Teshima (Lots of Art Here Too!): Yokoo House

Teshima is a quick (but queasy-making and very splashy) ferry ride from Naoshima, and we spent much of a day there while staying at Naoshima, and we could have spent MUCH more time there (seriously, at this point we were still making plans for our own week of travel with our JR passes for later in November, and I was very, very tempted to just come back and spend a whole week doing the Inland Sea islands, especially the artsy ones, so more time on Naoshima and Teshima, and Inujima, which we didn’t get to at all. If we were going at a warmer time than late November, I probably would have pushed for it).


Before the ferry ride got all un-amusement park on the passengers

Teshima is apparently bigger than Naoshima, by a smidgen, but it actually feels like a smaller island, at least in terms of being more remote  and less populated: only 1,000 residents, to Naoshima’s 3,500. But Teshima has been inhabited for over 14,000 years apparently, which is pretty crazy and impressive to consider.

Like Naoshima, which I wrote about here, here, here, here, here, and here, Teshima is a beautiful island in its own right, but it has also become a thriving contemporary art scene, especially while we were visiting, which was during the Setouchi Triennial 2016 exhibitions. In just a morning and partial afternoon, we only had the chance to see two of the island’s main art offerings (as well as have lunch at a lovely vegetarian Buddhist-style restaurant with all the students).

Our first stop was the Teshima Yokoo House. Even the outside was impressive – Aardvark and I were bringing up the rear of the group on the walk over from the ferry terminal, and saw all the students stop to take pictures:


What were they taking pictures of?

The walls were made of reddish, magenta-ish reflective(-ish) material which did make for some cool pics, although true to form, our family could not get a proper selfie going. These are the best of many attempts.


Once inside, photos were only allowed in the main entrance way; the rest of the property was off limits to photography.

The Yakoo house is, similar to the Naoshima Art House Project, a home repurposed for an art project. It utilizes a main house, as well as the inner courtyard, former bathrooms, and “outhouse” (by that, they mean quite literally a structure outside the main house, not an outdoor toilet. But the toilet installations – not for use – were pretty cool!)

From the main entrance, you could see that the inner courtyard was modeled in the style of a Buddhist garden, with dry sand/rock elements, larger feature rocks, stone lanterns, and a fountain running through it. You could see it all through another red window, this time less reflective than the ones outside the building.


Here are some of the students, already gone through to the courtyard:

You pass through this area where you can see into the courtyard you are headed, through a quick black-walled gallery with one painting, and emerge in the courtyard.

And it is nothing like what you would expect from having seen it through these windows.

It was like arriving in a Wizard-of-Ozzy, technicolor Buddhist pop art mashup.

I won’t say more because that would spoil the surprise! But it was a fun surprise to realize how much seeing the courtyard through the window made me think I knew what to expect, and I was totally wrong.

Anyway, you follow the garden to the main house, which is styled somewhat like a temple-slash-art-gallery. The stream that runs through the courtyard runs below the main house, and in those places, the traditional tatami flooring is replaced with acrylic/plexi-glass/whatever so that you can stand over it, looking down at the stream running and the koi fish swimming through it.

Fantastic students that they are, Don’s field trippers were not put off by no photography. They all immediately found spots inside the main house, or outside in the courtyard, from which vantages they  whipped out their sketchbooks and sketched what they saw.

Not to be outdone, Aardvark too sat down and asked to sketch, so I took out a notebook and crayons, and she sat with the college kids and drew what she saw.

She is not as practiced as the students are at sketching (they are phenomenal. I should ask for some copies of their sketches for all the no-photos places we’ve seen, so I can remember the sites better), but for what it’s worth, it’s pretty spot on!


This is the official description and website, with more information on it, but it will ruin the surprise (although not in all its glory) – but if you’re never going to Teshima, you should check it out!

There is much more to this site (the upstairs-main-house gallery-rooms; the trippy, vertigo-inducing waterfall silo; the crazy chrome bathrooms) but they are too hard to describe in words and sadly, without pictures, I will probably forget most of the details in a few years, since that seems to be what happened with most of the temples in Kyoto that don’t allow photographs, I realized upon visiting some again 5 years later!)





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