One of the places that you won’t find in guidebooks, but is fairly well-known to people in the art world, is the Benesse House Art Museum on Naoshima Island in the Inland Sea. This isn’t a typical Japanese place, nor is it reminiscent of traditional Japanese culture. This is a place where you actually spend the night in a museum. The rooms are all integrated into the museum, so after closing hours, you can wander amidst the various works of contemporary art located throughout the complex.
Getting to the island involves a (too-short) ride on a ferry from the port at Uno which arrives at the island town of Miyanoura Port. A bus from the hotel whisks you off to one of the various properties in the complex, where you go from the general hussle-bussle of travel in Japan to the serene quiet of an island retreat.
There are several places to stay in the complex, but the most appealing are in the Museum itself or, even higher up the hill, in the Oval. The views from the Oval are magnificent:
In addition to the Oval, the views from the Museum (slightly lower on the hill) are just as great. Here’s a picture from Room 302:
There are two different places to eat in the complex, a Japanese restaurant and the Terrace restaurant, that has more western-style food. After 15 days in Japan, it was great to have another meal that surprised us with it’s variety and freshness. Almost all the food in Japan was good, but the food at the Terrace restaurant was a special treat.
Finally, there’s the art. Even for those not especially interested in contemporary art, it’s a very unique experience to view the variety of pieces in the quiet reflection of evening. The place is so quiet, and so big, that it’s easy to feel like you’re the only people there – even though I knew the hotel was completely sold out for our stay.
So maybe it is a good thing that the guide books haven’t found this place yet!