Cycling Naoshima

Naoshima, the art island. It’s a transformation of the most incredible sort. It is a former industrial waste site turned world-renowned art destination. I was so intrigued. Everywhere I looked, even on the off beat guides, it was recommended. Highly. I enjoy art but am certainly far from literate, especially contemporary art. However, on this trip, I felt encouraged to do something new. I also felt encouraged to spend time by the sea, being a long way from my snowy home. And so I went.

The night before I spent a relatively sleepless night in a very small hostel in Okayama. I woke up very early to catch the direct train to Uno Port then the ferry to Naoshima that departed a bit after 8:00 . I bought a coffee at a convenience store nearby and sat outside awaiting my boat–I’ve hit my travel stride and it feels good. The sun rose high and I was gifted with yet another perfect spring day. My luck ran deep on this trip, weather- and other wise. I go to the top deck to enjoy the views of the islands. An excited tune starts playing over the loudspeaker and we’re off.

We arrive in Naoshima in less than an hour. I cross the main road circling the island and arrive at the bike rental shop. There are many, and I’m told you can’t go wrong really.  The owner points me in the direction of the sites I’m in search of and I’m off. It’s really rather hard to get lost.

Within moments, I’m alone on a wooded road. The call of the birds and the nourishing feel of humid air reminds me I’m on island time now. I pedal hard up the hill and realize then why most people splurged on electric bikes. But it feels good to move my legs. I spot the Chichu Art Museum, but I’m too early. So I decide it best to park my bike and walk to the Yellow Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama. I love moments like these where you come face-to-face with an icon of a place you’ve been reading about. And this particular icon just makes everyone that faces it happy.

naoshima

I take the (free) bus up the hill, past the Henri Benesse House (reported to be a lovely, if pricey, place to stay), and arrive at the Chichu Museum. The tickets are timed, so I hurry to get mine. I’m fortunate and brought in with the first group.

This museum is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. No photos can be taken. Despite a steep price tag, it is so well worth it.  I won’t describe each exhibit, my words aren’t a match for the multi-faceted experience each room provides and the grand reveal is so wonderful. But I will say that I’d never before been to an art museum that was so experiential and centered around creating such a sensual experience. The view of the sea is magnificent, too.

Naoshima

I hop on my bike again, this time cruising downhill and finding my way to the center of town to get my pass for the Art House Project and a guide to the restaurants and shops. Before stopping for lunch, I take a lap around the road bordering the docks, spotting fishermen ending their day. This island, while certainly rejuvenated by tourist draw and dollars, is still home to a community uninvolved with that aspect. I ride by well-kept little homes with sprawling gardens and bitter orange trees all around.

I eat at the Apron Cafe.  I slip off my shoes and am greeted by such a sweet hostess. I settle into a perfect little table for one in the bright and airy space. There are books everywhere to read while you wait. One I note The Wave–a picture book I want to get for our babe. The meal is a beautiful illustration of the spring season, small bites of multiple things, my favorite being the pork and kumquats, all placed on one platter. I linger here a long while before moving on to make my rounds at the Art House Project.

The Art House Project is like an adult scavenger hunt I soon realize. Here, too, no photos inside. It makes the experience far more pleasurable I think. I cruise around on my bike in search of each home–which has been restored and transformed into an installation, some are more avant garde than others. I make it to all of them. Before long, it’s time to ride back to the port. I love that you really can’t get lost here. I deposit my bike and line up for my ferry back to Uno.

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