To enjoy Cherry Blossom season in Japan, we decided to visit Seto Inland Sea and Naoshima Art Island by the overnight train Sunrise Seto in the beginning of April. Naoshima is well known for the Benesse Art Site Naoshima project conducted by Benesse Holdings, Inc. Benesse is an education and publishing company and it promotes art activities combining contemporary art and architecture with the nature of the Seto Inland Sea.
Best timing to see around
Naoshima has become a huge tourist site and nearly 700,000 tourists visit here during a special art event. When we visited Naoshima, a ferry with a 500-person capacity was almost full. Museums are closed on Monday, so Tuesday tends to be very crowded. Avoiding Monday and Tuesday would be better to enjoy artworks in Naoshima.
A one day trip is possible to visit the three main museums and 6 art houses, but a one night stay would be much more preferable to enjoy Naoshima. Time passed so fast, as we were watching sunset over the Seto Inland Sea and taking photos of art and the wild animals that appeared near the museums.
How to travel
To visit artworks in Naoshima, you can walk, take a public bus or rent a bicycle and car. Renting a bicycle is the most popular way to go. There are several bicycle shops near Miyanoura Port and the average renting cost is 500 yen per day. When we arrived at Miyanoura Port at 10:00, almost all shops had put up a sign saying “bicycles are not available”. Reservation is strongly recommended. We could not find bicycles for children, so we rented a car for two days. The cost of renting the car was about 17,000 yen for two days. A public bus is running between main areas. The schedule is punctual and the cost is 100 yen. Many tourists use the public transportation to visit the three areas in Naoshima.
We drove to the Motomura area exhibiting Art House Project, 6 houses art works. The map said it takes 30 mins on foot from the Miyanoura Area to the Honmura area. However, I didn’t think it was the best way. Some tourists painfully walked this route and had to contend with up-and-down hills while carrying big packs. Naoshima’s climate is similar to a Mediterranean climate with strong sunlight and drying air. During our 2 day stay in April, we got sunburned and water and tea had sold out of some vending machines in town. Sunshades and sunscreen are needed in Naoshima.
Where to stay
We stayed at Ishii Shoten’s guest house in Motomura area. The room size was small for two mattresses, but it was very clean and cozy. We had a dinner at Ebisuya near Ishii Shoten. The number of restaurants and cafes that stayed open until evening was so limited. Reservation is recommended. The Motomura area was crowded during day, however night time was so calm and quiet. We met only three or four groups, when we stayed at the Motomura area during night.
There used to be a castle in the Motomura area and it prospered as a castle town from the warring States Period. Some houses in the town were built 400 years ago and 6 houses were restored and transformed into artworks.
Next morning, we visited the ruins of the Takahara Castle across the stone steps near Ishii Shoten. We could enjoy the view of Motomura Port and the just beginning cherry blossom blooms. We were lucky to enjoy cherry blossoms from Tokyo through to the Shikoku area for about two weeks. Shops weren’t open during the morning, so we had to eat donuts which we had bought the previous day as our breakfast at Motomura Port. During summer season, there might be some cafe to offer breakfast, but prior confirmation is needed.
Art House Project at Motomura area
After having breakfast, we started to see around Art House Project. Opening hours of each house is 10:00 to 16:30. You can walk around 6 houses in less than 2 hours in the Motomura Area. We bought Art House Project Multi-Site Tickets at Honmura Lounge & Archive.
We directly went to Minamidera where we had to wait to enter due to entry restriction. My favorite place was Minamidera, because I never expected to have such an experience there. It was the second time for me to visit Minamidera in my life, but still I really enjoyed the surprise. My son’s favorite place was Kadoya. He could not stop watching the display of 125 digital LED counters inside the house.
ANDO MUSEUM near Minamidera was also a very unique exhibition, featuring sunlight change through exposed concrete. The admission fee of ANDO MUSEUM was not included in the Art House Project Multi-Site Ticket.
If you rent a bicycle, it is convenient to park it near Haisha (Dentist) house and see around on foot. The road was so narrow and there were no parking spaces near each artwork house. If you rent a car, there are some parking spaces near Motomura Port.
Art House Project at Miyanoura Area
In the Miyanoura area, we can take a bath at Naoshima Bath “I ♥ 湯” which is actual art and an actual bath by paying 650 yen for an entrance fee. Shampoo and body soap is provided. You can buy face towels and T-shirts, if needed. The staff kindly took care of my kid while I was taking a bath relaxedly. Communication with local people would be one of the ways to enjoy “I ♥ 湯”. We could take a bath before riding a ferry to Takamatsu for departure to Tokyo by sleeper Express.