What should I know about visiting Naoshima, Japan?
May 30, 2012 7:51 PM   Subscribe

Please tell me what you think I should know about visiting Naoshima, Japan.

My wife and I intend to visit Japan in late December/early January. We'd like to visit Naoshima. Our tentative plan is to spend two days there. Is this a reasonable amount of time?

Also, we do not speak Japanese, so we're concerned a bit about accommodation. Because it is so close to the New Year (our preliminary plan puts us in Naoshima the 27th and 28th of December), we place a high value on booking accommodations early so we're ensured of having them. But of the places I've found, even those that say they speak English have only Japanese contact pages on their websites (even if other parts of the site are in English) or indicate they may be closed at that time of year. We would prefer accommodations where some English is spoken since that is a big help in getting directions and recommendations on where to eat and so on. From our initial look, it appears a viable option is very, very expensive. Any suggestions that the guide books and standard net searches may have missed?

Recommendations on where vegetarians might eat would be hugely appreciated as well.

Also, I'd love to hear what you think we absolutely should not miss while we're there.

posted by MoonOrb to Travel & Transportation around Naoshima, Japan (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wow! Visiting Naoshima was the highlight of my last trip to Japan. I am jealous...

We stayed in Okayama and went to Naoshima for the day. This involved down to the minute planning to ensure connecting train and ferry times but was definitley do-able with a little bit of planning. Here is some great info on planning train travel. We found a cheap hotel in Okayama as all accomm on the island was either closed (common outside of peak season), booked up or incredibly expensive.

We only had time to spend one day on the island and managed to see the arthouse project and the Benesse House Museum as well as wander around the island to see the various sculptures, catch a bus and eat an amazing vegan lunch.

I speak some Japanese so we were able to get around but my advice if you don't, is to write down some key phrases to ask for directions/food requirements etc. Another AskMe could help with this...

If you are vegetarian you should be aware that fish/meat based sauces/stock/and condiments are included in many japanese dishes. It would be good to learn how to say "No beef, no pork, no chicken and no fish" if these are things you want to avoid. That said -many of the cafes we went to on the island were vegan and we had one of the best meals of my life there!

Enjoy your trip and feel free to memail me if you want more specific info.
posted by sconbie at 8:37 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hey! I was there for two days (one night) just after New Year. It was amazing and wonderful and one of my favorite places in Japan, but I would actually recommend not staying the night at all, and getting in and out on the same day. It would be very easy to see all the sights in one day--I know it sounds like a lot, but the "museums" are quite small, really more gallery-sized. I planned my time assuming I'd be spending an hour or more in each of them and ended up with way too much time on my hands.

I did the Chichu Art Museum, Benesse House, Lee Ufan museum and I <3 Yu bathhouse the first day and the Art House Project the second day, but I could have done it in one day if I had started early (I left Hiroshima in the morning and didn't get to Naoshima until after lunch), and after I finished it was a looooong wait for the ferry. It was also very cold and windy, so not all that pleasant for strolling around or biking, and despite all the wonderful art and culture it is ultimately a rural island with only one convenience store and a few restaurants, so once you're done with the art there isn't much to do to kill time.

I think my favorite thing was the Art House Project, but definitely all the museums are worth going to. Yayoi Kusama's pumpkin (near the Benesse House) is great too. I <3 Yu was honestly pretty skippable--the outside was cool-looking but inside it was just bad kitsch, and the baths weren't particularly nice.

Have a great time!
posted by sunset in snow country at 9:22 PM on May 30, 2012

For hotels, you might be able to book through Jalan.net (click on the "go to this webpage in English" at the top), or H.I.S. (http://www.his-j.com/Default.aspx -- click on the union jack) or Japanese Guest Houses (http://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/index.htm)
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 8:17 AM on May 31, 2012

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