Cultural Odyssey: Stealing Away to Japan’s Art Island

Pedalling around Naoshima by electric bike offers up artistic and natural treasures at every turn

is a small island around two hours from Okayama with a
population of not much more than 3,000. I’d wanted to visit for a
while and we managed to steal a day to escape there after two weeks
travelling between Tokyo,

and Osaka. Known as Art Island for its contemporary
galleries and large outdoor sculptures, you’ll find Monet’s Water
Lilies in Benesse House museum and Yayoi Kusama’s famous yellow
pumpkin along the shoreline. Art aside, the island is a beautiful
place to be, with white-sand beaches and its own little
microclimate, 26˚C in March.

We hired electric bikes and spent the day cycling around,
stopping every few yards to take photos. It was a Monday, one of
the two days that pretty much everything closes, an annoyance, but
it also meant it felt like we had the island to ourselves. And a
little coffee shop and a beach shack by the port were open, the
latter serving rice with fried eggs and crispy chicken, full of
umami and spice. Benesse House was the only gallery not closed for
the day, and it was the one space we were most looking forward

Japan’s celebrated architect Tadao Ando designed the museum
based on the concept of “coexistence of nature, art and
architecture”, and exploring the gallery, we were struck by the
juxtaposition of the harsh concrete lines of the buildings against
the backdrop of wild nature and the Seto Inland Sea.
Circumnavigating the island on our bikes only took a few hours and
we returned to the mainland by ferry feeling we’d experienced a
slice of harmony, a small respite from an otherwise busy and
frantic trip.

@joewhoward |

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