11 Incredible Things To Do At Naoshima & Teshima Art Islands In Japan
If you’re thinking of going to an art island in Japan such as Naoshima and/or Teshima – make the effort because they are absolutely amazing.
Even if art isn’t your thing, you must go! Imagine cycling on electric bikes around some of the most incredible islands in Japan and this is what it will be like. Throw in some of the best art galleries in the world and this is what to expect at Teshima and Naoshima in Japan.
After spending two weeks travelling around Japan, I have to say Naoshima island and Teshima art island in Japan are easily THE best things to do in Japan by a mile. We were completely blown away by these Japan art islands.
How many art islands in Japan?
There are 3 main Art Islands, the most well known is called Naoshima Island. Teshima and Inujima located on the Seto Inland Sea.
These art islands were almost abandoned fishing islands before they got turned around into some of the best art galleries I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world (and I’ve seen a lot!).
Teshima and Naoshima Art Islands are an absolutely MUST VISIT when you’re in Japan.
One of the many beaches on Naoshima Island
Table of Contents
1. How to get to Naoshima & Teshima
Here’s a art islands in Japan map to show you where they are and how to get to them from Oaska.
After a lot of research, it looked like we could visit Naoshima and Teshima art islands in one the day on our way from Osaka down to Hiroshima.
How to get to Teshima art island
Japan’s famous JR Sanyo Shinkansen train, aka ‘The Bullet Train’
If you’re wondering how to get from Osaka to Naoshima, this what we did.
We took the JR Sanyo Shinkansen train from Shin-Oaska to Okyama Station which took approximately 45 minutes, then changed trains onto the JR line to Uno Station which took about an hour. We managed to make it with minutes to spare before the ferry left to go to Teshima.
If you buy the JR Pass, it will cover your train journeys. We then had to pay for the ferry to Teshima, then to Naoshima and back to Uno. The ferry to Teshima cost 620Y, I can’t remember how much it cost from Teshima to Naoshima, whilst the one back from Naoshima to Uno cost just 220Y.
Just so we’re clear, here’s how we visited Teshima and Naoshima art islands in one day. We went to Teshima first because it’s a bit further away from the mainland and made sense with the ferry times.
It was a really long day and we were exhausted by the end of it. You can stay on the islands which we would have done if we had more time which we’ll talk about more in this post.
6:00am train from Shin Oasaka – Okyama – Uno
8:20am arrive in Uno
8:30am ferry to Takamatsu (on the east side of Teshima) so that we could get to the famous Teshima Art Museum as soon as it opened. There are two ferry ports in Teshima that are quite far from each other.
8:50am arrive in Takamatsu and hire bikes directly opp the ferry port.
9:00am cycle up to Teshima Art Museum ready for opening time! Visit other galleries around the island ready to get into Leura Port before the ferry at 1pm.
1:00pm Ferry from Leura Port (Teshima) to Miyanoura (Naoshima).
1:25pm Arrive in Miyanoura and hire bikes outside the ferry port to explore the island.
As you can see it was pretty rushed and if we had more time, I would have probably stayed the night on Naoshima to have been able to take my time with seeing the islands.
I just wanted to point out that technically you can see both islands in one day if you’re short on time like we were.
2. Can I leave luggage at Uno station?
The lockers at Uno station.
If you’re wondering if there are lockers at Uno station, I can confirm there are.
We spent ages trying to work out the logistics of where to put our luggage when visiting Naoshima & Teshima art islands. The last thing we wanted to do was carry it around with us. We actually just hoped there would be lockers and low and behold there were. Phew!
We detoured to the Japan art islands on our way to Hiroshima from Osaka and just hoped the lockers would fit our huge backpacks. When I say huge, I’m talking about 30kg+ bags.
Luckily because we arrived at 8:20am, all the lockers were available and surprisingly big enough to fit everything in for the day and they didn’t cost a lot either.
So I packed all my things I needed for the day on the top section of my pack and somehow managed to discreetly get changed whilst on the train to Uno because we had about 10 minutes in between getting off the train and running to the ferry so timing was crucial.
3. How long to spend on both art islands in Japan
Naoshima Bath House
We spent about three hours on both art islands in Japan, but to be honest… we could have spent much much longer. We didn’t get to see everything but we saw the highlights.
Find the best deals to stay on Naoshima Art Island below!
5. Can I take photos in the galleries at Naoshima art island?
Outside the Lee Ufan Museum, Naoshima
Please bare in mind that both Naoshima and Teshima islands are very strict with their no photos policy. We weren’t allowed to take any photos INSIDE the galleries at all which was quite refreshing to actually be in the moment. There were some art pieces that were so mind blowing, I’m gutted I couldn’t take a photo 🙁
6. Why you should visit Teshima Art Island in Japan
Not only did the ferry make sense to visit Teshima Island first but we actually wanted to see it more because of the Teshima Art Museum which looked and is in fact insanely amazing.
Imagine walking into a space which feels so futuristic, it’s like you’re on another planet? Sound is so quiet as you walk into the art installation at Teshima that someone standing 100 metres away sounds like they are whispering in your ear. You’ll notice water dancing on the floor as it comes up through holes in the concrete ground.
The staff all dress in white and have an almost futuristic energy to them. It’s oh so modern and oh so Japan. Teshima Art Museum really is a sight to be seen and is easily one of, it not the best art installation I’ve ever seen. Teshima Art Museum cafe and shop was probably the coolest one I’ve ever been to!
Although both islands are totally different, we loved Teshima more because it wasn’t as busy as Naoshima, actually Teshima was the first place we went to in Japan that wasn’t busy at all. There weren’t even queues to the galleries and we just absolutely loved the peacefulness and quietness on the island.
We also loved the “Les Archives du Cœur”, by Christian Boltanski. This small gallery permanently houses recordings of the heartbeats of people throughout the world. Christian Boltanski has been recording these heartbeats since 2008 which is an incredible experience to witness. You too can have your heartbeat recorded if you want to. Outside Teshima Art Museum which is surrounded by rice fields.
One thing to note is, a lot of the galleries were closed on the island during the week, except the larger ones. If you want to visit them all, you’ll need to check the website and visit on weekends.
I took this photo of the Teshima art island map so you can see how much is closed during the week.
7. What’s so amazing about Naoshima Art Island in Japan?
Chichu Art Museum by Tadao Ando on Naoshima was built around the art pieces in an underground space.
After visiting the incredible Teshima Art Island, we were actually quite shocked at the amount of tourists on Naoshima Art Island.Because it’s closer to the mainland, and there’s more art on this island to visit from big names like the most famous Japanese artist and most famous artist of our time Yayoi Kusama. Her pumpkin has become the iconic art piece of the art islands. The unofficial icon of the art islands is the pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama.
But we loved Naoshima island anyway. I loved seeing the beaches along the coast like the Seven Beach to the insanely amazing Benesse Art Site galleries were just insane.
The incredible piece by Walter De Maria at Chichu Art Museum. Source: Indagare.
The architecture and art curation was by far the best I have seen anywhere in the world. I’d recommend purely going to Naoshima to visit Chichu Art Museum which is insanely AMAZING!!
Just you wait until you see the Monet. My god, it sure is breathtaking. BUT, it looks as though you might need to reserve tickets to get in to it here. We actually went to this gallery last so by the time we got there, there weren’t many people there. I’d recommend going either at the start of the day or towards the end.
Leave at least one hour to visit Chichu Art Museum in Naoshima because if you had to visit only one gallery on the art islands in Japan, this would be it. It’s honestly exceptional. The whole gallery is underground yet the only light in it is natural light. It will blow your mind architecturally. On the pathway up to the entrance of Chichu Art Museum lies an inspired Monet lily pond which is absolutely gorgeous.
8. Can you hire bikes around Naoshima island and Teshima island?
You can hire bikes both electric and normal ones to get around both islands in Japan. As soon as the ferry’s docked, we saw locals selling bikes for hire.We hired out the electric bikes on both islands which I definitely recommend doing because there are some steep hills to navigate your way up! We loved the electric bikes seeing as it was the first time we had ever used one before.
If you’re not up for getting around the art islands on bikes, you can hire a car instead. We saw some on offer, but not as many as the bikes. If you want to walk around the islands, it will take you a long time to get around and really isn’t worth it unless you are staying for more than a night.
Naoshima is much easier to get around as there are buses you can catch to the art galleries but we didn’t see any on Teshima Island.
9. Which island is busier Naoshima or Teshima?
The actual reality of the famous yellow pumpkin by Japan’s Yayoi Kusama.
Naoshima was definitely a lot busier than Teshima art island. Because most do one or the other for the day, I think a lot of people go to Naoshima because it’s closer to the mainland and there’s more to see.
We actually preferred Teshima for the peacefulness and beauty of the island more but I’m glad we saw both because Naoshima is amazing too!
10. Only have time for one Japan art island?
At the amazing Benesse House Museum, Naoshima Japan
I’d recommend going to Naoshima if you want to tick off a lot of galleries. The last one we visited there was incredible!
Or go to Teshima if you want to be wowed by one absolutely mesmerising piece at the Teshima Art Museum. For us, this piece was by far the most amazing we saw during the entire day. But Chichu Art Museum in Naoshima is equally good as well.
11. How much does it cost to visit the art islands in Japan?
Source: penccil at Benesse House Museum, Naoshima Japan
The art islands in Japan aren’t cheap. We must have spent the most money that day during our 12 days in Japan.
Although getting to the islands wasn’t expensive as we had the JR pass, the ferries were quite cheap too, each gallery costs around $20 per person and there’s a good few to visit so it amounts up.
Chichu Art Museum was the most expensive at 2,060Y which is approximately AU$25 each.
Words can’t explain how incredible Naoshima and Teshima Art Islands are. Even if you’re not that bothered about Art, you’d be mad not to go and check these out.
We loved how Japan seems to mix futuristic architecture with old Japanese houses. It’s just a sight to be seen.