Naoshima Island, Benesse House

We love this place and feel Naoshima represents nothing less than aesthetic perfection! The island’s relatively remote, picturesque, location, coupled with its array of world class contemporary art and architecture makes for a truly unique stopover destination.  Naoshima welcomes greater number of foreigners year by year yet it has been thankfully missing from the Japan mass tourism travel circuit.

16.6 kilometers (10 miles) in circumference and with a population of a mere 3,200, the small island is comprised of three districts: the Miyanoura District, the Honmura District, and the Tsumu’ura District.  For Benesse House Hotel guests, courtesy shuttle bus service is available, but you may also want to try walking or biking (bike rentals available at local shops) to get around the island.  You will encounter many small eateries offering Udon, a specialty of Kagawa prefecture (most delicious!) to which the town of Naoshima belongs, and get a fun snapshot of Japanese daily life in local villages, while exploring the island.

Among our favorite village is Honmura, home to the Art House Project.  We loved every artwork of Art House Project, but the one we were mesmerized by the most is Minamidera.  Minamidera, named after the temple that had once existed on the site, is designed by Tadao Ando with James Turrell’s artwork inside.  When you enter, the building opens up on a huge expanse of ebony darkness and after 10-15 minutes of observation, a seemingly optical illusion gradually unfolds.  Yet you would need patience and need to conquer a little bit of fear, this has to be among our most memorable artwork experiences anywhere.

The 65-room Benesse House Hotel, the central lodging facility within “Benesse Art Site Naoshima” consists of four buildings: Museum (10 rooms) allows close contact with the artworks both in a public exhibition space and in each guestroom; Oval (6 rooms; 2 suites & 4 twins), offers beautiful panoramic view of the inland sea and is connected to the museum by a monorail; Park (41 rooms) looks out to the green lawn with open-air artworks to the ocean and the mountains of Shikoku on the far shore, and contains an exclusive lounge, a shop, and Spa; and Beach (8 suites), located on the shoreline with suites only, provides beautiful view of the Seto Inland Sea. Please note that the Benesse House is more of a “museum-hotel” experience than a luxury hotel stay. In contrast to the services of a 5-Star hotel, Benesse does not provide room service or the updated room amenities that discerning clients may expect. Notwithstanding these caveats, a stay at Benesse House is a truly memorable experience.

At the Benesse House, the Museum restaurant Issen offering Japanese Kaiseki cuisine and the Terrace restaurant Etoile de la Mer offering French cuisine is available as dinner options.  The Benesse House SPA, which can further enhance your relaxed stay, offers various therapeutic treatments (advanced reservations recommended!).  The Park Lounge has a wide selection of art books and self-serving tea/coffee.  We actually enjoyed having morning coffee/tea at the guestroom in Park and at the Park Lounge while admiring the sculptures and landscape.  We felt that all of the Benesse House team were sincere and high-touch and that the high-end service is provided at everywhere at the Benesse House.  No doubt the staff are proud to work in such a unique and engaging atmosphere.

”Benesse Art Site Naoshima” is the collective name for all art-related activities conducted on the islands of Naoshima and Teshima in Kagawa Prefecture and on Inujima island in Okayama Prefecture.  Among the many compelling art museums of the “Benesse Art Site Naoshima”, our teen travelers, Zen and Sophia, enthusiastically recommend the otherworldly “Open Field” experience by James Turrell at the Chichu Art Museum.

Benesse Art Museum

The Chichu Art Museum exists in harmony with the nature around it, having been built mostly underground so as not to interfere with the surrounding landscape.  Despite its almost-completely underground location, the museum lets in an abundance of natural light, providing a variety of experiences with the art contained within, depending on the time of day and season of the year.  The concept of the museum is to provide a place for people to reflect on the relationship between mankind and nature.

Benesse Art Site Naoshima aims to create significant spaces by bringing contemporary art and architecture in resonance with the pristine nature of the Seto Inland Sea, a landscape with a rich cultural and historical fabric. The meaning of “Benesse” is “Well-Being”.

Through contacts with art and nature, sceneries and inhabitants of the Seto Inland Sea region, they seek to inspire visitors to experience and appreciate the art in a personal way and to take a moment to re-envision their own lives for the better.

Enjoy this truly amazing place!

Randy, Bev, and Zen Lynch

Benesse Beach House

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