A Two Day Trip To Naoshima + Teshima Art Islands, Japan

About Naoshima + Teshima

Naoshima (直島) is an island in the Seto Inland Sea of Japan dedicated to modern art, architecture and sculpture. Most of the art installations and museums on both Naoshima and the neighbouring island Teshima were set in place by the Benesse corporation, and has since become the art destination in Japan.

It’s been a dream of mine and Jim’s to take a two day trip to the islands for years now, and FINALLY we managed to work a visit into our last trip to Japan! Read on to find out where we went, how we got there and where we stayed.

When To Visit

Our visit to Japan this year fell over Spring time (March/April), and we visited the island from 25 – 27 March. 

It’s totally possible to catch the ferry over to Naoshima or Teshima from mainland and spend a day exploring each island, however we decided to experience a what a couple of nights staying on the art island would be like, so we booked a two night stay.

One thing to be mindful of is the day of your arrival to Naoshima. Most museums, galleries and restaurants are closed on Monday’s, so I would avoid spending an entire Monday on the island if you can!

Luckily for us we arrived late in the evening on the Monday, so we weren’t affected by the gallery closures. 

Weather wise, we found Spring on Naoshima to be perfect! It can be breezy as you’re on the coast, but we were greeted with warm sunshine and the first signs of spring. We’d be missing the arrival of the season back home, so arriving to an abundance of daffodils and blossom was a lovely surprise! 

A word of warning though, the temperatures really drop in the evening, so be prepared if you’re cycling round after dark.

The best way to get around the islands is by electric bike (I’d advise hiring an electric as those hills are a killer), so maybe bring a scarf or light jacket for when you’re biking around – It can get a little chilly! 

If you want more of an idea of the weather situation at this time of year, check out the vlog from our time in Naoshima below. 

How To Get To Naoshima

We travelled to Naoshima from Fuji Kawaguchiko, which took a total of about 8 hours, but I’ll include directions on how to get to Naoshima from Tokyo and Kyoto below as well.

From Fuji Kawaguchiko to Naoshima Island: 

  • From Kawaguchiko station get the Fujikyuko Express bus to Mishima train station
  • From Mishima get the Shinkansen to Okayama (we travelled to Okayama via Shin-kobe which just happened to be the best advised route on the day and was covered by our JR pass)
  • From Okayama grab the JR Uno line to Uno station
  • And finally from Uno station head to the ferry port and purchase your ferry tickets for either Miyanoura port or Honmura port depending on which area of the island you’re staying on

For more information on how to get to Naoshima from Mt Fuji head here. I also found the Hyperdia app super useful when planning my routes across Japan.

If you do have any trouble working out the journey, the staff in the JR ticket offices are usually really helpful when it comes to mapping your route for you. They happily reserved our Shinkansen seats for us and printed out our 8 hour long journey itinerary for us so we couldn’t go wrong! 

From Tokyo to Naoshima Island:

  • From Tokyo station, board the shinkansen to Okayama (remember the Nozomi shinkansen is not covered by the JR pass, so be sure to catch the Hikari). 
  • From Okayama station catch the JR Uno line to Uno station 
  • From Uno station, head to the ferry port over the road and purchase your tickets for either Miyanoura port or Honmura port – the two ferry ports on Naoshima island.

For information on how to get to Teshima island from Uno port head here.

 

How To Get Around Naoshima

Naoshima has a pretty good public bus system, however we found (being based on the northern side of the island), the buses weren’t very regular.

Hiring bikes in Naoshima is super easy and for us was the best way to get around the island. It’s pretty hilly so electric bikes are recommended (I’m so glad we decided to go for this option). There are plenty of places to rent bikes in the island, and there was a TVC bike rental just around the corner of our airbnb. 

For more bike rental services in Noashima head here. 

Where We Stayed

Accommodation on Naoshima can be tricky when on a budget, and being on a backpackers budget a stay at the Benesse House Art Hotel was sadly not to be this time round! We did however spend two very cosy nights at the sweetest Airbnb owned by a lovely host near Uno port. We stayed in a warm tatami room (she even gave us electric blankets in case the temperature dropped overnight on the island), and for a small extra cost she provides a delicious homemade breakfast of french toast and fresh fruit. 

She was even kind enough to let us take one of her indoor cats out for a stroll on our second day (we’re big cat lovers)!

For more of an insight into the airbnb, head to the vlog above!

What To Do In Naoshima

There is SO much to do on Naoshima, and whether you’re an art enthusiast or not the rugged natural coastline is a treat in itself, and we loved cycling over the island and taking in the views. 

Of course though, you can’t really visit Naoshima and not experience at least a few art museums. These were our favourites.

Chichu Art Museum

Built mostly underground, the Chichu art museum holds some of the worlds most incredible artworks. Claude Monet, James Turrell and Walter De Maria are all housed in a space designed by Tadao Ando, one of my favourite architects and a constant source of inspiration for me during my time at University. 

All photography and videography are prohibited everywhere but the cafe (you have to carry any camera equipment in a provided tote bag), so unfortunately I can’t show you what it was like inside. Trust me when I say however that it was the best gallery space I have ever been in. 

If you’d like to see what it looks like from above, we managed to fly the drone overhead in the vlog above!

Tickets to Chichu Art Museum must be booked in advance.

Opening hours: 

March – September: 10:00 – 18:00

October – February: 10:00 – 17:00

For more information head here.

Yayoi Kusama's Yellow Pumpkin

Yayoi Kuasama’s yellow pumpkin was the one piece I was most excited about seeing in person.

As one of Japan’s most acclaimed artists her dotted pumpkin has become an iconic symbol of Naoshima. Placed at the end of a pier overlooking the surrounding islands, it was as bold and beautiful as I imagined it was. It’s also free to visit – a definite bonus when on our backpacking budget!

For the location of the yellow pumpkin, scroll down to the end of this post for my Google map of Naoshima and Teshima.

Benesse House Museum

Also designed by Tadao Ando, Benesse House Museum was built overlooking the Seto Inland sea and not only houses a vast collection of modern art but also opens out onto some of the most incredible views on the entire island.

Photos are again prohibited inside the museum, but photography is allowed in the outdoor exhibition spaces.

Opening hours:

Open year round, 08:00 – 21:00

Ando Museum

A 100 year old wooden house on the outside, concrete interior on the inside, the Ando museum is a spectacle in itself. 

A showcase of Ando’s most celebrated elements- Concrete/wood, light/shadow, the Ando museum is home to his original sketches, plans, models and photographs. A tiny space but worth every moment spent there. 

Opening hours: 

Tuesday – Sunday: 10:00 – 16:30

Hachiman Shrine

Directly opposite the entrance to the Ando museum is a little pathway leading to a perfectly peaceful shinto shrine at the top of a hill.

We were in need of a little respite after a jam packed day of museum hopping, and a wander round Hachiman shrine was exactly what we needed. Sheltered beneath a arch of trees, the path leading up takes you away from the bustle of the museums below.

Other Things To Do Around Naoshima

There’s so much to do on Naoshima that we just couldn’t possibly fit everything in! Here’s a few more places that were on our list but we didn’t get time to visit:

How To Get To Teshima

Getting to Teshima from Naoshima is super simple. Head to Honmura port and get the ferry 20 minutes to Teshima island. For more information on getting to Teshima from the mainland, head here. 

What To Do In Teshima

Teshima Art Museum

We had only one morning on Teshima before we had to catch our train to Kyoto, so had to narrow our visit down to just one museum.

It wasn’t hard to decide what museum that would be. The Teshima Art Museum is one of the most recognised pieces of modern art in Japan, and I couldn’t wait to witness it in person. 

Standing in the middle of tiered rice fields, Teshima Art Museum really is a wonder. A huge dome structure punctured by two circular holes, leaving the room partly open to the elements. combine this with the simple manipulation of water and the tranquil silence and you have what might possibly be the most perfect space ever created. 

I could have stayed in there for hours had we not another train to catch!

Like Naoshima, we found getting around Teshima best via bike. We dropped our backpacks into storage at the ferry terminal, hired bikes at the port and cycled the scenic 30 minute route to the museum.  

Had we more time in Teshima, I’d have loved to visit the Teshima Seawall House, but sadly that’ll have to wait until another trip!

I really hope you found this post helpful in planning your own trip to Naoshima! Any questions you have let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to help!

Don’t forget to watch my vlog for more of an insight into the time of year/weather and where we stayed! Thank you again so much for reading (and watching)!

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