Teshima & Inujima, the "Other" Art Islands


Naoshima is the most familiar of the Seto Inland Sea "art islands". You've seen it on social media from tourists' posing in front of the yellow, polka-dot pumpkin. As necessary it is to pay homage to the great pumpkins of Naoshima, the Seto Inland Sea experience won't be complete without including Teshima and Inujima. These two islands (among many) are apart of the Setouchi Triennale (the next one is in 2019). If you have any inkling of interest in art then these islands should be a priority slipped into your typical Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka JR pass itinerary.

If you're a seasoned traveler you will be able to check off Teshima and Inujima in one day. If you like to take the slow course, consider one day per island. To make your life easier, you should choose your accommodation in Honmura (Naoshima) to be close to the ferry and convenience. For those traveling on a budget and can't ball out at the luxurious Benesse House, there are several great lodging options offered in the local village. Yado Seven Beach is an excellent accommodation as a base with the friendliest staff to boast.

Assuming that you have experienced at least a day on Naoshima, you will start your day early to catch one of the first ferries to depart to Teshima via Honmura Port. The recommended first ferry out of Naoshima via Honmura Port is at 9:20AM and arrives in Ieura Port in Teshima at 9:42AM (*times from when written in 2018, check for the most updated timetable at the information desk at the ports). There is a bicycle rental shop as soon as you exit the port. Cycling across the island is recommended for a more intimate experience of local life and the outdoors. Your first main destination should be the Teshima Art Museum. The museum is a 15-20 min pedal to the east side of the island.

Teshima Art Museum exists in the form of a water droplet landing which denotes to the experience of the exhibition itself. Its not your traditional museum with paintings and sculptural works displayed. The space and experience is designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Ryue Nishizawa and artist Rei Naito. Together they create a purely meditative nature-mind-visual encounter that can't be reported in literal form. The experience is one of those rare situations when you'll forgive the tiresome no-photo policies that are enforced at Japanese institutions. The mere thought of taking a photo in the space feels utterly intrusive and aggressive, as the sound of rushing droplets of water resonates across the dome interior. If you sit there shoeless, in the cement dome long enough, taking in every droplet of water, every change in natural light, a sort of spiritual calm washes over the mind. Its a spiritual experience without being preachy about anything in particular.

©Benesse Art Site Naoshima

©Benesse Art Site Naoshima

For an easier navigation, grab a map of the island from the visitor center.

By making your way back to the Ieura Port area you will be able to catch several spots before the ferry ride. Pop-Surrealist artist/graphic designer Tadanori Yokoo and architect Yuko Nagayama have collaborated in creating a museum by renovating an old house. The museum houses Yokoo's rebellious and psychedelic work that freaked people out in the 60's. A museum with just work on the walls wouldn't fulfill an Yokoo experience. The museum has wacky mirrored bathrooms to perception-defying rooms all in the taste of Yokoo. Anyone interested in visual art and graphic design should make a stop at design god's psych house.

The ferry from Teshima will take you to Inujima. Following the Teshima + Inujima day trip schedule, you will be required to catch the ferry that will give you ample time to sweep through Inujima. The 12:25pm ferry bound for Inujima is recommended. This will give you enough time to explore Inujima and make it back to the 3:20pm ferry bound for Naoshima.

Inujima's main points are Inujima Seirensho Art Museum and the "Art House Project". Inujima Seirensho Art Museum created a future and renewed purpose for a former copper refinery that was active in the early 1900s. The abandoned copper refinery was resurrected by architect Hiroshi Sambuichi in collaboration with exhibiting artist Yukinori Yanagi. When you think of all the grand museums of the world, you will expect a high energy consumption and heating facility. Inujima Seirensho Art Museum relies only on natural and renewable sources. The museum retains its temperature through geothermal methods through solar energy. Air flow and circulation is controlled by the Chimney Hall which serves as the museum's central point. The sophisticated water purification system employs the use of power from the vegetation that were planted to suit Inujima. The works of Yukinori Yanagi are exhibited with Japan's national legend Yukio Mishima as a motif, a vocal critique of Japan's modernization during the industrial period. The works are exhibited in six spaces each with its own unique experience that are inseparable with the architectural features. The "Icarus Cell" takes you through a windy zigzagging corridor with mirrors with reflections of natural light from a shaft. With sounds and force from the wind and inching your way closer to the light source (the sun), you are fully engaged in this work. The rest of the works are directly centers around Yukio Mishima as Yanagi exhibits a work that collages Mishima's deconstructed home which lightly sway as gusts of winds pass through the museum. Though a different experience from the Teshima Art Museum, you gotta see, feel, and hear it to believe it. While the world keeps talking about sustainability, here is a perfect leading example of a recycle-society while retaining its industrial heritage and environment through art and design.

The "Art House Project" features six locations where artwork is created in the local community of Inujima with its natural environment in mind. The sites include A-Art House, C-Art House, F-Art House, S-Art House, I-Art House, Former site of a stonecutter's house, and a rest area-Nakanotani Gazebo. The points are scattered around the island with a pleasant visual impression with the placement and consideration for the community. They need to be experienced first hand for full impact as with everything on the islands.

©Benesse Art Site Naoshima

©Benesse Art Site Naoshima

Navigating Inujima is fairly simple with most points accessible on one route.

The beautiful retrofitted Ukicafe is out of a Miyazaki movie. The cafe stands with most of the original architecture intact which creates a homie and relaxing atmosphere. Those not familiar with local mom and pop eateries will feel like they're intruding someone's home. Well, that's because the establishment might just be the owner's residence with his living quarters upstairs or in the back of the house. Enjoy it because these kinds of places serve the best food and nostalgic flashbacks to take home. Ukicafe offers tea, coffee, desserts, pastas and other rotating items using locally sourced ingredients. There are other great options around town. Grab an Inujima bowl (minced sole over rice) at Arimoto Shoten, seafood at Sato-Sun, curry at trees Inujima, seasonal dishes at simasima, Japanese and Western offerings at Shima Shokudo, and of course a menu of locally sourced ingredient cooking at the ticket center.

On your rush back to the Inujima Port you'll come across local houses and small businesses. A large mural of "Inujima" faces the sea on your last stretch to the port. Tokyo/Osaka/Kyoto bound folks will depart via Honmura Port in Naoshima. If the experiences from the Seto Inland Sea islands had any kind of effect on you, you will seek out other countless less visited destinations of Japan.

Tsudoi, Underground Noodle Bar


Only in Japan will you find a noodle bar that is purposefully tucked away without desperate marketing moves on social media accounts. Located in Fukuoka's cultural hotbed of Yakuin, Tsudoi's noodle offerings are not described as ramen, soba, or udon, but as "this" or "that". Everything about the menu to the decor and attitude is strange (in a good way). Don't bother asking about the ingredients because you'll get the GTFOH face. Tsudoi is a regular for local artists, skaters, designers, weirdos and for those that prefer a little something different.

"AreH" Noodle bowl

"AreH" Noodle bowl

The interior is covered with retro posters/flyers along with works of local artists such as KYNE and NONCHELEE (the duo runs a shop called ON AIR). This obscure noodle shop is where you will be able to connect with individuals who are progressing the creative cultures of the neighborhood. Order a bowl of "areh" noodles along with "scent of the evening" cocktails and take in the exciting time for Yakuin.

3-7-30 Yakuin, Chuo
Fukuoka, Fukuoka 810-0022

Monday thru Saturday 8:00PM-2:00AM



Chicken Spinach Curry

Chicken Spinach Curry

Curry has an interesting place in Japanese cuisine. It was introduced by the British navy in the late 1800s during the occupation of India. Ironically, it was introduced by the white man and was considered a western style dish. Soon after it was chopped and remixed like how the Japanese do. It is said that curry was introduced to the Japanese navy to combat Thiamine deficiency. Japanese curry became a national dish overnight and is now enjoyed globally. Take a stroll through downtown NYC and you'll run across several Japanese curry shops. Tokyo has been experiencing a new curry wave by young chefs taking new approaches on the classic Japanese curry. One shop doing it correct is Yogoro in the Sendagaya section of Shibuya district. Located in an in-the-know neighborhood, you might just catch the prince charming himself Yosuke Kubozuka dining at this cool little curry shop. A quick google search will return with the green color curry that everyone seems to order. That green color curry would be the spinach curry or saag paneer for the technical cats. Unlike the traditional saag paneer, Yogoro's spinach curry offering is their take on the dish. The curry here is not quite Japanese nor is it quite Indian which is the approach many of the new curry shops in Japan are messing with. Like everywhere else in Tokyo, Sendagaya is worth the stroll through cool boutiques and coffee shops before or after grubbin' at Yogoro.

yogoro curry

2-20-10 Jingumae 1F
Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001

Monday thru Friday 11:30AM-4:00PM Lunch, 6:30PM-8:00PM Dinner
Saturday 11:30AM-4:00PM


Kayaba Coffee

Kayaba Coffee

A short ride north of the megapolis' center of central Tokyo is Yanaka of Taitō district, a shitamachi neighborhood with the old Tokyo vibes still in place. Yanaka is the opposite of Akihabara's digital blocks of the matrix. You might catch a delusional cosplaying character from Ohio in this part of town, but certainly not in Yanaka. Taitō district's planners are witnessing great interest from foreign visitors and are pursuing efforts to introduce local arts, artisans, small businesses and other attractions. Kayaba Coffee is guaranteed to be in the conversation when Yanaka is mentioned. Kayaba Coffee's building has been standing since 1916 with the kissaten (cafe) in business from 1938 until 2006 when the original owner has passed. The kissaten was revived in 2009 with the help and collabo of locals, Taito Cultural & Historical Society and SCAI The BathhouseYuko Nagayama & Associates delivered the architectural duties of refreshening the space with Japanese minimalism and midcentury feels. Just absolute-ism. It is in the fabric of the people to conduct practices without the disturbing of things that exist whether they're living things or not. The final product for the coffee shop is an unassuming old building but modern without it being some w.a.c.k. glass building by a VC with 24 successful apps. This approach is a common understanding in the "new" modern in design, business decisions and having responsibilities as members of this planet. Kayaba is a reference point for Japan's reign on having untouchable coffee shops. Find yourself with patrons ranging from young creative types decked out in Supreme and Palace to classy folks of age who have been regulars for years. Order their legendary egg sandwich (¥‎500) with a cup of coffee and act like you know. With the attention to detail you will expect local sourced ingredients which of course they deliver on. Take a stroll to SCAI The Bathhouse after you achieved one of your #lifegoals in visiting one of the coolest coffee shops in the world. 

Kayaba Coffee
6-1-29 Yanaka
Taito, Tokyo 110-0001

Monday thru Saturday 8:00AM-11:00PM, Sunday 8:00AM-6:00PM
Morning Menu 8:00AM-11:00AM, Lunch Menu 11:30AM-2:00PM, Tea Time Menu 2:00PM


Rusutsu Resort, Hokkaido is Snow Country

View of Mt. Isola 

View of Mt. Isola 

The name Hokkaido roughly translates to "The Northern Sea Way". It's a poetic sounding place and without a doubt visually poetic. Hokkaido is the mecca for snowboarders and skiers as The North Shore is to surfers. The world has finally caught onto the secret guarded by language barriers with the recent onslaught of uploads to youtube and vimeo. Expect the mandatory footage of white people actin' a fool à la every snowboard/skate video filmed in Japan. Hokkaido mountains don't meet the standards of the xtreme-vertical-steeps-only-bros but you'll be snowsurfing in the deepest champagne powder on earth. Gnarlier terrains than Hokkaido? Sure. Better snow? Nah, Chill. You know all them fun-shaped powder snowboards that every brand has to have in their line up nowadays? Hokkaido is the place that fathered that style, son. If you're not up on Hokkaido, then you need to stay woke.

Rustsu Resort is one of the go-to mountains aside from the attention heavy Niseko aka Little Australia. If you want to escape the drunk Aussie bros, Rusutsu is an excellent getaway that is only 30 minutes away. Rusutsu is almost guaranteed to have untracked pow fields and open tree runs without seeing another soul. Queueing "This Must Be the Place" at these moments would be very appropriate. In addition to the endless tree lines to slash, Salomon cooked up a natural park called Side Country Park. Those that want to take things further can hike for a more challenging backcountry experience. A scene to be had on the West Mountain side is riding through the amusement park area with a ferris wheel and roller coaster above you. Food offerings at the cafeterias trumps any chicken fingers of American resorts. Take a breather at Cafeteria Steamboat on the Mt. Isola side for a plate of katsu curry with a can of crisp Sapporo. 

Hotels in the Rusutsu area are almost non existent aside from the several b&b in the vicinity. The resort is of course marked by the tower hotel. There's a quirky kiddie monorail that transports you between the tower and the other buildings which also serve as hotels. The hotel property includes restaurants, gift shops, swimming pools, saunas, onsen, bars and like every resort in the world, an indoor amusement park! The entertainment elements of the hotel oozes of the bubble era. There's a 7-Eleven at the entrance of the tower hotel's parking lot; which gets major action throughout the night for the fine selection of Suntory and Nikka whiskey for under $6US. If anxiety starts arising from being confined to the resort area, take a walk down to "the strip" to find several izakayas lined up such as Izakaya Pirateman, Kazuchan and Rodeo Drive. Exit the North Wing (main entrance) of the hotel by either walking or taking the monorail to the last stop and buck a left from the parking lot to find the strip. Purchase a night cap on your back at 7-Eleven for the early morning to your next destination, Niseko.

Rusutsu Resort
13 Izumikawa, Rusutsu, Abuta, Hokkaido 048-1711
http://en.rusutsu.co.jp (English)