Sado is an island belonging to the Niigata Prefecture in the Sea of Japan. It is the sixth biggest island in Japan next to Okinawa. The distance from the mainland is 32 km. The area is 855 km2 and the population is about 55,000. It is a popular tourist destination where you find unique nature, history and culture. There are two mountain range in the north and in the south. The area between mountain ranges are flat and most of the people live there. The highest peak is 1,172 meters.
Sado Gold Mine
Japan used to produce gold and Marco Polo introduced Japan as a country of gold in his book “La Description du Monde” more than 700 years ago.
Sado gold mine was discovered in 1601 when the island became a territory of Tokugawa Shogun. At the peak time, they produced over 400 kg of gold for one year and it was one of the biggest gold mines in the world. The criminals and homeless people were sent to work for the mine.
After the Meiji Restoration finishing the shogunate, it was owned by the national government and then sold to Mitsubishi Corporation. In 1989, because of the depletion of the gold, they stopped the production.
Total length of the mine is 400 km, and about 300 meters are open to the public as a museum. Using the dolls, they explain how they made the mine and how they produced the gold.
Toki no Mori (Toki Forest Park)
Toki is a crested ibis. The scientific name of it is Nipponia Nippon which really seems unique bird in Japan because Nippon means Japan in Japanese. Unfortunately, Toki once extinguished because of the over hunting and deterioration of the environment which was caused by too much use of the chemicals in the field.
In 1999, a couple of crested ibis was gifted from China to Japan and sent to Toki Forest Park where they try to breed crested ibis. They succeeded to breed in the same year and the number of the crested ibis has been increasing. They say there are about 180 ibises in the cage all over Japan and 430 ibises in the wild.
If you visit the park, you can see crested ibises in a cage, but if you are lucky, you may see the wild ones.
Shukunegi is a very well-preserved old town. Sado once flourished by the trade as a way port connecting Hokkaido and southern part of Japan mainly in the 19th century and Shukunegi was a port town. There lived ship carpenters and traders.
There are about 100 traditional wooden houses. Some of them are open to the public as museums. If you walk through the town following the very narrow streets, you will be transported back in time to the world over 100 years ago.
If you visit Ogi Folk Culture Museum, you can see the real size model of the wooden trade boat.
Taraibune is a traditional wooden tub boat being used for fishing mainly by the female. They still use them in small villages to collect seaweeds. It is useful because they can change the direction easily, but only if you get used to.
They operate a short tour in the port in Ogi to try to ride on the boat. Female fisherman will operate the boat and if you want, you can try to operate it, too. It will be a very special experience.
Sado is home to the world famous taiko drum group Kodo. There is their dormitory in Ogi. They live together and practice. They have three days concert in August called Earth Celebration.
If you make a reservation, you can join the hands-on experience to play drum. There are huge drums made of natural enormous wood and guests can play them, too.
Niigata Prefecture makes the most rice in Japan and produces a lot of sake. There are four sake breweries in Sado. You can visit these breweries and try sake tasting. Obata Shuzo makes famous sake called Manotsuru. It is used for the first class of Air France.
Access: From Niigata Station (Shinkansen), take a local bus or taxi to Sado-Kisen Niigata Port. It takes about 10 minutes. There are two types of boat to Ryotsu Port in Sado.
Car Ferry takes 2 hours 30 minutes and costs 2,550 yen for one way.
Jet Foil takes 67 minutes and costs 6,640 yen for one way.