naoshima – an art island

our time at miyajima was followed by a visit to another island – naoshima. this was a very different experience – naoshima is an art island.

naoshima was one of david and my favourite places, and i really wished we’d had more time to explore both it and some of the other art islands in the seto inland sea.

naoshima is largely funded by the benesse foundation and the art projects were initiated as way to breathe new life into an island with a declining economy and population. today it is home to a number of museums and galleries as well as many wonderful pieces of public art, some of the first of which you see are the wonderful spotty pumpkins which have been created by yayoi kusama.

if you have the chance to visit naoshima, the place i really recommend you visit is the chichu museum. photography is not allowed inside this wonderful museum but you can see some pictures and learn about it here. built in 2004 it is entirely underground. and yet it is lit entirely by natural light. the design by tadao ando, who has also built other buildings on the island, is inspiring, breathtaking and provocative - he will tease and charm you as you explore and encounter the artworks it contains.

if i get chance to go back i will visit chichu museum again as well as any of the other spaces that ando has designed (the lee ufan museum is, i think, the newest but he has also designed benesse house which contains an interesting gallery and a madly expensive hotel). i’d also like to visit naoshima bath, the local onsen which has been created by artists and was recommended by a friend. sadly we ran out of time this visit.

as i mentioned, staying on naoshima can be very expensive – we stayed in okayama and did a day trip (it’s a bit of a faff, involving two trains and a ferry but very manageable and the okayama train station staff will give you a timetable with train and ferry times on it so you know what to expect), which gave us the opportunity to explore another town. okayama is home to a very beautiful garden – korakuen – which is apparently one of the top three gardens in the country.

okayama was also where we had the opportunity to try takoyaki, round ball-shaped pancakes containing octopus. we had these at a wonderful restaurant near our hotel called teppan ku-ya – we sat at the bar and watched as food was grilled and octopus balls created. the takoyaki reminded me of spanish croquetas, which are made with a béchamel sauce and studded with ham.

here the balls had more variety of flavour – a mix of ingredients was added to the batter, octopus being the one consistent item. making them seemed to be a real skill, with our bowler-hatted chef giving them her full attention for c20 minutes for each batch, turning them regularly so the batter cooked through, a rounded shape was created and a crispy exterior developed. i loved it and would be keen to see if london can offer anything similar.