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Japan’s ‘Art Island’ Is Like Nowhere Else On Earth

Japan’s ‘Art Island’ Is Like Nowhere Else On Earth

Naoshima, Japan

Talk about a successful rebrand. The once-sleepy fishing island of Naoshima, located off the southern coast of Japan in the Seto Inland Sea, is now a contemporary art island like no other.

The tiny island (just 14.22 km² and with a population of roughly 3500 people) was revamped in the ’80s, when it was developed into the tranquil art oasis that exists today. The Benesse Corporation, which publishes Japanese educational textbooks, worked with architect Tadao Ando to create the site, launching a number of museums and public art displays.

These include the Ando-designed Chichu Museum, perched atop the island’s highest point, with a number of site-specific installations by James Turrell, Walter De Maria, and paintings by Claude Monet.

Naoshima, Japan
Image: Todd Lappin / Flickr
Naoshima, Japan
Image: Ippei & Janine Naoi / Flickr

Ando also designed the Benesse House, which serves as both a hotel and art gallery.

Naoshima, Japan

 

Naoshima, Japan

Naoshima, Japan
Image: Todd Lappin / Flickr

There’s the  Naoshima Fukutake Art Museum and even a James Bond museum (the island was used as a setting in the 2002 James Bond novel The Man With The Red Tattoo).

A super popular “mascot” of the island is Yayoi Kasuma‘s psychedelic pumpkin, which is perched at the end of a jetty.

Naoshima, Japan
Image: Keiichi Yoshihara / Flickr

Even small details on the island’s temples are carefully considered and designed with flair.

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Naoshima, Japan

The tiny island serves a number of functions. Despite the tourism drawn by itse flourishing art scene, the biggest industry on the island is Mitsubishi Materials, which is affiliated with the car company. Hell, there is even a a classic Japanese bunraku (puppet theatre) featuring only women on Naoshima.

Accessing the island is a bit of a trek from Tokyo or Osaka, but it’s easily achievable by Shinkansen (bullet train) via Okayama, then a local train to Uno and a ferry to the island. Overnight stays are highly recommended.

(Lead image: Roger Walch / Flickr)

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