Naoshima Japan; Island of Art

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For artistic inspiration, a visit to Naoshima Island, Japan, is the anecdote. Located in Japan in the middle of the Seto Inland Sea, with a population of around 3500, it’s abandoned cottages and businesses have been turned into art installations, museums, and sculpture gardens.

View from our room in the Park building of Benesse House
View from our room in the Park building of Benesse House

The island also houses several contemporary art museums, such as the Chichu Art Museum (literally, “in the earth”) which features art installations by James Turrell, Walter De Maria, and paintings by Claude Monet. The building was designed by self-taught architect, Tadao Ando, and is situated on one of the highest points of the island. The Lee Ufan Museum, also designed by Ando, features Ufan’s rock sculptures.

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Garden at Chichu Art Museum, meant to represent Monet’s lily pond

Lee Ufan Museum

Lee Ufan Museum, designed by Tadeo Ando

We stayed in a hotel that is also a museum, called Benesse Art House. This unique combination means there is artwork in each guest room, and some rooms are located in the floors above the actual museum. The concept is the coexistence of nature, architecture, and art. The hotel’s Japanese restaurant is located within the museum, so when we ate dinner, we got to “hang out” amongst the art at night. It was an eerie and exciting feeling. The French restaurant is right on the beach, and happy hour was held along the restaurant’s outdoor deck. Among the many art installations at Benesse Art House, I particularly liked Swiss artist Niki de Saint Phalle’s outdoor sculptures, Yayoi Kusama’s pumpkin, and Bruce Nauman’s 100 Live and Die. 

Benesse Art House Hotel

Benesse Art House Hotel

Niki de Saint Phalle’s “Cat”

Niki de Saint Phalle’s “Camel”

Niki de Saint Phalle’s “Le Banc”

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Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin”

Yayoi Kusama's "Pumpkin"
Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin”

Bruce Nauman’s “100 Live and Die”

Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin”

Happy hour at Benesse
Happy hour at Benesse

Inside the Benesse Art House Museum, I loved Jonathan Borofsky’s Three Chattering Men (a sculpture in which they have to turn the sound off at night because the noise freaks out the guests in their guest rooms), Yukinori Yanagi’s Banzai Corner, and Jennifer Bartlett’s Yellow And Black Boats, (which is an art installation featuring a painting and actual yellow & black boats. The surprise is that when you turn around and look at the beach through the museum window, you see copies of the boats on the sand.)

Yukinori Yanagi’s “Banzai Corner,” shows the exaggerated strength of the Japanese military and the pressure to conform (Photo by M. Becker)

Three Chattering Men

Jennifer Bartlett's art installation
Jennifer Bartlett’s art installation

The beach with Jennifer Bartlett's art installation (photo courtesy of
The beach with Jennifer Bartlett’s art installation (photo courtesy of

The nearby island, Inujima, can be reached by ferry. Located on the island is the Inujima Seirensho Museum, whose goal is “a project that envisions a recycling-based society as a new model of regional revitalization via industrial heritage, architecture, contemporary art, and the environment.” This island continues the “art house” concept, and adds art along the roads and sidewalks to surprise the visitor as he/she rambles around. One of my favorite surprises were the two curving walls created by Haruka Kojin, entitled “Contact Lens” and “Reflectwo.”

Inujuma Island
Inujima Island

Haruka Kojan’s “Contact Lens”

Haruka Kojan’s “Contact Lens”


Haruko Kojin’s “Reflectwo”


“Listen To The Voices of Yesterday Like The Voices Of Ancient Times” by Yusuke Asai

Art House
Yukinori Yanagi’s use of furniture from novelist Yukio Mishima’s home after he committed suicide for political reasons

yarn art

yarn art
yarn art

Yukinori Yanagi's use of an old copper mine to depict sunlight through mirrors
Yukinori Yanagi’s art installation inside a 1909 air tight copper smelting plant to depict sunlight through mirrors

A little art photography by M. Becker
A little art photography by M. Becker

Andy Warhol's flowers adorned the walls of the Japanese restaurant inside the Benesse Art House Museum
Andy Warhol’s flowers adorned the walls of the Japanese restaurant inside the Benesse Art House Museum

Our meal at Benesse Art House Museum
Our Japanese Kaiseki meal at Benesse Art House Museum

Amuse Bouche
Amuse Bouche


Assorted Appetizers

Hama-eel and Matsutake-mushroom steamed with broth in dobin-pot

Rice with small fish, miso soup, and pickles

Fried taro potato bun glazed with Yoshino-Kudzu and petal of chrysanthemum

Assorted sashimi

Benesse Art House hallway
Benesse Art House hallway

Inujima Island

Architect Kazuyo Sejima’s Art House titled “Ether”

Architect Kazuyo Sejima’s Art House titled “Ether”

Architect Kazuyo Sejima's Art House titled "Ether"
Literally hanging out in Architect Kazuyo Sejima’s Art House titled “Ether”

Lunch on Inujima
Lunch on Inujima in someone’s home turned into a restaurant

Ferry to and from island is painted to match Kasuma's pumpkins
The ferry to and from the island is painted to match Kasama’s pumpkins

Overall, the peace and serenity of Naoshima/Inujima coupled with the surprising artwork that is found while wandering inside and out, is enchanting, magical, and awe inspiring.


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