This is our review of the Benesse House Museum on Naoshima, Japan.
Due to a continued strong response from readers, we are running another batch of ‘My Favourite Hotel’ reviews over the next few weeks. This time we wanted to hear about your ‘unique’ experiences and we’ve once again received a great amount of suggestions. Hopefully you will enjoy reading these reviews. As always you can find all of the ‘My Favourite Hotel’ reviews by clicking here.
Today’s hotel is Benesse House Museum – a hotel located within the Benesse Art Site on the Japanese island of Naoshima. Here is reader Helen’s review:
For our honeymoon, we took the trip of a lifetime to Japan, where we spent three weeks exploring the most incredible country.
We wanted to pack in a full itinerary and see as much of the country as possible. Our trip included time exploring the extraordinary city of Tokyo – shopping, late-night karaoke and of course sushi, a few days in Kyoto where we visited the most beautiful temples and ancient sites, a whirlwind tour of Mount Fuji, an extremely emotional trip to Hiroshima and a few days lapping up the sun and sea on the beach.
However, our highlight had to be spending two days on the island of Naoshima.
The Benesse Art Site situated on Naoshima is an art lover’s paradise and a truly unique place to visit. An old industrial island, mainly home to tiny wooden fishermens’ huts, has been transformed by architect Tadao Ando who has created a modernist paradise filled with incredible architecture, nature and art.
Throughout the island are different museums, art installations, interventions and site-specific art pieces. One of these museums is the Benesse House Museum, which if you are lucky enough and book well in advance, has a number of bedrooms to stay in. Waking up in a museum on an art island in Japan is definitely one for a lifetime bucket-list!
Fortunately, we booked early (reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance) and so we were able to secure a room at Benesse House. The experience was unlike any other “hotel” we have stayed in anywhere in the world. Where else can you stay in a museum, with original art and sculptures everywhere you look, including unique art works on the walls of your room?
It felt pretty special to be able to be in the museum, after-hours, knowing we could access any of the rooms at night time, when all the other day visitors had left!
There are different parts to the Museum, each with its own distinct feel and style. I would advise staying in The Park or The Beach as these are the most conveniently located rooms in terms of accessing the other exhibitions on the island.
Our room in the Beach House was spacious, with a large King-size bed and a lovely bathroom. The style of the rooms are simple and functional, yet all made with beautiful materials. As with most of the hotel bathrooms in Japan, it came equipped with an array of complimentary toiletries and even pyjamas. The complimentary soap was made from natural ingredients and smelt delicious.
Our room overlooked the beach and the Seto Sea with views of a distant harbour city. From our window, we could also see the Yayoi Kusama giant yellow pumpkin on the nearby pier — an iconic image of the island.
An additional advantage of the Beach House is the location next to the Terrace Restaurant where the breakfast buffet is served as well as lunch and dinner.
There are three restaurants in the hotel, the Etoile de la mer Terrace Restaurant and the ISSEN Japanese Restaurant as well as Museum Cafe.
For dinners, The Terrace offers French inspired cuisine with a set menu or a la cart. The food we enjoyed was excellent. For dinner it was a set menu with a beef, fish or vegetable option. ISSEN offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, Etoile de la mer offers breakfast and dinner. The cafe is open from 10:00AM to 5:00PM.
There is a lounge area for hotel guests that serves free tea, coffee and water. It is open early until late. There is very poor internet speed in the hotel rooms and I would advise using the lounge which has better coverage.
There is a gorgeous decking area on the sand by The Terrace, and we loved having sunset drinks on the terrace before going into the restaurant for dinner. We also had late-night drinks in the Oval Bar – which is an oval shaped bar, high on a hill and which has no roof. The middle of the oval shape is filled with water and you sit dotted around the water.
It was incredible to sit under the stars, reflected in the water, drinking wonderful Japanese cocktails and talking about all the art we had seen that day.
The easiest way to get to Benesse Art Site Naoshima is from either Takamatsu Port or Uno Port. Once on the island, a free shuttle bus is available for hotel guests and is very frequent and travels around all the main exhibitions on the island.
As a hotel guest you can also access the Bennesse Museum out of hours and you get access to the Oval Bar area. Other installations not to be missed include the Lee Ufan Museum, the ANDO Museum and the Needle Factory.
There are also some great restaurants to check out throughout the island, including a fabulous American-style diner and an ice cream parlour selling black sesame ice cream.
The official Benesse Island website is very useful and has all the relevant info for booking and transport links, as well as a full list of every art piece on the island, so if you are interested, that would be my first port of call for finding out more.
Pricing varies widely depending on when you go and which room you take, but starts at around Y40,000 per night (£300) for a couple.
In conclusion, if you are in Japan, an overnight / two-day trip to the art island of Naoshima is definitely worth it. Although pricey, staying in the Benesse House Museum is something truly memorable for art lovers and culture addicts alike.
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