Following our slightly Sake infused hurried departure fron Kobe we took the Shinkansen further south to Okayama, then took a bus to Uno Port and a ferry to Naoshima island on the 7th of March. The island had been recommended by Marcelo the owner of Rio Ancho the lovely Gourmet lodge we stayed at in Uruguay. The island lies in the Inland Sea of Japan and previously had a salt manufacturing industry. Its population was aging and declining until the early 90ties when the Benesse corporation revitalised the community through art. Benesse is a huge Japanese publishing house which also bought Berlitz Publishing and obviously had enough money and vision to create this “Art island”. We stayed for two nights in simple Japanese futon accommodation and toured the island by bus and on foot mostly in sunshine, although still cold! Benesse house also offers some very high end accommodation and helipad arrival but we thought sleeping on the floor was much more romantic.
The next morning we explored the “Art House Project” in Hommura. This project involves the restoration of old vacant village houses and their transformation into artworks by artist. It was so much fun- wandering around, photography was forbidden so excuse the quality of the pictures below. Some of the houses were very restrained in their decorations, others more elaborate as you will see. One was done by James Turrell in collaboration with Tadao Ando who is a famous Japanese architect. In this house you experience finding light and structures after complete darkness, unnerving, very exciting and clever at the same time. Another project had a glass staircase going up to a shrine, I also liked the Statue of Liberty inside a Japanese house with Japanese facial features. Picture of a little Japanese garden at the end.
The southern part of the island housed the Benesse House Museum, with site specific art, the Chichu Art Museum with works by Monet, Walter de Maria and more James Turrell and the Lee Ufan Museum all designed by Tadao Ando who does love his concrete. Photos again only where possible!
Finally there are many interesting outdoor artworks to see including Yayoi Kusama’s Pumpkins. I could not resist buying a small model for my desk. It will give me joy!!
The landscape was lovely and below you can see the bridge which links Honshu with Shikoku, yet another example of extraordinary Japanese infrastructure.
We ate dinner twice at the same restaurant called Uogashi because the grilled fish was so good. The owner had returned to Naoshima after 30 years of living in Tokyo and working as a graphic Designer. Unfortunately he was very bored on Naoshima and I am not sure whether he is going to stay. Possibly spring is coming.