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All reviews art island day trip benesse house art house beautiful island chichu art museum modern art lee ufan ferry ride small island art lovers stay overnight town bus okayama station nearby islands explore the island bullet train
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Reviewed 1 week ago

It takes planning to get the most out of Naoshima and the neighbouring ‘art islands’, which are connected by ferries crisscrossing the Seto Inland Sea. Naoshima and Teshima are the two popular destinations that have a lot to offer: the architecture (mainly designed by the architect Tadao Ando) is to be experienced as much as the art.

Naoshima has two ports, Honmura and Miyanoura. Honmura is on the east side where various art projects are located. It is well connected to Uno, the departing point from the mainland, but has only infrequent ferry services to the other islands. Miyanoura, on the west side, has more connections to more ports. The island bus runs between the two towns but to an infrequent timetable, and it is important to make sure you know the stops if you wish to catch the bus, otherwise the only option is to walk, or rent a bicycle which seems to be the choice for travellers from overseas.

Visitors to Naoshima generally head for the three major museums of ChiChu, LeeUfan and Benesse, all designed by Tadao Ando. They are all located on the south of Naoshima and, while seemingly linked, their locations are in fact quite far apart, and are beyond the island’s bus route. Apart from catching the shuttle run by Benesse House Hotel, the only other way to get to these museums is to walk, or cycle. We had no complaints about that, but had no prior idea that it would be so.

(Please note there is only one taxi on the island and we didn’t manage to book it to take us to the port on our day of departure, and it was only the kind offer of the hotel staff to drive us there that solved our transport problem.)

It is also important to remember that the art museums and projects on Naoshima are closed on Mondays, and those on Teshima are closed on Tuesdays, (and all close at 5:00pm) so if you plan to visit the islands on those two days of the week, it is crucial to get the day right in order not to miss out. For the ChiChu Museum on Naoshima, it is advisable to book a timed entry online, otherwise you will have to take a chance on when you would be able to get in.

In our case - to illustrate my point about planning - we did not quite get everything right. We booked a two night stay in Naoshima (Monday and Tuesday) at the Wright Style Hotel, south of Honmura. Realising Teshima museums are closed on Tuesdays, we headed directly for Teshima on Monday afternoon and visited the Museum of Art. Afterwards however, we were not able to catch a ferry from Teshima to Honmura Port (nearest to our hotel) and had to return to Uno in order to catch a ferry to Honmura, by which time it was dark. Thankfully, with the help of maps.me, we found our way to the hotel, hauling our suitcases across the quiet hillside - it took about thirty minutes.

We were very glad to have got to Teshima to visit the Museum of Art on Monday but there was no time to visit any of the other art projects on the island. We spent the whole of Tuesday in Naoshima, going to ChiChu, LiUfan, Benesse, and also saw the outdoor sculptures by Miyanoura port. The next morning, we went to Honmura to visit all six of the art projects (in restored and transformed old houses) as well as the Ando Museum before leaving Naoshima at lunch time. On reflection, going mid week and staying three days would have been better - it would have allowed us time in Teshima to see the many art projects there, besides visiting the museum that is a wondrous integration of architecture and art.

Two more points : expect to have to take off your shoes many times when you visit the museums, so wear slip on shoes if possible. Also, no photography is allowed inside any of the museums or art projects; what you take away can only be the experience.

7  Thank Mac092
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed 3 weeks ago via mobile

There are quite a few museums and outdoor art installations around the island. Be prepared to pay to enter - there is no “island-wide pass” as you would have in many cities. Honmura is the most interesting populated area with several art houses to visit. The island itself is quite beautiful and the beaches are lovely. However.....the trains to Okayama are not timed to the ferry boats which are not timed to the buses. Once you arrive on the island there are several different kinds of buses - you can get to one place on a paid bus but then have to switch to a free bus and then back again. Bus stops are not well marked, by the way, you have to look carefully for them. Why not have a “hop-on hop-off” arrangement? Make it simple for visitors. We came on a day when it wasn’t busy and the bicycles were fully rented by noon - you can’t count on them. On the positive side, there were a number of English-speaking guides to provide instructions.

I would NOT come here with children - getting on and off buses, figuring out how to get places, lack of child-centered activities, distances between eating places. There are plenty of toilets around, though, so don’t worry about that.

This island takes an entire day. Think carefully before deciding it is worth it versus the Iya Valley or other beautiful destinations.

3  Thank williamsM29HU
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 17, 2018 via mobile

Great almost secluded island, by mean, its not crowded. Lots of tourist but still have spaces to explore with ease. I went there as a one day trip, I leave kyoto early inthe morning to okayama then change train to uno to take ferry to naoshima. People told me to take the ferry from takamatsu, but its too mainstream, must be very crowded there. And I made a good choice, i think. From uno i take ferry without too much crowd. As soon as I arrive, i fell in love instantly. Rent a automatic bicycle for ¥1000 for whole day and I start to explore. Great view really, especially the view from the mountain. The ocean looks magnificent. The road up could be very steep, please measure your own strenght. You can rent motor bike instead. As Naoshima were mentioned to be the Island of art, so I visit 2 of the museum, Benesse and Chichu. I dont understand art, but I think it was a great experience. So bottom line, someday I would visit Naoshima again. Next time will spend few days for more explore

3  Thank Yuta S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 10, 2018

it is an amazing experience to come to this small island in Japan! better than Osaka by far , if you are thinking about, don't , go to the island. beautiful museums in a small village, if you have time spend on day in techima too

1  Thank Marcelonetto
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 7, 2018 via mobile

I have to admit that I am not the museum type and have therefore skipped those, which seems to be the main reason to visit the island. If you are not into arts, would still recommend visiting - rent an (e-)bike for the day, explore the island and got for a swim at the one and only swimming beach on the island (20 minutes by bike from the ferry, you can also take a bus).

Note: about half of the island is off limits

1  Thank SvenMl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 26, 2018 via mobile

Pros: Naoshima had some fantastic art museums and beautiful architecture interwoven with the stunning island scenery. The Chichu art museum has great paintings and the building itself is a pleasure to walk through, although it is a small collection. The Benesse House also has some interesting exhibits and beautiful views of the water and nearby islands. Overall, it’s a worthwhile trip if you’re spending a long period in time in Japan, but probably not something I would do in a few weeks or less of sightseeing.

Cons: Naoshima requires patience and is very slow to access. Everything runs on infrequent, irregular schedules: The buses run once an hour, the ferries run even less frequently, and you have to connect from the ferry by train. If you don’t like excessively overcrowded buses and waiting an hour for the next bus to come because the previous one filled up, Naoshima probably isn’t for you. They need to improve the bus system to accommodate passengers rather than just cramming everyone in the aisles and still leaving a bunch of people behind. If the weather is nice and you don’t mind the hike or a steep climb with a bike, that’s the way to go.

4  Thank ouwxman
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 17, 2018 via mobile

I'd be surprised if anyone could see all the art here in one day. Wonderfully spread out over the island and even the natural beauty should be enjoyed.

While my kids looked the art that was on hand, they really enjoyed Gotanji beach which is only open in summer. It's a safe beach for small children because being in the Seto Inland Sea, there are virtually no waves or rips. It does get deep quickly so just make sure your kids don't venture out too far.

Your kids will love the sculptures nearby including the famous yellow pumpkin. A lot of great free stuff to see and do on the island but remember kids under 15 are free at places like Chichu, Benesse House and the House Project.

You won't be disappointed visiting Naoshima.

1  Thank Ojayc0305
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 22, 2018

Exploration of the island as a whole (and of the Benesse House area in particular), is too dependent on buses - there is simply not enough of them, and the system with Benesse guest buses vs. normal buses is too chaotic (apart from bikes, there is no other means of transport). Buses are mostly overcrowded - and by the look of it - doubling their number could maybe cope with the crowd (late May, outside the busiest times of Cherry Blossom/ Golden Week).

“Overcrowded and chaotic” applies not only to the transportation system, but unfortunately to the museums and restaurants as well. We visited Chichu Art museum just past opening time (10am), coming on a full Benesse House guest bus, and with time the museum crowd was only getting bigger. On our way back, it turned out too many people - plus luggage - were heading to the port, and a second bus had to be called.

Altogether, either you come to the island as the Benesse House guest - and then best to forget about the rest of the island and to focus on beating the crowds at Chichu/ Lee Ufan museum instead; Mind you, you will be asked to take off your shoes and wait at least 20 mins in queue to see one artwork; Which - sorry Chichu - is totally ridiculous. Or you would like to actually explore the island - and then prepare to become a backpacker, e.g. you'd better be on time to a lunch place, or the lunch gets sold out - that kind of climate. The quality of the art on the island - notably the Art House Project - is pretty much a match for that. Up to your taste.

7  Thank OandP_nomads
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 19, 2018

A wonderful island to visit and explore the sculpture trail. The art galleries are the highlight. Easy to get around by bike.

Thank P0wderh0und1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 17, 2018 via mobile

We came during a time with no special exhibition. Nice thing here is there is shuttle (at small fee) to take you around the island and museum hopping. People are quite friendly here.
Not bad to spend half day here to see the museums and see some installations.

2  Thank Minion326
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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