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Exploring Naoshima, Japan's Art Island

Set amongst a cluster of small islands in Japan's Inland Seto Sea, is an island of treasure. Treasure that you can't take away unfortunately or even really photograph, but one you experience. And an experience I recommend to anyone if you're ever lucky enough to visit that part of the world.

During my recent travels to Japan, it quickly became apparent that the biggest inspiration was how the architecture and use of space connected them to nature, or allowed them to live in small, considered slots. Contrasts and contractions were everywhere, just as the old spiritual and new technological ways overlayed each other, inseperable. 


My quest to understand and enjoy these connections lead me to Naoshima, an island of art museums The art here is the space. There are very few paintings, and the few that there are (Monet's Waterlilies for example), are displayed in such a futuristically serene envrironment, that again the space wins. Designed by architect Tadao Ando, the Chichu museum which holds Monet's work is buried underground, and is illumated by natural light that seeps into its wells, and gaps, and concrete slits, changing the appearance of the artworks throught the day. Walking through its corridors and alleys, sink holes and steps, every angle is juxtaposed and sunken within the rich nature.The result is pure calm.

I travelled across the small island betweem the scattered museums and randomly placed artworks and sculptures by bike. Everyone did. With a simple map and a slow pace, the experience is designed to connect you deeper to the peace around you and the contrasting contemporary gems hidden amonst it all. On the far east coast is the Art House Project, a collection of architectural art pieces. The stand out being James Turrell's Minamidera, where a dark room has never seemed so dark and powerful before. Amazing.

Interestingly, perhaps the most impressive space and art piece of all is on the neighbouring smaller island of Teshima. Having a more succinct offer of exhibitions, this beautiful, forested raw island is home to the Teshima Art Musem. A singular droplet of white dome open to the elements in part, and again a space that connects you to the seasons, to nature and to the changing light.

No photography is allowed within the museums and art houses, so the mystery of this island stays within. But if there's ever a recommendation for a treasure island, this is it.


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