Naoshima

Naoshima island gazes across the inland sea from its ivory hills of contemporary art installations, tasteful cafes and pretty decent elementary school English curricula. Definitely worth visiting:

Top Five

Chichu Art Museum
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Lovely holes!

No.1 Chichu museum
No.2 Benesse House
No.3 Art House Project
No.4 I Love 'Yu' bathhouse
No.5 Lee Ufan museum

Benesse House
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Another lovely hole in the ground.

Art House Project
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The Liberty of Statue

I Love 'Yu' Bathhouse
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Have you ever been looking at art, and thought you'd prefer to look at it naked? Well now you can!

Lee Ufan Museum
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Shiny shiny concrete.

Hot Tips

Honmura's best for lunch. Recommended cafes are Nakaoku, Naoshima Burger, and cafe Gu.
Miyanoura's better for dinner e.g. 'Cinnamon' and Shioya diner.

The James Bond museum: celebrating a minor James Bond novel (not written by Ian Fleming) which was set partly on Naoshima. Memorabilia include pages from the writer's journal where he writes at length about the beauty of Japanese women he apparently observed during a field trip, and also a 6ft tall grotesque plastic heart which seemingly has no relation whatsoever with anything, though I guess probably has something to do with the novel.

At peak times you may have to queue to get your own quirky instagram picture with the yellow pumpkin, but it'll definitely make your facebook profile look good.

If you're renting a bike consider going up the middle past Naoshima dam - it's quite nice and there's a huge novelty rubbish bin which is also art and it's a bit more unique than just another picture of the pumpkin.

If you like unfriendly cats (and cafe owners) you can pay 500Y at the cat cafe to sit in a room with about 3 of them (cats) for half an hour.

Opposite Minamidera House Project in Honmura there's a guy who has a boat who sometimes takes tourists sailing. He drives around in a white k-truck so if you see him just ask.

Local Secrets and Folklore

The Lantern That Doesn't Light Up

East of Tsutsuji beach is a deserted peninsular which you're not supposed to explore, but if you do, you end up at a beach with a stone lantern that apparently doesn't light up. Everyone says it's impossible to light it with a flame because it's haunted by ghosts.

Wild Boar

There are some wild boar living somewhere in the rice paddies on the way to Tsutsuji beach because I saw one once when I went for a jog.

Scary House

There is a deserted, empty road heading to the factory from Honmura. Deserted except for a broken down shack about halfway along which you would assume no-one lives in but there is always a vicious mangy dog tied outside which someone feeds so someone must live there.

Cat Bus Stop

You know the movie Totoro with the cat bus? Well, somewhere on the hill between Chichu museum and the beach someone has painted a cat's face on a rusty road sign and now it's the 'cat bus stop'. There's also a guy who drives around in a big modified truck with a massive picture of Totoro painted on it, so it was probably him.

Racoon Dogs

Apparently racoon dogs used to only live on the nearby island of Tanukijima, but one day some swam across to the main island and now the place is really teeming with them. You might find a few cats on Naoshima (there are loads of cats) have bloody injuries/missing ears etc. because at night it's all out war between the cats and the racoon dogs and you can hear the cats screaming and wailing having just been maimed. Try spotting a racoon dog there are loads of them.

Industrial Waste and Gold

In the 80's tonnes and tonnes of toxic waste was dumped illegally on a beach on the neighbouring island of Teshima (you can see the beach from Honmura) and now there's a big facility on Naoshima which has been processing and recycling it all. It's all cleaned up and pretty now and Teshima is well worth visiting. Next to Lee Ufan museum there are some small Buddha statues which were made from the recycled waste.

Also the Mitsubishi factory on Naoshima is enormous and refines gold and copper. The Naoshima factory has the Guinness World Record for making the largest gold bar ever.
(http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/records-1000/largest-bar-of-gold/)

Muscial Talent

A famous Enka singer from the 1970's (I don't know his name but he was number one in the charts back then) retired to Naoshima. By Tsutsuji beach there is a wall with engraved lyrics of his song and a red button. Press the red button and you can hear the song.

Also catch the excellent Tsutsuji-daiko drumming group perform (often performing during summer festivals) or Naoshima's local rap artist, Maho.

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