One of the perks of visiting Shikoku the weekend before last was the chance to cross the Inland Sea. There are a few ways to get to Shikoku overland, all of which involve crossing – via ship or bridge – the large, beautiful inland sea. When we crossed during the day, we were treated to upwards of 20-minutes of admiring the ocean waters simply peppered with small, tiny islands. It is a real treat.
Since the inland sea has so many islands within it, we knew that we wanted to get out to at least one of them during our stay. With so many to choose from, it was almost as though we simply had to pick one from a hat. We ended up picking Naoshima, largely because I was interested in seeing a Monet exhibit at one of the art museums, and I am happy that we did!
To get to Naoshima we had to ride a ferry for about an hour. It was a sizeable boat and the seas were calm, perfect for me and my tendency to get seasick. My only complaint was that it got quite chilly while we were riding.
Once we were on the island, we quickly set out to start seeing the sights. Naoshima is most famous for the art on the island. It has two major museums and a variety of outdoor exhibits.
Our first stop was Chichu Art Museum. Literally translated, it means “in the earth” because it is almost entirely underground. The museum was designed by a famous Japanese architect, Tadao Ando, and is itself a work of art. All the indoor spaces, aside from the spaces with works by James Turrell, are lit solely with natural light. It was quite an experience to wander around the museum, admiring the architecture and viewing various artworks in quite extraordinary surroundings.
Understandably, photos were not allowed, so we have none of our own to share with you. You can, however, see photos of some of the pieces on the museum website. My favorite were the pieces by Monet. Not only am I a fan of his artwork, but the setting in which they were displayed was also extraordinary. The room was completely white, with rounded corners and a white tile floor. Before entering, everyone had to remove their shoes to protect the space from getting dirty. The roof had an enormous window which was covered by a lower, dropped ceiling which allowed just enough light to diffuse through to enjoy the works of art. I imagine that each day the pieces look a little different because of the changing light, but the day we saw them was bright and sunny, and the pieces seemed to shine.
Next up, we went to the Art House Project. The Art House Project goal was to prevent various houses from being torn down. Instead, the houses were restored and turned over to various artists to be transformed into works of art. There are seven art houses total, and we were able to see five (one was closed, one needs advanced reservations). Each house was unique with a different artist and concept. Some were quite peaceful and tranquil, others were busy and modern. Again, photos were prohibited inside the spaces, but we were able to get a few from the outside.
This is a photo of the Go’o Shrine. The coolest thing about this shrine was the glass staircase.
Another Art House that we were able to get a few photos of was Haisha. It was perhaps the most eclectic of all.
It had paintings and sculptures and the floors were covered in found items, currency from different countries, newspaper clippings, drawings by small children. And, the one thing we couldn’t help noticing, was the giant Statue of Liberty.
It was really a nice time walking between the houses, not only admiring the works inside them once we arrived, but also enjoying the small little village in which they were placed. It was a really relaxed, peaceful atmosphere.
Aside from the museums (there is another one which we missed, The Benesse House) and the art house project, the museum is littered with other works. Even the chairs were pieces of sculpture art.
I took one look at this little stool and said to Aaron, “it looks like a red blood cell to me.” He said, “funny, I was just about to say the same thing.” I wonder if that is what the creator had intended.
And then there was a giant, red and black, kabocha which we couldn’t resist getting a few photos with.
All in all, a great day-trip and one I would highly recommend to anyone that happens to be in the area and would appreciate a little art.