Gold mines, sake tastings, encounters with the rare crested ibis, and a joyful celebration of the earth all await you on remarkable Sado Island.
Enjoy a pleasure boat cruise on Senkakuwan Bay.
Discover Japan's hidden treasure: Sado Island's diverse delights await you
Like much of Japan, Sado has its fair share of historic temples and relaxing hot springs, but the island also boasts a beautifully preserved natural landscape, a unique history of gold mining, a strong tradition of sake brewing, an inspiring conservation success story and an annual music festival like no other. These attractions plus activities like kayaking, diving, hiking, jet skiing and pleasure boat cruises make Sado Island an unforgettable holiday destination.
Sawasakihana Lighthouse is a romantic spot on the island’s south coast.
The island is easy to get around having extensive bus and tour bus services, sightseeing taxis, as well as cars, motorbikes and bicycles available to rent. Of course, you can bring your own car on the ferry too.
Exploring Sado Island's natural wonders – from scenic beaches to majestic forests
Sado Island’s top attraction is its pristine natural beauty. On the north side of the island, Futatsugame Beach is a scenic spot where you can enjoy swimming in clear blue waters. People flock to Onogame, not far from Futatsugame Beach, to see the thousands of golden Amur daylilies that bloom in early summer. Also in the north, Osado Ishina Natural Cedar Forest is a hiking route through ancient, giant cedar trees twisted into unusual shapes by exposure to the elements. In the west, the picturesque coastline of Senkakuwan Bay can be viewed either from its rugged cliffs or from one of the pleasure boats that cruise its waters.
Enjoy stunning scenic views from Futatsugame Beach on Sado Island.
In the island’s center, Toki Forest Park is an unmissable attraction where you can encounter the endangered toki, or crested ibis (Nipponia nippon). Once extinct in Japan, the toki was successfully reintroduced to Sado island with a captive breeding program at Toki Forest Park. Around 300 birds now live wild on the island, but to be sure of seeing them, visit Toki Forest Park and view them in breeding enclosures that mimic their natural habitat.
A crested ibis at Toki Forest Park.
Step back in time to discover the history of Sado Kinzan Gold Mine
Sado Kinzan Gold Mine is the collective name for the gold and silver mines on Sado Island that were a major source of revenue for the Tokugawa shogunate between the 17th and 19th centuries. During the period of peak production, they are believed to have produced 400 kilograms of gold every year. Although the last of the mines ceased production in 1989, the historic buildings and tunnels of the mines can now be toured by visitors to the island. Two walking courses are available.
You’ll find animatronic dolls hard at work in Sado’s gold mines.
Photo Credit: Sado Kinzan Gold Mine
On the Sodayu Tunnel course, visitors can see life-sized animatronic dolls and robots working the tunnels by hand. The Doyu Tunnel course takes visitors through newer mine tunnels that were worked in the 19th century using more modern, industrialized methods and machines. Head first to Kirarium Sado, an information center where you can learn more about the mines and pick up useful guide maps and apps.
Experience the perfect blend of tradition and innovation at Hokusetsu Sake Brewery
First established in 1872, Hokusetsu Sake Brewery specializes in the production of dry, smooth sakes with exceptional aroma and flavor. Sado’s water and climate are said to be perfect for brewing sake, so there are several sake breweries here, but Hokusetu has some interesting, innovative techniques. Historically it was believed that the flavor of sake transported by boat to the mainland was improved by the rocking of the boat. Now the brewery tries to recreate the same effect with music and ultrasonic waves. Apparently, the vibrations help mature the sake and give it a smoother flavor.
The charming building lends to the timeless appeal of Hokusetsu Sake Brewery.
Photo credit: Hokusetsu Sake Brewery
Hokusetsu also has strong links with local farmers and uses only locally grown rice for its sake. A visit to the brewery includes a tour of the facilities and a sake tasting. Brewery visits are free and available all year round but should be reserved in advance by telephone.
Sado Island's Earth Celebration music festival is a must for Japanese festival lovers
Earth Celebration is a three-day music festival held every summer on Sado Island since 1988. The festival is jointly hosted by Sado Island and the taiko drumming group Kodo. Kodo regularly tours around the world, but in August the world comes to Sado Island to see them perform with an eclectic mix of musical guests. The main events are the outdoor concerts held in the evenings in the harbor of Ogi Port, but there are also workshops where you can learn a variety of instruments and traditional dances, harbor markets and fairs selling all kinds of food and handicrafts, and fringe events featuring a variety of musical and dance performances, and parades. In 2020 and 2021, Earth Celebration was held online because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the festival made a joyful return in 2022. This event is extremely popular, so be sure to book your tickets in advance from the official Earth Celebration website.
Taiko drumming group Kodo bringing the beat to life onstage.
Photo credit: Earth Celebration
Rich heritage, inspiring traditions and picturesque natural landscapes await
Earth Celebration is the island’s biggest annual event, but the island has much to offer in any season. Whenever you decide to hop on that ferry, the people of Sado Island are waiting with open arms to introduce you to their rich heritage and traditions.
Join the celebration of music and tradition at the annual Earth Celebration.
Photo credit: Earth Celebration
About the author
Author: Michael Lambe
Profile: Michael is a British writer and translator based in Kobe who has been happily exploring Japan’s language and culture for over 25 years.