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Inland Sea - Shodo Shima & Naoshima

Written on: Tuesday January 12th, 2010

A journal entry from: Japan


Winter break – heading to Japan's Inland Sea. Most of the islands here are considered summer vacation destinations, but I was happy to go in winter (it's not too cold here) and see in it the uncrowded off-season.


Shodo Shima is well-known for growing olives. Being also considered as having something of a "Mediterranean" climate, Shodo Shima makes the most of it by adding a bit of fake Greek architecture to the ferry port terminal, and the olive grove tourist complex. Amusing. I spent the morning at the Kankakei Gorge, riding the rope-way up and walking down. Near the end of the walk down, I came across a group of wild monkeys, so I sat and watched them for a while. In the afternoon, I stopped at the small "movie village" for the popular 1950s film "Twenty-four Eyes". The film was based on a book about the negative effects of war on a group of children as and after they grow up, written by a woman who was from Shodo Shima. This area of the island was the setting for the book, and it was a lovely place. I bought the book out of curiosity, and I'm reading it now.


In the evening, I took a couple of ferries to Naoshima. Naoshima was an ordinary little island, until a beautiful, expensive contemporary art museum - and a high-class hotel complex – was built here. It's called Benesse House (after the Benesse Corporation, apparently). If I'd had a couple hundred dollars, it would have been great to stay at the hotel. Another art museum – Chichu Museum – was subsequently built and several other art projects have been undertaken in various spots on the island, including the "Art House Project" which converted several older Japanese houses into art installations. Oh, and Naoshima's also the setting for a James Bond book. One local has created the "Man with the Red Tattoo"museum (which appears to be an extension of his house) partly to lobby for a movie of the book to be made there. I had planned to checked that out, but it was closed by the time I got back from the museums. I figure I'll probably end up reading that book, too.


In any case, Naoshima proved to be one of the highlights of my trip. I really enjoyed it. And some of the art, especially at Chichu Museum, actually transformed some of my thoughts about modern art. I really loved the Art House projects, too. It was great spending a sunny afternoon wandering through the small fishing town where the houses were. My favorite two houses were one which was simply a small room with tatami mats and Japanese camellia flowers made from wood, and one where the main living space had been converted to a shallow pool, with digital flashing numbers at the bottom, focusing your thoughts on the idea of time ("Sea of Time"). And there was also a beautiful Japanese-style public bath that had been transformed as an art project, too, which was fantastic as a last stop. I don't have many photos, since you're not supposed to take pictures inside the museums or the installations. But if you're interested, you can look up a lot of the Naoshima stuff online, including photos of some of the art, and the bath.