Teshima and Naoshima are two small islands in the beautiful Seto inland sea between Honshu and Shikoku. In the mid-eighties, Tetsuhiko Fukutake, founder of the Benesse Corporation, and Chikatsugu Miyake, then mayor of Naoshima, decided to create on these islands a place where people could gather and enjoy the pristine nature.
Since the beginning of the nineties and even more since 2000, many art projects and installations popped up on three islands: Naoshima, Teshima and Inujima.
Surrounded by stunning architecture and beautiful works of art, visiting these islands is a unique experience.
On Teshima, the Teshima Art Museum, designed by the architect Ryue Nishizawa and the Japanese artist Rei Naito, is like nothing I had ever experienced before.
This white concrete shell is tucked in the corner of rice terraces facing the sea. Before entering the museum, we are instructed to remove our shoes and use slippers. Inside, at first, it doesn’t look like there is anything but that huge bright space. But soon enough, we realize some water slowly springs from the ground. The tiny drops run on the floor, gather, run some more, form bigger puddles which eventually overflow in a tiny drain making the most beautiful sound which reverberates through the whole space. The light coming through oval openings, draws large bright circles on the ground. There is something highly mesmerizing about this place, it feels like time has stopped, like we stepped in another dimension. These photos by Iwan Baan might help you imagine what the space is like.
On Naoshima, I was amazed at Tadao Ando’s architecture who designed quite a few buildings there. The Benesse House Museum hosts a very well curated selection of contemporary art and is surrounded by beautiful sculptures. A little bit further down the road is the Lee Ufan museum. The architecture by Tadao Ando connects with Lee Ufan’s artwork beautifully to become this one entity. The entrance is monumental, and then a narrow corridor leads visitors inside the museum. Entering that art space is an fascinating experience in itself.
One could spend a few days on these islands and still not see everything but taking the time to go from one site to another is highly inspiring. After a long day, the I♥︎湯 (read: “I Love You”) public bath is a last must-see on Naoshima island.