Small Art and Nature Island in Seto
Teshima is an island in the Seto Inland Sea located in Kagawa prefecture to the north of Shikoku in Japan. Its touristic reputation is based on the contemporary artworks displayed on its territory since 2010, such as the Teshima Art Museum, that are all part of the "Benesse Art Site Naoshima" project.
Stuck between Naoshima and Shodoshima in the Seto Inland Sea, the small Teshima island is spreading on a 14,5 km² superficies and is home to 800 inhabitants. It primarily thrived through agricultural work thanks to abundant spring 🌸 water.
In the 1970s, the island became an uncontrolled landfill for toxic industrial waste, but after a thorough clean up in the early 2000s it was integrated to the artistic project "Benesse Art Site Naoshima" led by Soichiro Fukutake (then chairman of the Benesse Corporation) and famous architect Tadao Ando. Teshima is also hosting part of the Setouchi Triennale, the international art fair of the Seto Inland Sea, that takes place every 3 years and whose 5th edition was held in 2022.
Teshima Art Museum
The Teshima Art Museum was inaugurated in 2010 and is the place most visitors are attracted to, to see its contemporary art exhibition. Its original and organic architecture is undoubtedly worth the trip as it is distancing itself from the traditional concept of a museum as a simple exhibition hall.
The heart of the museum is indeed sheltering a unique artwork called Matrix, by Japanese artist Rei Naito. The artwork is merged with the building designed by architect Ryue Nishizawa in a semi-buried, white concrete oval shell, devoid any kind of supporting device such as a post or a column. Openings were left on the roof towards the sky, allowing the light to enter, as well as the wind and the rain ☔️ depending on the weather condition on the island. Inside, slippers are provided to feel the ground and the groundwater’s water constantly trickling out to the surface.
With its silent atmosphere where only the voice of nature can be heard, the museum’s visit engages all five senses and all worries are put aside to completely immerse in this moment of grace. Pictures and videos inside are by the way strictly forbidden.
Teshima Art Museum is located near Karato port, on the heights of terrace rice fields. The Museum’s exit offers an unobstructed panorama on the Seto Inland Sea.
A limited number of permanent artwork display
Besides Teshima’s flagship museum, the island is also home to several art installations, such as:
- Les Archives du Cœur ("Heart Archive"), by French artist Christian Boltanski, to listen to recordings of the heartbeat of thousands of people’s from throughout the world, recorded since 2008;
- La forêt des murmures ("Forest of Whispers"), also by Christian Boltanski, provides a sensory walk while listening to the wind chimes hanging on trees on Mount Danyama, the highest place of the island.
- Shima Kitchen by Ryo Abe, half-way through a classical cafe-restaurant and a renovated artistic construction built around 2 kaki trees; and,
- Teshima Yokoo House by Tadanori Yokoo and Yuko Nagayama, that include a Japanese garden and an ancient house renovated with unusual and vivid colors.
Walking on the island’s narrow roads, outdoor artworks can also be seen all year round:
- Particles in the Air / Karato by Noe Aoki;
- No one wins – Multibasket by Llobet & Pons; and,
- Place for sea dreamers by Heather B Swann and Nonda Katsalidis.
Explore the island on the weekend
Teshima is not only a museum island, but also a rural and agricultural one, and its inhabitants still live and work there everyday. Ieura and Karato ports are also small fishing villages and a visit to Teshima involves to get used to the local daily pace.
Most of the artistic sites are closed on Tuesday, and even part of the week in winter. If you are going to sight-see, we strongly recommend to go on the island on the weekend, from Friday to Monday and in summer when the largest number of sites are open.
We also recommend renting an electric-assisted bicycle to move around the island, from one artistic site to another. Only 1 day is enough to tour the island if arriving by boat early in the morning. At lunch, take the opportunity to try on local products: strawberries, olives, lemons, beef, rice, algae and the sea salt, and of course meet and greet the welcoming islanders.