The town of Naoshima on Naoshima Island (Kagawa Prefecture) has received attention as a site of art tourism. Art tourism is increasingly seen as a tool for regional development, as it is expected to attract new types of tourists especially from the so-called creative classes and allows for active participation of local citizens in the development process.
This paper aims to examine art tourism in Naoshima from two aspects. On the one hand, it investigates the characteristics of tourists, their image of Naoshima and their interest in art and architecture. On the other hand, it analyses the activities and opinions of actors in the tourism industry. A questionnaire was conducted in November 2012 and received responses from 255 tourists and 40 actors in the tourism industry. Additionally, interviews were conducted with Naoshima Tourism Association and Benesse Art Site, the company that developed art tourism in Naoshima.
It was found that tourists to Naoshima include many women from the urban areas of Kanto and Kansai and many young people. Although art is their most important aim to visit Naoshima, it is not so important as a general travel motive. They express a general interest in art and architecture mainly through watching TV programs or searching information on the Internet on that subject, rather than visiting museums frequently. Especially younger visitors enjoy to stroll around the island with their friends, so art seems to be a secondary motive. It can be concluded tourists to Naoshima are not art specialists or specialized culture tourists; however, art tourism definitely has contributed to a very diversified visitor structure different from other locations in the Seto Inland Sea, like Miyajima.
For actors in the tourism industry, it was found that many moved to Naoshima in the 21st century, especially after the opening of the Chichu Art Museum. In consequence, many new restaurants and accommodation facilities opened after 2004. They offer only limited services, and very few of them engage actively in attracting international visitors. However, although their service is basic, they make up for it through strong personal engagement. Very few have connections to the Benesse art site or show a strong interest in art. As a conclusion, rather than art itself, it is the success of art tourism that draws new visitors and actors in the tourism industry to Naoshima.