Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Naoshima Island – The Paradise for Contemporary Art Lovers

The Seto Inland Sea (瀬戸内海) is famous for its magnificent scenery. But another reason it is so well-known to the world is the Setouchi Triennale, also known as the Setouchi International Art Festival. This contemporary art festival is held every three years across the islands in the Seto Inland Sea. Even after the festival, many artworks are permanently displayed on the islands for those who couldn’t join the event to admire!

Among all the islands that are venues of the art festival, Naoshima (直島) is probably one of the biggest and the most popular islands. The tourist area can be largely divided into three areas:

Important:
Most facilities close on Monday (or on Tuesday if Monday is a public holiday)
☛ You won’t have enough time to see all of the attractions on Naoshima if you only have one day on the island

For the island map, please refer to HERE.

Tip: If you are staying overnight at Benesse House, your admission tickets to the museums listed above and all artworks of the Art House Project except Kinza give you unlimited entries during your stay. So keep your tickets until you leave the island.
Also, even if you aren’t staying at Benesse House, your admission ticket to the facility is valid for two days.

Naoshima’s History

The artistic atmosphere on the island can be traced back to the Edo period (1603 – 1868). The traditional Japanese puppet theater known as Bunraku (文楽) was thriving on the island. Originally it was a type of performance art for men exclusively, but women were also allowed to perform the Bunraku over time. It became so dominant that the Naoshima Women Bunraku (Naoshima Onna Bunraku, 直島女文楽) was registered as a Prefectural Intangible Folk Cultural Property.

From the second half of the 1980s, a lot of effort has been put into the island’s tourism industry. From the renowned Japanese international architect – Andō Tadao (安藤忠雄), numerous famous artists have created various cultural and art facilities on the island that attracts more and more visitors across the country and overseas!

Naoshima’s Location and Access Information

Naoshima-Ferry-Kagawa-Japan
© photo-ac.com

As a small island not connected with Japan’s main island Honshūu (本州), without an airport, the only feasible way you can get to the island is by ferry (unless you have a canoe and want to paddle all the way across the sea).

Although Naoshima is counted as part of Kagawa Prefecture (香川県), it is actually a lot closer to the Tamano City (玉野市) in Okayama Prefecture (岡山県), just 2 km away vs. the 11 km to Takamatsu City (高松市) in Kagawa.

So if you are coming from areas other than Shikoku (四国), you will be better off time and money-wise to get a ferry from the Uno Port (宇野港) in Tamano. There are more ferries from Uno Port than from Takamatsu Port (高松港) as well.

For the ferries’ timetable, please refer to Naoshima’s website HERE.

From Uno Port in Okayama Prefecture

From Uno Port, there are two routes. One to Miyanoura Port (宮浦港) in the Miyanoura area and another one to Honmura Port (本村港) in the Homura area. The time required to get to the two ports from Uno Port is both around 15 to 20 minutes. So choose the one that fits your itinerary more.

To get to Uno Port, all you have to do is take a JR train from JR Okayama Station (岡山駅) that runs on Uno Minato Line (宇野みなと線) and get off at the terminal stop – JR Uno Station (宇野駅). The port is just a few minute-walk away from there.

From Takamatsu Port in Kagawa Prefecture

The ferries depart from Takamatsu Port arrive at Uranomiya Port only, which takes around 50 – 60 minutes. There are also high-speed boats that will get you across the sea in 30 minutes if you are in a hurry. But as said before, the number of services departing from Kagawa Prefecture is limited.

Getting to Takamatsu Port is just a few minute-walk from JR Takamatsu Station (高松駅).

How to Get Around Naoshima

Once you set foot on Naoshima, instead of walking, you can either rent a bike or utilize the bus services on the island to travel between the attractions on the island. Alternatively, you can drive around if you board the ferry in a car.

  • For a list of shops you can rent a bike from, please refer to Naoshima’s Official website HERE
  • For the Town Bus’s timetable, please refer HERE. Note the south area is served by Benesse Art Site Naoshima Free Shuttle Bus. Please refer to the timetable HERE

Tips on How to Explore Naoshima During Peak Season/Setouchi International Art Festival

  • List out all the attractions that you are interested in and prioritize each of them
  • Download the Art Navi app to your phone and check the waiting time and if waiting numbers are giving out for the attractions that you are interested
  • Obtain the number plates for the attractions that require one. You will need to actually go to those attractions to get your number and each person can only take one number plate.
    • You don’t need to take the time slot you are given but can choose the time slots after as well
  • Plan your day depending on the current waiting time at each of the attractions while taking into account the time slot that you were given to the attractions that require a number plate for entry
    • Remember to be at the attraction 10 minutes before your allocated timeslot. If you don’t show up, your right to enter will be denied
  • Your plan for the day should be flexible so that if all of a sudden an attraction of your interest has a really short queue, you will need to consider if you want to visit it first

Miyanoura Area (宮浦)

Miyanoura, one of the two Naoshima gateways, is on the west of the island. This area has the largest population on the island and, thus, the most shops and restaurants.

Marine Station Naoshima (海の駅「なおしま」)

Your artistic day starts as your ferry approaches Miyanoura Port. The first thing that your eyes will be attracted to is the symbol of Naoshima – a gigantic red pumpkin with black dots all over. The pumpkin, made by the famous contemporary artist – Yayoi Kusama (草間彌生), is empty inside. Some of the black dots are openings for you to get inside and stick your head out of another dot (´▽`*).

Apart from the red pumpkin, another two big artworks are at the port, each with its own story and charm. Also, those two artworks will be lit up at night, so if you can, catch a ferry after sunset!

Then at the back, there is a bright and fashionable building with glass walls. The Marine Station Naoshima is basically the ferry terminal for Miyanoura Port and a tourist information center with a ticket sales counter. In addition, while you wait for your returning ferry, you can visit the cafe and local specialty shop inside the 3,600-square-meter building.

Furthermore, it is also where you can catch the Town Bus if you don’t want to walk to your first attraction of the day. There is also a rental bike shop conveniently located close by for those who prefer biking over public transportation.

Naoshima Public Bath I Love Yu (直島銭湯「I♥︎湯」)

If you have been to Japan, you might have been to a public bath or at least walked past one. But we bet you haven’t seen any that look like the one on the right!

Looking more like an eccentric store, this building is certainly not somewhere you think of when you are looking for a bathhouse (´▽`*).

The artistic characteristics don’t just stop at the appearance of the building. They have been extended to every single corner of the bathhouse. Although the artworks inside are pretty random, it is safe to say that it is because it subverts our expectations that it can attract so many visitors every day!

Important: If you are going to take a bath in Naoshima Public Bath I Love Yu, you will have to either bring your towel or purchase one from the counter (which can be your unique souvenir as well!).

Tip: If you hate the crowd, come in the early morning and/or try to avoid ferries’ arrival/departure time (^_-)-☆.

For those who don’t want to take a bath in a public bathhouse, what you can do is visit the bathhouse from 1 pm to 3:50 pm. You will be allowed to take photos around the bathhouse, including both male and female bath pools during this time of the day as the bathhouse won’t be opened for bathing.

Naoshima Public Bath I Love Yu’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The bathhouse is open from 1 pm to 9 pm daily except Monday.
    • If Monday is a public holiday, it will close on Tuesday instead. You can also refer to their opening calendar HERE to confirm the exact days it will open
  • The last admission is at 8:30 pm
  • The admission fee is
    • 660 yen for adults
    • 310 yen for children between 3 to 14 years old
  • It is just a 2-minute walk away from the Marine Station Naoshima. If you are taking the Town Bus, please get off at Miyanoura Port (宮浦港)

Honmura (本村) Area

The area is most famous for its House Art Project’s artworks. Below we are introducing 4 out of 7 works that we found the most fascinating. It certainly doesn’t mean the other ones aren’t worthwhile to explore (such as the Statue of Liberty in Haisha (はいしゃ)). For more information about all the artworks, please refer to Benesse’s website HERE.

Tip: If you are going to check out more than two artworks of the House Art Project, then get one of the combo tickets from Honmura Lounge & Archive (本村ラウンジ&アーカイブ) to save time and money!

ANDO MUSEUM

As the museum’s name suggests, the museum is about the famous architect – Andō Tadao (安藤忠雄).

You might be hesitant to get your ticket for your entry when you see the exterior of this traditional Japanese house because his works are of a simple and contemporary style. But once you step into the house that is more than 100 years old, you won’t have a single doubt that the design is from the master because you have just stepped into Andō Tadao’s world!

As photography is forbidden inside the museum, the awesomeness of this place remains a secret to those who haven’t visited it. But that postcard in the Instagram post reveals what you can expect. Inside the house, the combination of the concrete and the wooden pillars creates a space that highlights the contrast of light and shade, top and bottom. If you are lucky, you might be able to run into him when he comes to deliver a speech (=゚ω゚)ノ.

If you come to the museum when the art festival isn’t on, you probably don’t need to queue up to enter. But apparently, during the period of Setouchi Triennale, the queue can be as long as 60 minutes!

On top of finding out about Andō Tadao’s professional life, you will also learn about Naoshima’s history. As you walk past the souvenir shop, you can also grab a few Andō Tadao’s related products that might have his autograph on them!

One thing to note is that the museum is small, which might disappoint some people given you have to pay for your entry.

ANDO MUSEUM’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The museum is open from 10 am to 4:30 pm daily except Monday.
    • If Monday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day.
    • You can also refer to their opening calendar HERE to confirm the exact days it will open
  • The last admission is at 4 pm
  • The admission fee is 520 yen for anyone who is 15 and above
  • If you are taking the Town Bus, please get off at Nōkyō-mae (農協前). The museum is just a 2-minute walk away

Art House Project: Minamidera (家プロジェクト「南寺」)

Minamidera is one of the houses that has gone through the local “Art House Project”. Essentially, the project is about turning the empty houses in the area, Honmura in this case, into an artwork that weaves in history and memories of the period when the small village prospered.

Among the seven houses in the Honmura area that are currently opened to the public and maybe even across the entire island, Minamidera is probably the most popular attraction. Why? Because it is another building designed by Andō Tadao due to the very unique experience that you will get in the house. Inside the house, the work of the American artist James Turrell is exhibited.

The storage-like building was created to reflect the page of history when the vicinity was Naoshima’s historical and cultural center. Minamidera, which means “Southern Temple” in Japanese, now inherits the emotional support previously given to the public by the five temples and shrines that used to be here.

So exactly what sort of artwork is Minamidera?

If we put it really bluntly, this work is all about what realization we will get from staying still in the pitch-black darkness. In this utter void, we really think it is a perfect place to do some introspection. Just like people go to temples and/or shrines seeking guidance in their life, maybe Andō Tadao designed the artwork for people to have some quiet moments for self-reflection, and from there, we will find out what is truly important in our life. It is almost like a zen session led by a Buddhist monk.

What to Expect Inside Minamidera

As you enter Minamidera, you will be entering complete darkness. Not able to see anything around you, but only following the instruction from staff on what to do next. You will be paying attention to everything you are doing at the very moment, even walking. Everything will feel so uncertain in the dark, as though there could be unseen pitfalls ahead of you.

For the record, there are no holes or anything of that sort inside the house.

Towards the end of the session, you will experience the feeling of when light floods into a dark space. How our body adjusts to the light and what emotions it will bring you.

Tip: After you land on Naoshima, check with the staff to see if you need a number to visit Minamidera. If the answer is yes, you will want to head there first in case the number plates run out. This is especially the case if you are visiting between March and November.

Minamidera’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Minamidera is open from 10 am to 4:30 pm daily except Monday.
    • If Monday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day.
    • You can also refer to their opening calendar HERE to confirm the exact days it will open
    • The last admission is at 4:15 pm
  • The admission fee is 420 yen for anyone who is 15 and above.
    • Get a combo ticket that allows you to visit 6 out of 7 attractions in the Art House Project for 1,050 yen to save
  • If you are taking the Town Bus, please get off at Nōkyō-mae (農協前). Minamidera is just a 3-minute walk away

Aisunao (あいすなお)

If it is lunchtime and you happen to be at Honmura Area, then drop by Aisunao for their delicious vegan set menu Aisunao Set (あいすなおセット)! The delicious set comes with a bowl of healthy genmai rice, a couple of small vegetable and tofu dishes, and a bowl of Seto Uchi’s special miso soup that is made from fresh local ingredients!

© Aisunao
© Aisunao

For those who don’t eat too much, their genmai rice ball set (Omusubi Set, おむすびセット) includes two rice balls with a different flavor, a small side dish, and the Seto Uchi’s special miso soup that you have to try to know how it differs from the normal miso soup (^_-)-☆.

About Staying at Shimayado Aisunao

Opposite the restaurant is their guest house – Shimayado Aisunao (島宿あいすなお) that have four different unique rooms for you to choose from. Note that if you aren’t used to sleeping on a harder surface, you might find the Japanese futon bed uncomfortable to sleep on. So either choose the room with western beds or check with the guesthouse to see if they can prepare two futons for you to sleep on (it will be softer that way).

Also, if you are sensitive to noise, choosing the rooms on the second floor is better. Common areas such as toilets and shower rooms are all located on the ground floor, which can sometimes be noisy.

At Aisunao, the bedding equipment is all stored in the wardrobe. When you are ready to make your bed, take them out and put the futon covers and pillowcases on. If you are unsure how to make a futon bed, check out the YouTube video below!

For your breakfast the next day, you can choose to include the rice ball set that we mentioned earlier in your accommodation plan. Take the chance and experience a typical Japanese morning (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Tip: You can check in your belongings at Aisunao (restaurant) between 10 am and 5 pm if you stay overnight at the guesthouse. Note that this service won’t be available in the restaurant isn’t open for the day (i.e. most Mondays).

For more information and to book, please visit their website HERE.

Aisunao’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • The restaurant is open from 11 am to 3 pm (last order) daily except Mondays
    • If Monday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day
  • From Honmura Port, it is less than a 5-minute walk
  • If you are taking the Town Bus, please get off at Nōkyō-mae (農協前). The restaurant is just a 2-minute walk away

Art House Project: Kinza (家プロジェクト「きんざ」 )

Among the seven artworks produced by the Art House Project, Kinza is the only one that requires a reservation. The entire house, including the outer wall, has been turned into the artwork of Naito Rei (内藤 礼). It is an artwork that only one person at a time is allowed to appreciate.

The house – which is over 100 years old – had almost everything essential to make it a standing house removed. A few objects big and small were then added to the space to create some meanings for this work. The natural lighting and sounds coming from the 10 cm gap from the ground at the bottom of the wall are also important elements of this contemporary piece of art.

Some might find spending 15 minutes in this kind of space hard to endure, especially if you just rushed from other attractions to Kinza. This is probably why they requested us to be there 10 minutes in advance to get a chance to calm down and enter the state of mind that is the most suitable to admire one of Naito’s most well-known works.

Kinza’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Kinza is open from 10 am to 4:30 pm except for Mondays
    • The last admission is at 4:15 pm
    • If Monday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day
  • To reserve your spot, please click HERE and get your actual ticket from Honmura Lounge & Archive (本村ラウンジ&アーカイブ)
  • The admission fee is 520 yen
  • If you are taking the Town Bus, please get off at Nōkyō-mae (農協前). Minamidera is just a one-minute walk away

Go’o Shrine (護王神社)

© photo-ac.com

As mentioned above, there used to be shrines and temples where the buildings of the Art House Project are located. Like many of the temples and shrines in Japan, the Go’o Shrine was rebuilt relatively recently as part of the art project.

So instead of restoring the shrine to how it used to look, some artistic element was added. If those shiny and transparent things placed on top of the staircase leading to the small worship hall manage to make you think they will melt in no time, then it has achieved their purpose (´▽`*).

Those are actually blocks of glass and if you look closely, they aren’t connected to each other making you worried about how many of them will break when an earthquake strikes the area…

Another secret about this staircase is it actually continues to the stone chamber in the basement, creating a kind of unique atmosphere that you will get from an ancient tomb. But instead of stepping down from the surface, you will have to detour to the side of the hill that has a rectangular entrance that will lead you to the stone chamber and the second half of the glass staircase.

One thing to note is the stone chamber isn’t opened 24/7 but has the same opening hours as the rest of the Art House Project buildings.

Hachiman Shrine (八幡神社)

Go’o Shrine is actually a part of Hachiman Shrine. On the ground of Hachiman Shrine, you will find a few other shrines as well.

One thing to note about Hachiman Shrine is it is located at the top of a hill. The staircases leading to the shrine are VERY long. So expect some intensive 5-minute or more climbing.

The staircases are just next to Gokurakuji Temple (極楽寺) which is just opposite ANDO MUSEUM.

Go’o Shrine’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Minamidera is open from 10 am to 4:30 pm daily except Monday. If Monday is a public holiday, it will close on Tuesday instead. You can also refer to their opening calendar HERE to confirm the exact days it will open
  • The last admission is at 4:15 pm
  • The admission fee is 420 yen for anyone who is 15 and above. Get a combo ticket that allows you to visit 6 out of 7 attractions in the Art House Project for 1,050 yen to save
  • If you are taking the Town Bus, please get off at Honmura Port (本村港). The staircases leading to the shrine are just a 2-minute walk away

Art House Project: Ishibashi (家プロジェクト「石橋」)

Locating away from the rest of the Art House Project artworks, Ishibashi blends into the street of traditional Japanese houses that you can easily miss its existence. The house was the residence of the Ishibashi family until April 2001. Prospered in the salt industry in the Meiji era (1868 – 1912), the residence is on a big piece of land with separate storage giving more space for renowned Japanese painter Senju Hiroshi (千住 博) to show off his extraordinary skills.

Entering Ishibashi is like stepping into a world behind the waterfall that gives you a new sensation of this natural phenomenon. You will realize that the impact of a waterfall can be felt indoors without going deep into nature.

For those who can resonate with more abstract artworks, the fusuma doors of the main house are another work that deserves your attention. It may take a while to fully appreciate the cliff he painted on the white doors.

If you have seen the artwork completed in 2009, we recommend you revisit it. Because you will discover another aspect of what the painting is trying to express. You will notice there seems to be something added to the scenery that Hiroshi has painted, which in fact, wasn’t the case. He didn’t sneak back into the house overnight to add a few strokes to the painting.

The secret is with the pigments he used. He smartly used the characteristics of the silver in the pigments to express the idea of the Passage of Time. So come back every couple of years and see what time has added to this masterpiece!

Ishibashi’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Ishibashi is open from 10 am to 4:30 pm daily except Monday
    • If Monday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day
    • You can also refer to their opening calendar HERE to confirm the exact days it will open
    • The last admission is at 4:15 pm
  • The admission fee is 420 yen for anyone who is 15 and above. Get a combo ticket that allows you to visit 6 out of 7 attractions in the Art House Project for 1,050 yen to save
  • If you are taking the Town Bus, please get off at Nōkyō-mae (農協前). Ishibashi is just a 4-minute walk away

Benesse House Area including Tsumu’ura (積浦) and Gotanji (琴弾地)

The Benesse House area has many facilities that play a central role in Naoshima’s artistic presence. If you are looking to stay overnight on the island, there are many guesthouses in Tsumu’ura for you to choose from!

We recommend visiting the main attractions in the below sequence. Because once you get off the bus at Chichū Art Museum (地中美術館), the rest of the walking will be all easy downhill with magnificent views of the Seto Inland Sea. Moreover, you will miss out on many outdoor artworks if you choose to take a bus to move between the attractions in this area (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Chichū Art Museum (地中美術館) ⇒ Lee Ufan Museum (李禹煥美術館) ⇒ Yellow Pumpkin

Important: Bikes and other vehicles aren’t allowed in this area. So keep an eye on the departure time of the free shuttle bus if you don’t want to walk between the attractions.

Chichū Art Museum (地中美術館)

Here is another attraction on Naoshima that has the footprint of Andō Tadao. Unlike the other artworks he was only in charge of the internal design for, this one was built from scratch. It is the perfect place to encounter a brilliant shaft of light. As you turn a corner, you turn into a totally different space.

Almost the entire museum is buried underground to preserve the beauty of Naoshima’s nature. So the museum that was completed and opened in 2004 got a name that exactly matches this fact because “Chichū” literally means underground.

From the sky, you can tell the effort that Andō Tadao has put into the building’s design, which is filled with skylights in geometric shapes. On a clear day, the museum is filled with such natural light that you can hardly believe you are underground!

How this museum also differs from the majority of the museums is that before Andō Tadao started to design the building, the permanently displayed artworks had already been decided. Thus, so the entire museum was tailor-made for those artworks.

Chichū Art Museum’s Artwork

After you get your ticket from the ticket office, you will walk past an oddly familiar garden, laid out almost like a painting on the way to the museum. And if you know much about Claude Monet’s work, you might be able to recognize the garden just looks like a replica of one of these paintings!

As soon as you go past the museum’s wall, the corridor made of concrete is right in front of you. Without artificial lighting, you will be relying on the natural light at the end of the corridor, making the entire passageway dusky. Betraying your expectations, what is waiting at the end of the tunnel-like aisle is not an open area. You will find yourself being surrounded by four three-story-tall walls, somehow making one feel like being trapped inside a cage. But seeing those staircases leading to another part of the building will put your heart

That Monet’s painting-like garden is really just like a canopy. You will have to see for yourself how architecture can enhance the artworks of Claude Monet, James Turrell, and Walter de Maria that are placed within it.

After the museum manages to wow you, don’t forget to drop by its cafe for the best view of the Seto Inland Sea on the entire island. It is where you will get a clear view of many small islands spread around Naoshima. The menu here is also very delicious with a few vegetarian options (^_-)-☆. You can check the menu in advance HERE and click on “Other Facility”.

Chichū Art Museum’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The museum is open from
    • 10 am to 6 pm from March to September
    • 10 am to 5 pm from October to February
    • It will close on Mondays unless it is a public holiday, which will close on the next business day
    • You can also refer to their opening calendar HERE to confirm the exact days it will open
    • The last admission is an hour before the museum is closed
  • The cafe is open between
    • 10:30 am to 5:45 pm from March to September
    • 10:30 am to 4:45 pm from October to February
    • The last order is taken 15 minutes before the cafe is closed
  • The admission fee is 2,100 yen for anyone who is 15 and above.
  • If you are taking the Town Bus, please get off at Tsutsuji- sō (つつじ荘) and change for Benesse House Free Shuttle Bus (ベネッセアートサイト直島場内シャトルバス) then get off at Chichū Art Museum (地中美術館)

Important:
☛ It is highly recommended that you reserve your ticket online beforehand through their website HERE. Reservation is open 3 months before the desired date. Note that you will still need to head to the museum to reserve your time slot on the day if you chose to not book your spots online. Please read through the FAQ for some very useful information that is almost essential for you to know before your visit.
☛ Photography is forbidden inside the museum building.

Lee Ufan Museum (李禹煥美術館)

From Chichū Art Museum, walking towards the landmark of the Benesse House Museum – a Yellow Pumpkin, the road will split into two. Follow the smaller road to the right, you will be at another main museum on Naoshima – Lee Ufan Museum in 10 to 15 minutes.

Lee Ufan is a Korean contemporary artist that is a leading figure in the School of Things (Mono-ha school in Japanese). The artworks of this school seek to display the object’s original form with minimal intervention on behalf of the artist, which can make the artwork quite obscure to those of us who are not part of the art world.

Completed in 2010, the half-underground building itself is the finest product of two minimalists – Lee and, again, our famous Andō Tadao. From inside to outside, Lee’s works are displayed throughout the ground of this museum (albeit not many).

With little knowledge of contemporary arts, the highly conceptual works in the museum seem to have a theme of how simple objects that are common such as a rock in our life, can create distinct meanings or feelings for each individual when placed in a different context. It will take a while for the simplicity to transfer into something contemplative. So this is a place for those who would take the time to feel the message the artist was trying to convey.

If contemporary artworks don’t usually resonate with you, you can simply enjoy the sculptures in the open space that blend in with the surrounding nature. You will get many photos that will likely receive lots of “likes” on social media (^_-)-☆.

Important: Photography is forbidden inside the museum building.

Lee Ufan Museum’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The museum is open from
    • 10 am to 6 pm from March to September
    • 10 am to 5 pm from October to February
    • It will close on Mondays unless it is a public holiday, which will close on the next business day
    • You can also refer to their opening calendar HERE to confirm the exact days it will open
    • The last admission is 30 minutes before the museum is closed
  • The admission fee is 1,050 yen for anyone who is 15 and above
  • If you are taking the Town Bus, please get off at Tsutsuji- sō (つつじ荘) and change for Benesse House Free Shuttle Bus (ベネッセアートサイト直島場内シャトルバス) then get off at Lee Ufan Museum (李禹煥美術館)

Benesse House (ベネッセハウス ミュージアム)

The last museum in the area is Benesse House. This one probably will resonate with more people as it is easier to tell the objects on display are artworks, not just something that had been left randomly on the ground.

Also designed by Andō Tadao, the building has a similar structure as Lee Ufan Museum, except this one is completely above the ground. But with the theme of co-existing between nature, art, and architecture, the forest and the seashore feel like just another part of the building, or maybe it is the other way around?

The museum is also the most splendid accommodation on Naoshima. Built on a hill overlooking the beautiful Seto Inland Sea, it is almost unbelievable that you can actually stay overnight here. The simple but elegant style of your hotel room is just upgrading the entire experience to a whole new level!

Tip: Please let the hotel know your dietary requirements in advance for them to prepare special meals for you.

If you don’t plan to stay overnight on Naoshima, you can still enjoy vegetarian lunch at the museum’s cafe. Although there is only one choice, it sure looks delicious! Please refer to their menu HERE and scroll down to the Museum Cafe session.

There is also a Japanese restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But to book, you will need at least 6 people. So it probably isn’t the best choice for us vegetarians.

Tip: Arrive early for lunch as they can run out on the ingredients!

Benesse House’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The museum is open from 8 am to 9 pm. You can also refer to their opening calendar HERE to confirm the exact days it will open
    • The last admission is an hour before the museum is closed
  • The museum cafe is open from 10 am to 5 pm
    • The last order is taken at 4:30 pm
  • The admission fee is 1,050 yen for anyone who is 15 and above
  • If you are taking the Town Bus, please get off at Tsutsuji- sō (つつじ荘) and change for Benesse House Free Shuttle Bus (ベネッセアートサイト直島場内シャトルバス) then get off at Benesse House Museum (ベネッセハウスミュージアム下)

Yellow Pumpkin and Gotanji Swimming Beach (琴弾地海水浴場)

Most tourists probably won’t come to Naoshima for its beach, but something is interesting at Gotanji Swimming Beach!

Remember the red pumpkin at Miyanoura Port? Well, there is a yellow one here! The only difference is you can’t get inside, but the black dots on the pumpkin is still fascinating (=゚ω゚)ノ.

If you do wish to get wet in summer, there are public toilets, shower facilities (coin-operated), change rooms, and a cafe in Naoshima Rest House “Tsutsuji-so” Lodge (つつじ荘) close by.

Important: While the area is open for swimming from mid-July to late August, it isn’t guarded by lifeguards. Also, the pumpkin was damaged by a typhoon in 2021. The artwork hasn’t been restored yet…

© photo-ac.com

Another thing on the beach shore that has attracted a lot of attention from visitors is this half-buried torii gate.

The worship hall of the gate is one of the smaller shrines on the ground of Naoshima Hachiman Shrine in the Honmura Area. Nobody knows why the Ebisu Shrine’s torii gate is so far away from it but what people know is, if you place a stone on top of the gate, your prayer has a high chance to come true!

Tsutsuji-sō Lodge (つつじ荘)

Instead of a high-class hotel, if you prefer to be closer to nature, then the Tsutsuji-sō Lodge will be a perfect choice!

The kind of rooms at Tsutsuji-sō Lodge can hardly be found in Japan elsewhere. Especially the yurt tents, reminding us about the Nomadic people in Mongolian-Manchurian grassland. The only differences are that the yurts here come with modern technology and they are next to a beach (^_-)-☆.

As there are almost no other restaurants around Gotanji Swimming Beach, where the lodge is located, booking your meals at the lodge’s cafe will guarantee that you will be well-fed.

Another thing to note is that not all their room types have air conditioners and/or internal toilets. And also, note the only payment method is cash.

For more information, please refer to their website HERE.

Tip: Let them know in advance your dietary requirements for them to prepare special meals for you (=゚ω゚)ノ.

How to Get to Tsutsuji-sō Lodge

  • If you are taking the Town Bus, please get off at Tsutsuji- sō (つつじ荘)
  • Cycling from Miyanoura Port (宮浦港) will take around 25 minutes

My Neighbour Totoro’s Bus Stop (ネコバスのていりゅう所)

You probably didn’t see this coming, but you can make a My Neighbour Totoro pilgrimage on Naoshima (´▽`*). If you are a big Ghibli fan, then make some effort to the bus stop and see if you have any chance of being picked up by a cat bus!

Although everything is written in Japanese, we guarantee you that it says the cat bus will come at any time (^_-)-☆. So the younger you are, the more chance that you might be able to see the cat bus running towards you!

For us adults, the bus that eventually will come is probably the free shuttle bus. You might get a lot of question marks on the passenger’s faces wondering what you are doing out of nowhere here. Their facial expression will soon turn into realization once they see the bus stops lined up on the road (´▽`*).

How to Get to My Neighbour Totoro’s Cat Bus’s Stop

It is the easiest if you have a car which takes around 9 minutes from Miyanoura Port. From Tsutsuji-sō Lodge, it takes around 15 – 20 minutes by bike and approximately 25 minutes if you are walking.

One thing to note is there are quite a few slopes you will have to climb up and down, so choose your bike wisely and bring enough water with you!

Stopping by Inujima Before You Head off

Your artistic excursion shouldn’t just end at Naoshima. Inujima, close by, is another island with many artworks you might want to take a peek at before heading off for other parts of Japan.

You can easily get to Inujima by taking one of the ferry services running by Shikoku Kisen (四国汽船). But note the number of services is limited. So please refer to the timetable on their website HERE to plan.

To find out more about Inujima, please refer to our article HERE!

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