How Art Transformed A Remote Japanese Island

Ina Jaffe
August 27, 2016

“Art can enlighten, soothe, challenge and provoke. Sometimes it can transform a community. Case in point: a 5.5-square-mile island called Naoshima in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, where art tourism has brought big changes to the island and the lives of its residents.

Once upon a time, the biggest employer on Naoshima was a Mitsubishi metals processing plant. Actually, it’s still the biggest employer, just not nearly as big as it once was. Enter Benesse Holdings, an education and publishing conglomerate based in the nearby city of Okayama. Its best-known brand is Berlitz, the language school company. Benesse’s other claim to fame is its world-class modern art collection, including paintings by Claude Monet, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol, as well as many Japanese artists less famous in the U.S.”

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The Chichu Art Museum, designed by celebrated Japanese architect Tadao Ando, is built mostly underground. Open courtyards and skylights bring in natural light. The island is internationally known for its works of modern art and architecture. Seiichi Ohsawa Courtesy of Benesse Art Site Naoshima

Ina Jaffe is a 2016 US-Japan Journalism Fellow.