With the bus tickets booked, I explored mostly hostel and Airbnb options. A few friends had stayed at ryokans (traditional Japanese style inns) on Naoshima island as well as local hostels. As I didn't have anyone to split the costs with, I was focused on finding a clean, safe place to shower, sleep, and stow my pack during the day.
A friend had visited Naoshima in early May and stayed at an Airbnb in Uno Port. I’d saved this exact same listing back in the fall, but never truly trust a cheap listing. Excited to see it pop up in her Instagram Story, looking surprisingly similar to the true to listed photos, I asked how her experience was. My friend confirmed me the listing IRL was minimal, but clean—and a short walk from the ferry port to access the islands. Perfect. Booked! 


Staying at the Benesse House on Naoshima is truly the luxe experience. And a worthy splurge—as hotel guests are privy to special portions of the museum as well as artwork that mere ticket holders cannot access. The hotel offers guests the convenience of a courtesy bus between the museums on the Benesse Art Site: Chichu Art Museum, Lee Ufan Museum, and Benesse House Museum. 
The Benesse House was designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Ando’s minimalist aesthetic and skills with materials like concrete and glass result in a truly stunning place to stay. It really is an art museum that you may stay the night at; versus a hotel that happens to include a museum. 
Staying at traditional Japanese inns (ryokan) are an incredibly unique experience of Japanese culture and hospitality. Upon checking in, guests are usually greeted with simple tea service and a few sweets. In lieu of four post beds, guests sleep on individual fluffy futon mattress lined up on the tatami mat floor. The features of each ryokan tend to vary but generally include the aforementioned tatami mat-lined rooms, rice paper frame windows, hot springs (onsen) or public bath (sen-to)—separated by gender, of course. Some ryokan offer multi-course kaiseki-style meals in room, which is a major upgrade to traditional room service IMHO.
Naoshima Guest house Sakura-Sou is a local guest house on the island that seems to have a least some English language support. Other accommodations can be found on Naoshima’s tourism site


Arriving at Okayama Station, I had the option to take a local train or bus to Uno Port. From Uno Port, Naoshima is easily accessed via local ferry. Definitely keep the ferry time table handy, especially if you’re staying off the island. 


As mentioned before, there is the single taxi on the island that can be booked in advance. However, it’s really not the most practical option. 
Benesse House guests have access to reserved shuttles between the museums on the Benesse art site. Visitors may also use a separate set of bus shuttles free of charge during the museums’ operating hours, but seating is first come first serve. These buses run every 30 minutes and makes stops at each museum. 
To access the other museums and spots around the island, there is a town bus route that runs around the entire island. In July 2017, the fare for an adult is ¥100 and a child (ages 5 to 12) is ¥50. 
Casual cycling is such a fixture of daily life in Japan that it’s incredibly optimized here. Rental bikes are equipped with battery-powered electric assist, which is a complete game-changer. While the rider is still required to actually pedal, the electric assist boosts each pedal to propel forward with more power and, dare I say, gusto. 
Naoshima is small enough that you can easily cycle around the island to each museum. There are plenty of signs for bicycle parking—some sites even suggest the best place to park your bike and take the scenic route around the neighborhood. 
Rental shops are clustered at each of the ports of Naoshima. Prices are about the same but availability can vary. I rented from a cute little shop called Little Plum because their hours were later than other shops. Motorized scooters and motorcycles are also available for rent, but seem a bit extravagant for the quiet little island. 
Okay, full disclosure: I didn’t eat at this restaurant but did eye the food longingly while passing by.
Issen is the gorgeous restaurant on the ground floor of Benesse House Museum. Dinner is by reservation only and features a stunning (again, I can only speak for visuals) kaiseki set. Each dish is made with fresh local seafood as well as seasonal ingredients. 
I tend to snack a lot when I travel. I like to have little bites throughout the day in lieu of sitting down for a full meal, especially on a solo trip. So I snacked on gelato made with locally-grown fruits and stuffed rice balls (onigiri) from the local convenience store. 




While not exactly on Naoshima, denim connoisseurs should make the detour to Kojima Jeans Street to shop high-quality Japanese denim. This area of Okayama is known as the birthplace of denim in Japan. Raw denim requires a bit of care and investment, but the quality and look is certainly worth it. 


The museums on the Benesse Art Site are certainly the most grand of Naoshima’s offerings. At Chichu Art Museum alone you can experience James Turrell’s Open Field as well as a series of Monet’s Water Lilies. Ando built the concrete hallways into the topography of the green hills of Naoshima, so visitor through cool concrete halls to explore the galleries. 
The museum offers a Night Program that allows visitors to view the sunset through Turrell’s Open Sky exhibit (extra fee on top of regular admission; prior reservation suggested). The program lasts about 45 minutes and is completely silent, save for the sounds of nature. Turrell’s deft knowledge of light, color, and sight all play together to uncover new ways to consider the hue of the sky. It made me realize how easily I take the grandeur of sunset for granted simply because it happens every day. 
The Art House Project in Naoshima’s Honmura neighborhood features seven unique houses scattered between local residential streets. In each house, an artist transformed the empty space into a work of art. 
With a multi-site ticket (priced at ¥1,030 as of July 2017), visitors wander through small streets to access each of these sites, which also includes a shrine on the top of a hill. There are friendly guides stationed at the main corners to make sure visitors eventually find their way. The experience creates an interesting juxtaposition of the simplicity of local residential life against pensive contemporary art pieces. 




Benesse House also offers spa treatments that definitely have a steep price tag, but will certainly bring deep relaxation. Treatments even include  being cleansed with Naoshima’s sea water. 
Near Miyanoura Port sits a whimsical little tiled building, topped with a red glowing ‘’ (read: “yu”). The facade is reminiscence of a Roman temple, if someone had constructed it with leftover bits from Vegas motels and bathrooms in the Mediterranean. This is Naoshima Bath House, named “I♥︎” (read: I heart yu—get it?!)
Going to a Japanese bathhouse has it’s own set of rules for dress code (no bathing suits, enter the baths completely naked) and rituals prior to entering the bath (cleanse your body of dirt from outside). Soaking in the hot baths is said to have health benefits that vary from releasing toxins to increasing blood circulation.
I♥︎ is undoubtedly unlike any other sen-to you may visit in Japan. Japanese artist Shinro Ohtake’s unique scrapbook technique is apparent throughout the bathhouse, from the patterned tile mosaics inside the baths to the souvenir tie-dye t-shirt available for purchase in the front shop. 


Did I mention the island is full of world-class contemporary art museums? 
In Uno Port, there are a few local fish markets that open at the early hours of the morning. While much smaller in scale than Tsukiji, the local fresh fish over rice (donburi) options are always a great way to start your day. 


Photography is prohibited throughout the museums (as well as ink pens, curiously enough) allows visitors the opportunity to focus and be present while experiencing each art work. 
Tranquility: an unexpected luxury of this trip to Naoshima was silence. The calm sea and chattering of local critters was a break from the buzz and bells of daily life in Tokyo. Staring out into the bright blue water, then wandering through the tall concrete slabs left my mind in wonder and spirit at peace.
The 20-minute ferry ride between the islands allows a break between exhibitions and mealtimes. Seats on the top deck are open to anyone and the perfect place to take in other small densely forested islands with the blast of fresh sea breeze. A simple reminder that a journey can be just as lovely as the destination. 


Lessa Chung