If you’re an art fan, you’ll really enjoy this video. If not, you’ll at least be able to enjoy the cats of Nyaoshima Cat Café or the James Bond Museum someone set up in a section of their home. Naoshima is a fun place to visit and stay the night at. You could probably manage two nights, in fact, though I only had time for one. There’s so much to see and so much to do. Be sure to watch the video above for the full experience. Spoilers incoming!
Getting To Naoshima
To get to Naoshima, you’ll want to make your way to the town of Uno, which is on the Seto Inland Sea. You can take the Shinkansen to the nearby Okayama Eki, and then from there take a smaller train or two to Uno. After getting there, you’ll take the ferry across. Finding the ferry is very easy. Just walk towards the water from the train station and you’ll be there in a couple of minutes.
It’s a big ferry so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting on. Just check the ferry times before getting there and you should be A-Okay. Depending on which ferry you get on, though, you could end up in one of two small Naoshima towns: Miyanoura (the bigger ferry, and the one I took to arrive) or Honmura (smaller ferry, the route I took to leave).
No matter which side you come in on, there’s plenty to see and do. You can walk across the island (or around the island) in a day, though you’ll want to start early if you want to see everything. I hit the entire southern route on the first day, going from Miyanoura to Honmura the long way. I’d highly recommend this way as it has the most to see and is a really nice walk. Rent a bicycle if you’re not staying the night, though. It’ll help you to get around much faster.
James Bond “Man With The Red Tattoo” Museum
If you come in on the Miyanoura side, one of the first things you’ll run into (go to the left when you hit the street) is the James Bond Museum. The Bond novel “The Man With The Red Tattoo” had part of the story take place here. There’s a G-8 summit going on and there’s a dude named Kappa. That’s about all I know about it, though I’m assuming this guy is below is Kappa.
Wait, no… This guy is Kappa. Hey, why was James Bond replaced by such a handsome looking fellow?
There we go. James Bond versus Kappa in “Man With The Red Tattoo.” BAM!
Because of this novel, there’s become quite the push for a James Bond film to be made in Naoshima. They actually made their own movie (starring JB-kun – you can watch some of it in the video episode above), though the real deal would of course be a lot more exciting. In the meantime, I suppose they can hopefully be content with signed posters from Daniel Craig.
One cool “exhibit” (just a section of wall, really) was the “From Naoshima With Cool” fans. If I was going to get a fan like this, this would be the kind of fan that I’d get. There’s also a fan-shop that sells all sorts of interesting fans on the island, though I can’t say if they sell these as it wasn’t open when I tried to go.
If you’re a James Bond fan (or even if you aren’t) take a quick walk through of this museum. It’s quite small, and even if you spend 20 minutes watching their
James Bond “JB” film, you’ll still be out of there ins 30-40 minutes. It’s a fun, quick detour that will get you primed for everything else that the island has to offer.
The Art Of Naoshima
Although I wasn’t able to see everything, I did manage to see quite a lot. I’ll certainly be back here again soon just to catch what I missed the last time, though. I’m not usually the “see it again” type, but with Naoshima I don’t think I’d mind too much.
A lot of what makes the art on Naoshima interesting, I think, is the discovery of it. You just walk around and then come across something fun every five minutes or so. Besides the big art exhibits, there’s also a lot of smaller (often unofficial) ones hidden away, too. I was lucky to run into the pervy old dude (see video) when I did. He was able to show me so much more than I would have found on my own.
On Naoshima there are two big pumpkins. One is red and one is yellow. Each side of the island (West and East) has one, and they are perhaps the things that stand out the most.
They were made by Yayoi Kusama, an artist known for colorful, psychedelic patterns. I remember having to learn about her in university. Definitely a really interesting sounding lady who has done a lot of cool things.
These two pumpkins are two of the biggest tourist attractions on the island. There’s always people taking pictures of them and with them. The yellow pumpkin in particular seems like a great place to hang out watch the water (for Godzilla sightings, of course).
Chi Chu Art Museum
The Chi Chu Art Museum was the first big museum I ran into. They were incredibly strict about not letting me bring my camera(s) inside. I did bring a small go-pro video camera in, but decided not to take or show any film for a couple reasons.
First, there were guards everywhere.
Second, the presentation was amazing. As in, mindbogglingly amazing. There were a couple instances where I became dizzy because the presentation was so good. Normally this sort of thing doesn’t affect me (in fact, this might be the only time I’ve felt like this?). I don’t want to ruin the experience by showing pictures, because a picture just wouldn’t cut it. You have to come here for yourself to see what there is to offer. Pics will just ruin it.
So, if you want to see tiny low-res pictures of things that are a million times better in real life, you can learn more about the Chi Chu Art Museum here.
Lee Ufan Museum
I didn’t go inside the Lee Ufan Museum, but if it was even half as good as the Chi Chu (and I’m sure it’s great), you should totally go here. I only enjoyed one of the outdoor exhibits, which consisted of some rocks, some bigger rocks, some trees, and a pole.
This museum is particularly known for being the first museum dedicated exclusively to artist Lee Ufan. I don’t know the guy myself, but I’m sure he’s a pretty hoopy frood.
Slag Buddha 88
As I was walking along, I ran into this art exhibit. It’s a bit history, a bit art. That’s what makes it so interesting.
According to the sign outside the project:
In Naoshima one often sees stone Buddhist figures with small signs that read: “Temple #X.” These figures were set up in the Edo period and are part of the eighty-eight temples pilgrimage route on Naoshima. This work is based on these eighty-eight historical Buddhist figures on Naoshima. The Buddhas are an integral element of the island’s landscape, and were studied and surveyed by, and became the source of inspiration for Ozawa. This work, which uses the slag produced by burning industrial waste on Teshima Island, conveys both the positive and negative aspects of the history of the Seto Inland Sea.
So there you have it – made out of slag. I suppose the explains why the materials look so interesting. They have a sort of melted slag look to them.
The slag materials really gives each statue its own personality, too. There’s a little path that goes around the pond in front of them that you can use to see them up close, too (though I’m not sure if you’re supposed to go back there).
Art House Project
This is the one thing I missed and really wished I could have seen. The houses are only open from 10:00am to 4:30pm, which makes it hard to do if you’re also doing other things. If you stay overnight I’d recommend doing the Art House Project on the second day’s morning due to their hours of operation.
The story for these “art houses” goes like this: In 1998 empty residential houses were turned into works of art. There’s eight houses and each of them has something unique inside. Unfortunately, I’m only able to give you pictures of the outside of one house (right before it closed, too!), but if you want to see what’s inside or know more about the Art House Project, you can see that here.
Giant Trash Can
Like the Buddha statues, the materials in this giant trash can were also made from slag. This art piece is supposed to make you think about how there’s so much waste and information all around us. Also, we’re supposed to think about how these wasteful things can be recycled in a responsible way.
Someone did a good job making slag look like newspapers and magazines, I’d say.
And, just in case you weren’t sure how big it was… here’s me and the other girl staying at Oyaji No Umi standing next to it. The owner at the guest house drove us out here to see this and the Totoro Bus Stop (next).
My Neighbor Totoro Bus Stop
Although not technically an “official” art exhibit, the bus stop from Ghibli’s “Tonari No Totoro” (My Neighbor Totoro) is on Naoshima as well! Okay, fine… so maybe it’s just painted on a sign, but I waited for my cat bus for a long time just thinking that if I believed hard enough……
I’m sad to say a giant bus made out of a cat never came.
From up here you could also see the Yellow Pumpkin. Hard to tell in this picture, but things were getting stormy!
I can’t quite remember where this bus stop was, but it was up on a hill. The Oyaji No Umi owner took us up here after showing us the giant garbage can, so it must be somewhere in the central part of the island if you want to see it yourself. I’d consider taking the bus up here, though, if you want to save your weak blogger leg muscles.
Other Outdoor Exhibits
There were several other outdoor exhibits that I ran into as well. Some notable ones were these rocks (which are supposedly shaped like animals, at least according to the awesome pervy old guy I met there).
As well as this frogtopus statue.
There were plenty of other outdoor exhibits too – some official, some probably not official. Sometimes when your entire island is known for art you just gotta go out there and make things happen, you know? Kind of like this thing.
ART. Maybe. Possibly not.
Oyaji No Umi (おやじの海) Guest House
I hadn’t come up with a place to stay when I arrived on the island. I emailed another guest house, but they never responded (booo). One of the employees at an Art House exhibition told me about Oyaji No Umi, though, so I walked on over there. It’s on the east side of the island… and I gotta say, I really lucked out.
Oyaji No Umi is a guest house run by an incredibly friendly family. Prices will run between 4,200 yen and 5,000 yen, which is I’d say is quite reasonable. You can also rent a bicycle from them for 500yen a day. Oh, and did I mention there’s free wifi? Sold. If you’re going to stay anywhere, stay here. Although I somewhat lucked out on what day I arrived (more on that below), it was a great experience. Not to mention they have a Cat Café right across the garden!
To stay at Oyaji No Umi, it’s probably a good idea to call ahead. During the busy season they’re, well, busy. If you go during the slow season you’ll probably just be able to show up and ask for a room, though no guarantees!
Cell Phone: ０９０－５２６１－７６７０
Turns out, the day I arrived also was the day that the owner’s brother was visiting. Even stranger, turns out he was a pro baseball player in Japan, pitching for the Chuunichi Dragons from 1991 to 2001. That means it was sort of a family reunion. Do you know what family reunions mean? Lots and lots of delicious food. They were nice enough to invite myself and the other girl staying there that night to dinner. Easily the best meal I had the whole trip. The food was already good, but the environment and the people made it even better.
Everyone got fried fish for an appetizer.
We also did sashimi. Sashimi doesn’t get much fresher than this. Really, though, we were just waiting for the main course. Gotta love nabé. All you have to do is put good things in then better things come out.
The dog even got in on the action a bit. This dog is seriously spoiled (and cute).
What a fun time!
Apparently none of us know how to look at a camera.
Nyaoshima Cat Café
And in case I haven’t mentioned it enough, they had a cat café as well. When you’re not taking advantage of someone’s family reunion, this is where you normally eat as well. The cat café is full of exotic cats, at least compared to what I’m used to. There’s munchkin cats (short legs), Scottish folds, and other cats too.
D’awww again. Just like most cat cafés you pay for your time in there. Considering how adorable these things are, I’d say it’s worth the cost. I’m pretty sure it barely covers feeding them, though, so think of it like you’re helping out the cats! Pet pet pet pet pet.
Other Miscellaneous Naoshima Photos
A tugboat pulling a couple of other boats.
A moped taking a sharp turn. I worry about moped drivers… I can’t tell if they’re great at driving or terrible at it.
The Chuunichi Dragons pitcher who was back visiting his sister, the owner of Oyaji No Umi. The awesome dude on the left is his nephew, who works at the Mitsubishi Industrial Plant. He wins the best mullet ever award. I’m inspired.
The Oyaji No Umi owner was also an impressive driver. TV on? Check. Dog sliding back and forth on its hind legs? Check.
This is where I stocked up on all my beer and shave ice.
I like signs almost as much as I like turtles.
Putting the フン in fun. I like how embarrassed the dog looks. We even cover this Japanese gesture of embarrassment in our Japanese Body Language guide!
Should You Go?
You should go to Naoshima – it’s awesome. Whether you like art or not, everyone will find something they can enjoy. There’s even a pretty famous bath house (I♡湯) that you can go to as well. That’s definitely on my list for next time, along with the Art House Project.
So, I hope you enjoyed the video and the pictures – head on over to Naoshima sometime if you can. And, when you’re there, stay at Oyaji No Umi. They’re a really fun bunch (plus there’s cats!).