Naoshima is a small island belonging to Kagawa prefecture in Shikoku. Although part of Kagawa, it is much closer to Honshu. Naoshima has a large smelter run by Mitsubishi Materials, which was opened in October 1917. Naoshima was elected as the central smelter due to its location - there were many copper mines along Seto Inland Sea, which Naoshima also locates.
Mitsubishi first planned to build their plant on Teshima island but it was rejected by the local inhabitants of Teshima due to Teshima was engaged in agriculture at that time. Therefore Mitsubishi changed their plan and approached authority of Naoshima which was keen on building key industry on Naoshima island. Naoshima was not so ideal place as Teshima for agriculture.
Then mayor Mr.Miyake(who was the mayor of Naoshima town for 35 years) approached Mr.Tetsuhiko Fukutake, president of Fukutake Publishing(current Benesse Corporation) and agreed to make the island as the cultural center. Unfortunately Tetsuhiko died before the plan starts but his successor, son Soichiro purchased the island's land in 1987 and announced plan of Benesse Art Site Naoshima. Then, Benesse House(hotel and museum) was opend in 1989.
At the beginning, island's inhabitants were not interested in Benesse's project but gradually inhabitants got interest in the project after Benesse purchased the old empty family houses and rebuilt as art house and tourists started coming to Naoshima.
Naoshima, used to know as the smelter island in Japan now is an art island which attracts many tourists from abroad. However, it is still not known as Art island widely to Japanese except people of Kagawa prefecture.