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Naoshima Art Island Day Trip (+Okayama Gardens)

Naoshima Art Island, nestled in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, is a place of artistic inspiration and cultural exploration. Surrounded by serene waters and lush greenery, this small island has undergone a remarkable transformation from a quiet fishing community to a world-renowned hub for contemporary art.

The island is a surreal place to visit in Japan for anyone interested in art, but it is also a beautiful area in the Seto Inland Sea, while the Okayama Gardens are one of the best Japanese Gardens in the country and can be added on as part of a day trip to Naoshima.

Naoshima Art Island

Naoshima Island Japan

Note that technically the island is just called “Naoshima” but I am using the name “Naoshima Art Island” simply because that’s what many people refer to it as and that’s what also represents what the main attractions of the island are.

This is my guide on how to do a day trip to Naoshima along with the main attractions to see when there.

About Naoshima

Naoshima is a small island located in the Seto Inland Sea of Japan, known for its unique contemporary art installations and museums. Often referred to as “Art Island,” Naoshima has become a significant cultural destination, attracting art enthusiasts from around the world.

The island’s transformation into an art hub began in the 1980s when the Benesse Corporation, a Japanese education and publishing company, initiated a project to revitalize the area through art and architecture. This project led to the creation of several museums, outdoor installations, and art-filled public spaces.

Many of the art installations are scattered around the south of the island and the best way to see them is to rent a bike from the port where the ferry drops you off.

The best way to see it all is to rent a bicycle and cycle around. It costs 500 yen to rent a bike for the day. There are a few cafes spread around to take a break when you feel like it.

The main museums are in the east of the southern part of the island such as the Chichu Art Museum and Benesse House.

Designed by renowned architect Tadao Ando, the Benesse House Museum showcases contemporary art alongside stunning architecture. It features a diverse collection of artworks by both Japanese and international artists.

The Chichu Art Museum was also designed by Tadao Ando and is partially built into a hillside and utilizes natural light to showcase its collection.

Apart from these main attractions, Naoshima Art Island also features outdoor sculptures, installations, and art-related events scattered across the island’s landscapes and seascapes.

The blend of contemporary art with the island’s natural beauty creates a distinctive and immersive artistic experience.

These are some pictures from Naoshima Art Island to show you what some of it is like.

naoshima art island art

naoshima art

Strange architecture and sculptures can be seen everywhere.

naoshima art island

naoshima art

naoshima sculpture

You can find cute cafes to chill out in for a break between exploring the art.

naoshima cafe

The yellow “apple” is one of the most well-known art sculptures on Naoshima Island and was designed by Yayoi Kusama.

It rests on the end of a small pier.

naoshima yellow apple

naoshima art island

Just some simple random art stuff adds to the overall atmosphere.

naoshima sculpture

Additionally, there is a small James Bond museum in Miyanoura worth checking out, especially if you’re a James Bond fan.

Getting Around Naoshima Art Island

As mentioned before cycling is the best way to get around. There are some hills but they’re not so bad and it won’t take so long to cycle the southern part of the island where most of the art is located on Naoshima Island.

There are a few buses that go between the main docking port where most tourists get off at Miyanoura to the main museums on the eastern side.

I would only use the buses if it was a bad rainy day, or if not interested in the random art sculptures scattered around and just wanted to visit the main museums.

How to Get to Naoshima Island From Okayama

okayama garden

Okayama will most likely be your jumping-off point to get to Naoshima as trains from Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima all stop there.

The train is covered by the Japan Rail Pass (you can get one with that link) and the pass will save you money if you plan to move around quite a bit in Japan.

Take the Uno Line from Okayama to Uno. There might be one transfer en route but you can ask about that before leaving Okayama Station.

From there the ferry terminal is only a few minute’s walk away where you can get a ferry to Naoshima.

Teshima and Inujima

If you like art then be sure to try and do a day trip to Naoshima when in that part of Japan. Additionally, Naoshima’s neighbouring islands, such as Teshima and Inujima, also contribute to the region’s reputation as a hub for contemporary art and architecture in Japan.

Both islands offer unique cultural experiences and stunning natural landscapes.

I didn’t visit these two other islands, but if you really want to explore the area then I would recommend spending the night on Naoshima and then doing a day trip to Teshima and Inujima the next day.

The Teshima Art Museum is one of Teshima’s main attractions. The museum features a unique, open-air structure that blends seamlessly with the surrounding landscape, housing a single piece of artwork: a water sculpture that interacts with natural light and wind.

naoshima island visit with teshima island
In Teshima Art Museum.

Both Teshima and Inujima, along with Naoshima, are part of the Setouchi Triennale, a contemporary art festival held every three years, which attracts artists and visitors from around the world to explore the islands’ artistic offerings and cultural heritage.

Kōrakuen Garden

Add a few hours in Okayama on the way to Naoshima Art Island (or the way back) which is what I did, to see one of the best gardens in all of Japan, Kōrakuen Garden.

If you just want to focus on Naoshima Island or plan to spend time in Okayayama at another point, or don’t care too much about gardens, then just skip this part. But, if you are short on time and doing a day trip from Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, etc, then I recommend trying to stop on the way to see the garden to make it all an excellent day trip.

Kōrakuen Garden is one of the country’s most renowned traditional gardens. It was built in 1700 by the local daimyo (feudal lord) Ikeda Tsunamasa. The garden is designated as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty in Japan and is often considered one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, along with Kenroku-en in Kanazawa and Kairaku-en in Mito.

Kōrakuen integrates various elements of traditional Japanese garden design, including ponds, streams, hills, and pavilions, in a harmonious and aesthetically pleasing manner. Its name, Kōrakuen, translates to “garden of pleasure after,” which refers to a Chinese Confucian concept advocating the rule of a virtuous leader who ensures the welfare of his people.

One of the distinctive features of Kōrakuen is its expansive lawns, which are rare in Japanese garden design. The garden also features teahouses, walking paths, and various seasonal plants and flowers that create stunning displays throughout the year.

best Japanese garden Japan

okayama garden

okayama garden
okayama garden
okayama gardens day trip
okayama gardens
koi fish Japan

Visit Naoshima

Naoshima Island and the Okayama Gardens make one of the best day trips from Osaka, Kyoto, or Hiroshima, where many travellers base themselves and that’s what’s suggested to do.

However, if you want to take it easy you can find places to stay in Okayama for the night or places to stay in Naoshima.

You could do the reverse and base yourself in Okayama and day trip from there but I would highly recommend using Osaka or Kyoto for day trips.

There are lots more articles in my guides for Japan. More articles are added on a regular basis to help you get the best out of your visit to Japan.

Have fun in Naoshima and Okayama!

Definitely take travel insurance before going to Japan as it’s an expensive country for medical treatment if you get sick on your trip. I recommend using SafetyWing Travel Insurance for your trip, just in case, it’s best to be prepared.

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8 thoughts on “Naoshima Art Island Day Trip (+Okayama Gardens)”

  1. that last item about the james bond museum is not correct. that’s a photo of the naoshima sento. a working bathhouse designed by a folk artist (and part of the benesse museums). it has absolutely nothing to do with james bond.

  2. Misunderstanding, if you read the sentence about the James Bong museum I never attached it to being part of that photo. If the sentence was embedded with the photo then it would have been.

  3. The architect Ando Tadao brought me to the island as Chichu Museum, Bennessee House and some more are designed by him.
    I felt like not many (foreign like me) travellers knew about the island when I talked about it, so I’m happy to see people sharing the experience as I really loved it there!!

  4. Pingback: Yakushima Island (Hiking In The Mystical Shiratani Unsuikyo Forest)

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