The Art Islands of Japan: Teshima

Biking around Teshima Island

Even after a jam packed day in Naoshima the day before, I woke up early once more to catch the ferry for another day of adventure. This time I was bound for Teshima, an island just east of Naoshima. The ferry ride was a little longer than to Naoshima, but soon I arrived! My plan for was to rent a bicycle and travel to the other side of the island before coming returning. When I got to the bike rental place, I was excited to hear that I would be riding an electric bicycle! The shop manager gave me a rundown of the controls, interesting locking mechanism, back wheel kickstand, and safety precautions. I eagerly exchanged ¥1,000 (~$9) for my new set of wheels. At the info station however, I was a little disappointed to see that many of the art installations I had wanted to visit were closed. I had specifically come on a Monday since things were supposed to be open, so I was confused. Nevertheless, there was still an island to explore and I wasn’t going to waste any time. I hopped on my bicycle and was off.

Bike rental on Teshima Island
Let the island adventures begin!

Up and down hills I went- feeling unstoppable when the occasional electric-help kicked in. I now understand why people rode these bikes back at school. I followed the main road across the island and took a brief stop at a tea cafe. With many of the places I wanted to go to closed, I had time to enjoy the scenery and cool off with an icy cup of mango juice.

Mango juice to refresh on a hot day
Icy mango juice and a view that overlooks the sea

Experiencing the Teshima Art Museum

I absolutely loved biking through the island, taking in old houses, the Seto Island Sea, rice fields, and lush trees the whole time. I eventually came to my first major stop, the Teshima Art Museum. Even though it’s called a museum, there really is only one art piece- a large, rounded architectural dome that represents the unity of art, time, and nature. Inside, everyone was asked to be silent as the slightest noises bounce off the walls and can be heard by all. The floor was dotted with little pools and drops of water that slid along the smooth concrete, colliding with one another before dropping into tiny holes in the ground. The ceiling was open to the sky in two places, and the entire space felt intimately calm and peaceful.

Teshima Art Museum
The Teshima Art Museum
Teshima Art Museum

The following is an excerpt from something I wrote during my time inside the museum:

A concrete art space with smooth walls and ceiling meet the floor. Two circular cut-outs on either side of the ceiling let light in. Droplets of water are pushed up from tiny holes in the ground and pool to form little water blobs. The smooth sloped nature of the floor causes the little blobs to travel towards the lower ground, running into other water forms, splitting, and growing along the way. They look like snakes as they travel. The sound of gurgling can be heard as water falls into a different hole. The echoing of the art piece means each person’s voice and movements could be heard all around. Far off voices echo inside. Surrounded by grays and clear water with greenery peeking through from the outside. The room: light + dark, wet + dry, silence + noise.

Biking Along Teshima Island
The view before going down the mountain
Rice Plants on Teshima Island
Tiny growing rice plants
Teshima Island View
On the eastern part of the island

Les archives du Coeur

After the art museum, I hopped back on my bike and continued eastward towards an installation called Les Archives du Coeur. For this art piece, recordings of people’s heartbeats from all over the world are played from booming speakers in a dark, narrow room lined with mirrors. In the center of the room is a single hanging light bulb that flickers to the same pace as the playing heartbeat. It was a bit deafening standing in the room, but it was a neat concept being able to both see and hear a stranger’s heartbeat. I used the heartbeat database to search all of the heart recordings, and found some entries with my last name!

Lunch at Shima Kitchen

Once I had finished with Les Archives du Coeur, it was time to ride back up the mountain I had so happily come down. (Thank god for the electric assist!) At the top, I stopped at Shima Kitchen where I ordered the island special: a salad, small dish of cucumbers and tako (octopus), rice, cream soup, fish, and veggies. For something new, I also ordered olive soda. The soda wasn’t super olive-y tasting (probably for the better), and was more just sweet and bubbly. The rest of the meal was refreshing, and I enjoyed the fish a lot. The cream soup was a little weird though… it almost had no flavor, but was a little cold, sweet and mushroomy. Not really my thing.

Teshima Yokoo House

After lunch, I visited the last of the open art spaces. One of the most interesting was called the Teshima Yokoo House. This house had a large koi pond surrounded by large, brightly painted red rocks. Inside, the glass floors allowed you to see fish swimming in the pond underneath, and the walls were lined with abstract paintings. Massive red tinted windows in another room gave the space an eerie feeling.

Red tinted windows of the Yokoo House
Red tinted windows of the Yokoo House

Not to mention, the bathroom was funky too!

Bathroom installation
Bathroom installation

Once I was done with the Yokoo House, it was time to return the bike and wait for the ferry home. I was a little sad to give up my electric wheels as they had served me so well the entire day. When I am back in Japan, I hope to visit Teshima again to see the rest of the beauty that was closed this time.

Lush greenery on Teshima Island
Lush greenery on Teshima Island

If you enjoyed this post, read more about my Japan adventures in these posts!

  • Naoshima– Another Japanese island known for its art installations and museums
  • Karato Seafood Market – A bustling market in Northern Kyushu that’s famous for its fugu (pufferfish delicacy)
  • Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine – A short ride away from Fukuoka City, Dazaifu is home to a beautiful Buddhist Shrine.

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