Naoshima is more commonly known as Japan’s ‘art island’, and for good reason. Aside from the large, multi billion yen galleries, there is literally art everywhere. From famous sculptures to resident-decorated houses and gardens, let’s take a look at some of the inspirational and surprising displays around town… 

The Art of Sailing 

Before you even arrive on the island, you’ll find yourself assuming the ‘art viewing position’. You know the one, hands gently clasped behind your back, head tilted a little to one side contemplatively. This is because the ferry from Okayama has paintings, mosaics and sculptures on board to get you in the mood.

Don’t spend too much time viewing them though, the ferry ride isn’t that long and you have plenty more to see on land!   

Iconic Sculptures and Structures

The sculptures of Naoshima are a huge tourist drawcard. Free to view day or night, they are big, bright and make for an interesting addition/juxtaposition to the landscape. While there are many to see around the island, the most iconic are, undoubtedly, the pumpkins of Yayoi Kusama. 

Red pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama

The Red Pumpkin, located right next to the Miyanoura port, is the obvious first stop. Hollow with lots of openings, you can explore inside and get as many cute photos as you can think of. 

Yellow pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama

Beyond the Pavillon and past some of the bigger galleries is the Yellow Pumpkin. It sits on a small pier near Benesse House, jutting out over the water and looking particularly beautiful at sunset. 

Further afield in the Honmura district, you’ll spot a large bubbly structure rising up above the boats at Honmura Port. At first glance, it appears purely decorational, though closer inspection reveals it to be a waiting area for boat passengers. 

Homegrown Artists 

All over Naoshima, shops and houses are distinctly beautified and accessorized to showcase the owner’s personality. Bright colours, murals, homemade trinkets and displays—you name it. There seems to be a real freedom of artistic expression here, which many of the locals seem to exercise…cross fit style.  

Naoshima Art: More than just pumpkins
Naoshima Art: More than just pumpkins

Noren Curtains 

Walking around the townscape, you might also notice the beautifully dyed noren curtains adorning many of Naoshima’s shop fronts. These are part of the Naoshima Noren Project which began in 2001.

Naoshima Art: More than just pumpkins. Noren Project

Yoko Kano, a textile artist from nearby Okayama, is the woman behind these charming patterns. Each one is uniquely designed for the business then dyed and woven by hand. They certainly make for a fun treasure hunt while you wander the streets. Read more about the history of noren here.  

Naoshima Art: More than just pumpkins. Noren Project
Another example of the Naoshima art

Spin a Yarn About Art

Another fun treasure hunt is the ‘Journey of the Line’ by Ishikawa Kazuharu. This artist started decorating the walls of the Honmura district with yarn outlines in 2006.

Naoshima art: Journey of the Line by Ishikawa Kazuharu

A brochure found next to one of the works explains that the single outline shapes moved from the real world to his notebook and now back into the real world in yarn form. There are eight to track down in the Honmura district; you can wander around in search or use the brochure/map to help you. More about the artist here

Naoshima art: Journey of the Line by Ishikawa Kazuharu
Naoshima art: Journey of the Line by Ishikawa Kazuharu
Naoshima art: Journey of the Line by Ishikawa Kazuharu
Naoshima art: Journey of the Line by Ishikawa Kazuharu

These free, readily accessible instances of art are merely a fraction of the wonderful things to see and do on Naoshima. There are small and large galleries, fantastic architecture, delicious food and beautiful scenery to behold. Art is truly everywhere on this island, so dive in and enjoy!

Post by Japan Journeys.