World-class museums anchor the island-wide art complex in Naoshima, Japan, but what makes this place truly special are the creations tucked within its hidden corners. Navigating the forested isle can feel like a modern-art treasure hunt, where an “X” on your tour map marks the spot of a boat dock crowned by a giant gourd sculpture, or an ancient shrine converted to an art installation.
Over the course of nearly 20 years, Naoshima's coastal port town of Honmura has become its own sort of gallery, morphing into a fluid amalgam of art space and traditional houses. To date, seven artists have worked with the Art House Project to repurpose empty buildings in the fishing village, integrating history from when the houses were homes. Finding each structure amid the town’s weaving lanes is an adventure in itself, but the most intriguing gems wait behind each door. Step into Tatsuo Miyajima and find a pool of multicolored LED lights. In Ishibashi—the former home of a prosperous salt merchant—you’ll see a series of floor-to-ceiling waterfall paintings by Senju Hiroshi.
During the Inside Japan and Inside Japan Photography Expedition programs, we’ll spend two nights at Naoshima’s Benesse House, a hotel adjacent to the Benesse House Museum. Our itineraries allow travelers plenty of time to embark on their own modern-art treasure hunts amid the museums, landscapes, and villages of Naoshima.
Yayoi Kusama’s Pumpkin crowns a disused boat dock on Naoshima Island. Photo by: Deborah Doyle
Shinro Otake converted this former dentist’s office into the eclectic art space Haisha for the Art House Project. Photo by: Deborah Doyle
Le Banc, by Niki de Saint Phalle, adorns the grounds of the Benesse House hotel.Photo by: Deborah Doyle
One of seven structures belonging to Naoshima’s Art House Project, Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Go’o Shrine offers a modern take on an Edo-era worship house. Photo by: Deborah Doyle
Niki de Saint Phalle’s La Conversation offers unconventional outdoor seating to guests of the Benesse House hotel. Photo by: Deborah Doyle
Overlooking the Inland Sea, the Benesse House hotel terrace is an ideal spot for relaxation and reflection. Photo by: Deborah Doyle