The Art and Soul of Naoshima
The remote island town of Naoshima charms all who visit but will especially captivate art and design enthusiasts with its museums, statues and stunning underground architecture. The best way to explore this art island is by bike, and the savviest explorers will take an early ferry to claim a rental with an electric boost. (We learned this the hard way when we slowly tackled the hilly terrain on fixed-gear bicycles.)
While the northern half of the island is residential and home to a Mitsubishi factory, the southern area is ripe for exploration. Intriguing aboveground sights to be seen include Yayoi Kusama’s iconic seaside pumpkin sculptures and the eye-catching geometry of Naoshima Pavilion, the polyhedral structure featured on our tees and jackets.
Wanderers wonder at the underground beauty of the Chichu Art Museum, home to five of Claude Monet’s massive waterlily paintings. This Tadao Ando designed building is a work of art itself – a clever labyrinth of light, shadows and heights – that is largely submerged underground to preserve the collection within. The museum cafe is a serene spot to refresh with a cold drink and absorb the calming views of the Inland Sea (we went with a locally-made olive soda). To keep the theme going, venture to the Ando Museum to learn the architect’s story and the history of Naoshima. Tucked into a quiet residential neighborhood on the eastern side of the island, this 100-year old traditional house offers a glimpse into his work over the years through sketches, photographs and models.
Be forewarned that the ride back to the ferry terminal is along the busy main road that bisects this beautiful island. But comfort awaits in the form of traditional American diner food fused with a Japanese spin at Shioya Diner. And just across the street, the Naoshima Public Bath (I <3 Yu) offers relaxation and rejuvenation among the murals and mosaics of artist Shinro Ohtake before the ferry home.
Nearby: Okayama maintains its authentic Japanese charm while extending warm welcoming vibes to visitors. This small town is teeming with beauty – serene temples, ancient gardens and scenic stretches of peach orchards.
[Edited by Erin Mooshagian. Erin is a freelance storyteller and content creator who loves working on travel, lifestyle, food and wine brands. In her spare time, she takes photos of pretty things and tries not to sabotage her thriving houseplants.]