Up-and-coming Art Destination: Naoshima Island

It is pumpkin spice latte season again! In Japan, there is this gigantic black-spotted pumpkin located by the water and it attracts foreigners to flyover to Japan just to get a snapshot of it. Yes, I am referring to the Pumpkins installation made by Yayoi Kusama located on Naoshima Island.

How can you attract tourist to an isolated island? Naoshima Island can answer this question. The island has placed contemporary art all around the island. The island also has eye-catching architectures. Ever since Instagram has been popularized, one of the main concerns for many while traveling is whether the place is Instagram-able. Naoshima is an Island in Japan that has transformed into an art destination and this is where all the Instagram pundit goes.

According to an article published by CNN, Noashima started its transformation project in the beginning of 1987 when the Benesse Holdings, Inc., purchased the south side of the island. The article wrote that over the next two decades, the company has been building stunning architectures like hotel complex and museums. The article pinpointed that Fukutake supervised the development of the southern part of the island and “Adhered to his guiding principle of designing buildings that follow the natural forms of landscapes, Ando’s buildings on the island blend into or are built into the earth, some of them opening up to the sky.”

In another article written by the New York Times, the author said that Naoshima is about three square miles in size, supporting a population about 3,300. The author also pointed out that during the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant explosion in 2011, the island suffered a significant drop in foreign tourism. However, after the disaster, the island’s “intriguing harmony of culture and nature” slowly gained back its tourists.

The island comprises a few major museums: Benesse House Museum which was built in 1992, Chichu Art Museum in 2004, and Lee Ufan built in 2010. Out of all the tourist attractions, I am most intrigued by the Noashima Bath “I Love Yu”, which, again, according the New York Times article, is a bilingual word play, the name uses the character for “hot water,” which is pronounced “you.” The bath was opened in 2009 and I think an excerpt of the article can convince you to go visit the island:

Once stripped of my notebook, camera and every last stitch of clothing, I soaked in the warm water, absorbed in the piece of art that surrounded me. As with so much of the work on Naoshima, the divisions between art and life simply dissolved—New York Times, Williams, 2011

Traveling on this island and finding art installations is like a scavenger hunt. Yusuf Huysal’s article published on Time Outlisted things you can discover on the island:

‘Pumpkins’ by Yayoi Kusama
Yes, this is the Instagram famous Pumpkins that I talked about. When you arrive to the Miyanoura Port by ferry, the first thing you can spot will be Kusama’s black dotted red pumpkin. However, the most Instagram famous pumpkin, a yellow pumpkin with black dots is located near the Benesse Hotel. This pumpkin quickly became the landmark of the island.

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Benesse House

There are limited accommodations on the island. Therefore, the island only allows a certain amount of over-night visitors. Benesse House is both a museum and a hotel, incorporating guest rooms and space for displaying contemporary art. On the premises’ website, the Benesse House “offers guests opportunities to get close to great art and spend a uniquely rewarding time in dialogue with the works and with themselves.” If their description still cannot persuade you to spend at least 27,000 JYP (333 CAD) per night, then maybe this quote from the New York Times article can.

On my way to bed, I detoured past a whitewashed alphabet by Jasper Johns and the blue hues of a David Hockney swimming pool, the only sound in the galleries the scratching of my hotel slippers on the concrete floor. No guard hovered over Cy Twombly’s scribbles; no tour group blocked Jackson Pollock’s splatters. This was the essential appeal to the Benesse’s unusual hotel-within-a-museum setup: an exhilarating intimacy with art. The museum had been closed for more than an hour when I finally shuffled out of the gallery and crawled into bed—New York Times, Williams, 2011

I am now not sure if it is William’s writing or the natural appeal of the resort that is making me yearn for a visit.

There are many more you can discover on the island. This island will allow you to indulge into this artistic atmosphere, and dwell in the beauty of everything around you.

Hashtag: Art, ContemporaryArt, Japan, Naoshima, Pumpkin, Island, ArtDestination. RemoteDestination, travel, YayoiKusama, Benesse, Hotels, Museums, Artsy, Instagram, picturesque