

8:30 am: Kusama Pumpkin

Before you board the ferry at Miyanoura Port, check out the giant red speckled pumpkin by Kusama! You can climb into it and feel like a kid again!

kusama red pumpkin naoshima


9 am:
Depart for Teshima (Ieura Port) by Ferry.


10 am: Teshima Art Museum

Visit one of my favorite art pieces of all time - the Teshima Art Museum. The museum resembles a water droplet at the moment of impact. Standing inside the whole structure feels like you’re in another world. There are also some other cool surprises that I won’t spoil for you, but it involves water (in a good way)!

teshima museum
teshima museum
teshima cafe.jpg


Lunch option: Shima Kitchen

A community based kitchen, this open air restaurant was designed to highlight locally grown produce and allow everyone to interact with each other while sharing food.

shima kitchen




12 pm: Les Archives Du Couer

Les Archives hallway

Experience the power of the heart at Les Archives du Couer. The artist, Christian Boltanski, has recorded thousands of heartbeats from people all over the world. In a tunnel on one side is a wall of speakers playing a random person's heartbeat, in which a light flickers in sync. It was completely mesmerizing to stand here and get lost in the powerful bass beat and flickering light.

They even have a recording studio where you can add your own heartbeat to the collection!

Les Archives record.jpg



2:30 pm : Teshima Seawall House

Experience the sound of music boxes, drums, and video footage of saxophone and Japanese bamboo flute in the former teahouse.

seawall house teshima
seawall house teshima


4 pm : Yokoo House

In this interesting art project, Tadanori Yokoo, wanted to create a space that showed the line between life and death. Utilizing colored glass you’re able to view the world from different angles and the transitions between them.

yokoo house
yokoo house red


5:30 pm
Depart back to Naoshima


7:30 pm
Get your steam and sauna on at I♥︎Bath, a quirky bathhouse open until 9 pm.

Here’s a map of the Teshima with the many of the points of interested labeled:

map teshima
 

Other Islands

There are additional art pieces and museums on Inujima and Megijima. If you have the time, I'd recommend going to Inujima, as it has 4 large art pieces.

inujima art
inujima art
inujima art
inujima art

Bonus: If you’re going to the Art Islands in 2019 - they have an art festival every three years with 2019 being one of those years! You can expect many new and exciting art installations - some of them only lasting for the year. Find more info here: https://setouchi-artfest.jp/en/


How to get to the art islands

Coming from Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, or Hiroshima by Train?


The best and easiest way is to take a Shinkansen bullet train to 1) Okayama Station, then take a train or bus to 2) Uno Station, and then walk to Uno Port. From 3) Uno Port, you'll then take a ferry to Naoshima.

Note: The Japan Rail Pass is a great deal for foreigners traveling around Japan on the Shinkansen Bullet Trains. You can only buy it from outside of Japan in advance.

For more information, check out our Japan Rail Pass guide.

Detailed Directions:
via HyperDia:


1) Getting to Okayama

From Tokyo to Okayama

Some of the main Shinkansen train routes are:

Hikari [256 mins]

From Osaka to Okayama

The main Shinkansen train routes are:

Sakura [46 mins]
Kodama [62 mins]
Hikari [77 mins]

From Kyoto to Okayama

Some of the main Shinkansen train routes are:

Hikari → transfer at Shin-Osaka → Kodama [86 mins]
Hikari [91 mins]

From Hiroshima to Okayama

The main Shinkansen train routes are:

Sakura [40 mins]
Hikari [42 mins]
Kodama [81 mins]

2) Okayama to Uno

There are two ways to get to Uno Station from Okayama - train or bus.

Train

Take the JR Uno Line to Uno Station, which is usually on departure tracks 5 through 8. If you have the Japan Rail Pass, this train is free.

Note: Sometimes the train will stop at Chayamachi station, where you'll need to transfer to stay on the JR Uno Line.

Total time : 60 minutes approx

Bus

The Ryobi Express Bus leaves every 30 minutes and costs 650 yen to get to Uno Station. You'll want to board from the No. 2 Bus Stop at the east gate of the Okayama Station.

The main advantage of the bus is that it is more frequent than the JR Uno Line train.

Total time: 50 minutes approx

3) Uno Station to Naoshima Island

Once you arrive at Uno Station, it's a short 5 minute walk to the Uno Ferry Port.

You can take the ferry (20 mins) or the high speed boat (15 mins) to Miyanoura Port. Cost: 290 yen

We'd recommend taking the ferry since it's more spacious and you only save five minutes with the high speed boat.

Note: You can also choose to go to Honmura Port, but that's more for local residents since it stops near the center of Naoshima. We recommend you go to Miyanoura Port.


Flying in to Takamatsu Airport from Tokyo or Okinawa?


Flights into Takamatsu Airport from Tokyo or Okinawa are about two hours. You can also fly into Takamatsu Airport from other cities like Hong Kong, Taipei, or Seoul.

From the airport, you should take an Airport Limo Bus (Kotoden Bus) to Takamatsu Station (about 40 mins) and then walk to Takamatsu Port (10 mins).

From the port you can take either a ferry (50 mins, 520 yen) or boat (25 mins, 1220 yen). The ferry is more spacious but takes twice as long.


where to stay

Naoshima

Benesse House
Staying here allows you to roam the museum at any hour of the night. If you pick one of the oval rooms, you’ll have special access to the Oval Area.

benesse house stay oval
benesse house stay oval room

Tsusujiso Yurts

Near Benesse House there are some yurts, cottage houses, and trailers that are more economical. We stayed in one of the Mongolian Yurts - they were colorfully decorated and comfortable! They also have traditional Japanese hot bath rooms that you can reserve each night for private usage.

yurt naoshima
yurt naoshima door
yurt naoshima interior

Also, if you stay at the Yurts, it’s very close to the other speckled yellow Kusama pumpkin on the island.

kusama pumpkin sunset

Here is a list of all guest houses in Naoshima:
http://www.naoshima.net/stay/?lang=en'

You can also try your hand at the Airbnb homes in Naoshima.

If you’re new to Airbnb, you can get $55 off here.

Teshima

List of all guesthouses in Teshima:
https://teshima-navi.jp/en/accommodation/


We had a good experience staying at an Airbnb in Teshima.

If you’re new to Airbnb, you can get $55 off here.

Near Uno

If you go during high season or for some reason are unable to find housing on Naoshima/Teshima - you can always stay near Uno Port and take the ferry in each morning.

Here are some options for Airbnb in Uno.


How to get around

I highly recommend renting an electric bike or scooter to get around both Naoshima and Teshima. There is a public bus, but you'll spend extra time waiting around for it. Plus, with your own set of wheels, you can really explore on your own whim. Also, both islands are very hilly, so unless you have 3-4 days to spend here, I wouldn't walk it.

Naoshima Bike Rentals:
http://www.naoshima.net/en/access/rental/

Naoshima Scooter/Motorbike Rentals:
Cafe Ougiya
T.V.C. Service
Note: you'll need a valid international driving license

Teshima Bike Rentals:
https://teshima-navi.jp/en/rental/

Other resources

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