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Île pacifique

11/06/2009 - par Mark Tungate (tungateinparis@hotmail.com)

The Benesse Corporation in Japan specialises in education and owns, among other things, Berlitz language schools. For years the company was called Fukutake Publishing, after its founder. But his son came up with the new name in 1995, from the Latin words «living well».

As part of this ideology, it owns Benesse House, a futuristic art gallery and hotel complex located on the island of Naoshima, on the Seto Inland Sea. All the museum's four buildings are designed by Tadao Ando, which means they look like a cross between the Palais de Tokyo and a cliff-top rocket base. When we arrived there last week, the receptionist bowed suavely and said «We've been expecting you.»

The great thing about the island is that there are no borders between the landscape, the museum and the hotel. Installations have sprung up all over the island: a giant pumpkin sculpture looks moodily out to sea. You sleep in minimalist rooms that are also galleries, works of art by Basquiat and Hirst hanging on your walls. At night, on your way to dinner in the restaurant, you wander the deserted corridors of the museum.

The beauty of the internet is that the Benesse Corporation does not need to advertise itself during this wonderful experience. You tap the name into a search engine and discover who your host really is. Benesse understands not only how to live well, but how to market well. And it has created an unforgettable cultural tourism destination.

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Île pacifique

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