Sado Island is the all-in-one Japan package!2022.01.14
Japan has 4 main islands as you may know, but it's actually home to nearly 7,000 more! While over 90% of these are small and uninhabited, many are developed with their own unique cultural and economic significance. Sado Island off the coast of Niigata is among the larger of the peripheral islands of Japan, and is a popular getaway for many looking to take a short but adventurous journey. Amazing food and sake, traditional port towns, nature, and even taiko drumming, it's said that Sado "condenses" everything that Japan has to offer in one place. Take the ferry from Niigata City to eat, play, and explore in the this fun-filled island in the Sea of Japan!
Shukunegi, traditional port town
Sado was a key checkpoint in the northern trade route of Japan in the Edo period (1600-1800's). Goods like rice, sake, fish, and salt were sent along the northern coast, so along with its gold-mining industry, Sado quickly developed into a formidable economic center. One important port on the southern edge of Sado is "Shukunegi", and it has been preserved to be very much like it was in the distant past.
Shukunegi has been called a "village of beautiful roofs", because as you look down on the town from atop a hill, you'll see the expertly crafted roof tiles Japan is known for, spreading out toward the shining sea. This is just one aspect of Japanese craftsmanship however. Walk through the narrow alleys and appreciate the simple yet elegant wood designs of the doors and windows, and of course, some of the houses are open for inside viewing.
Shipbuilders and owners were prime movers here in Shukunegi, and two important figures, Seikurou and Kaneko, both had splendid homes here. You can enter both of them for a small price, and be treated to the classic, wooden interior designs of both. Further back behind the town you'll find the solemn Shokoji Temple, established way back in the 14th century, long before Shukunegi's prosperity.
Taiko drumming is a quintessential Japanese performance art, and usually associated with Okinawa, another major island of Japan. Perhaps something about the island atmosphere inspires drumming, but Sado Island too has a prolific taiko culture.
The most famous taiko troop to come out of Sado island is the globally renowned "Kodo". They select their players through a rigorous training program lasting 2 years in which students live and work together, training their bodies and minds. Kodo has traveled the world dazzling audiences with the booming power of taiko drums, and here on Sado, you can have a crack at it too!
The "Tatakokan" is Sado's very own taiko experience center, and they offer regular experience programs to teach you the basics of taiko, and of course give you some time to play freely on the drums. The program is fun and casual, and an excellent way to both learn how taiko is played, and moreover feel empowered by the pounding drums. Drumming is both a form of communication and an outlet to release your emotions, and many travelers leave here feeling more connected with one another, and refreshed.
Naturally, you'll have all the seafood you want on Sado, and the bountiful nature is sure to lift your spirits. Be sure to visit Shukunegi for a glimpse into Japan's seafaring past, and try Taiko to feel a powerful part of Japanese culture. Not to mention the ferry ride is a lot of fun, too!