Sunday, February 12, 2006

GETTING THERE: All Nippon Airways and Thai Airways fly nonstop from Dulles to Tokyo's Narita airport. ANA is currently charging $912 round trip through its Web site, Thai $1,638. Almost a dozen airlines offer connecting service from D.C. to Tokyo, with fares from about $630 on American, via Chicago or Los Angeles. From Narita, take the airport limousine bus to Tokyo Haneda, a domestic airport -- an 80-minute ride that runs every half-hour and costs roughly $20. From Haneda, it's an hour's flight on Japan Airlines or ANA to Takamatsu. The lowest published fare on these routes, round-trip from D.C. to Takamatsu, is $1,024.

From Takamatsu Airport, it's a 35-minute ride on the Kotoden Bus to the Japan Rail station, a five-minute walk to the Takamatsu Port. Take the Shikoku Kisen Ferry for the 50-minute ride to Naoshima's Miyanoura Port. The ferry runs six times a day, roughly every two to three hours, and costs about $5 one way. The Naoshima Web site (see below) lists other routes to the island.

GETTING AROUND: The Naoshima Town Bus has frequent service around the island and picks up passengers at the Miyanoura Port. The fare per trip is about $1. You can also walk from any attraction to most of the others in less than an hour. While cars, motorcycles and bicycles are permitted on most of the ferries from the mainland, visitors are discouraged from bringing cars onto the eco-friendly island. Rental bikes cost about $5 a day.

WHERE TO STAY: Benesse House Museum (011-81-87-892-2030) has 10 guestrooms in its main wing and six in Benesse House Oval, an annex accessible by monorail. Rates start at about $255 a night double in low season (high season includes August and Japanese holidays). The Benesse operation is scheduled to open two new hotels, Benesse House Park and Benesse House Beach, on May 20, with similar rates.

There are several ryokans -- traditional Japanese inns -- on the island. It is essential to have a Japanese-speaking person telephone to make reservations at these small, simple, family-run guest houses, and your designated reservation-maker may have to vouch for your not minding that no one in the inn speaks a word of English. Minatoya (011-81-87-892-3044) has 14 rooms and costs about $63 per person per night, including breakfast and dinner. Shioya (011-81-87-892-3050), which has 10 rooms, is about $60 per person per night, with breakfast and dinner. Ajisai (011-81-87-892-3835), with just three rooms, is around $60 per person per night, again with breakfast and dinner. For more information on ryokans, see the Chichu Art Museum Web site, .

WHERE TO EAT: The Benesse House Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food is Japanese Kaiseki, based on seafood from the Inland Sea. A Western breakfast is an option. Breakfast costs about $23 per person; lunch, $17 to $50; dinner, $69 to $115. Reservations at least two days in advance are required for all meals, except for breakfast and the more informal lunches.

The Chichu Art Museum (see below) has a cafe, and Cafe Maruya (in Honmura, near the Art House Project) serves simple lunchtime fare for about $15 a person.

WHAT TO TAKE: Bring good walking shoes, preferably slip-ons because some installations require you to remove your shoes. Bring a raincoat and, from spring to fall, insect repellent.


· The Honmura Lounge & Archive (011-81-87-840-8273, ) is the headquarters for the Art House Project, which consists of several traditional Japanese houses converted into contemporary art installations. A general ticket is about $5.

· The Chichu Art Museum ( ) has works by Claude Monet, Walter De Maria and James Turrell. Admission is about $17.

· The art-laden Benesse House is open to the public for tours; admission for non-guests is about $10.

RECOMMENDED READING: Donald Richie's "The Inland Sea" (Stone Bridge Press, $16.95) is a classic description of the region.

INFORMATION: The Honmura Lounge & Archive is the center for information, guided tours, reservations and tickets to the art attractions on the island. For more information on Benesse: Benesse House , 011-81-87-892- 2030, .

-- Christine Temin

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