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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

Gold mines, offbeat events, theater and spirited taiko drumming on a former island of exile

Two hours from the nearest city by boat from Niigata's coast, Sado Island was once remote enough to serve as a dumping ground for politicians and intellectuals out of favor with the government. When gold was discovered on Sado right at the turn of the 17th century, however, the sleepy island's fate changed forever.

These days Sado is a great little island retreat best known for its association with the dynamic drumming group Kodo and the Earth Celebration, a yearly event focusing on drumming, humanity, nature and Japanese culture. Sado's onsen represent another attraction, as is the award-winning sake produced from its rice. Cycling, camping and water sports are big draws, and you can even pan for gold here.

Don't Miss

  • The area's famous dish: deep-fried amberjack
  • Gold panning in Nishimikawa Gold Park
  • Driving on the breathtaking Osado Skyline route

How to Get There

Sado Island can only be reached by ferry.

You can take the Sado Kisen ferry from three different places, but some of them do not run all year long. The Niigata-Ryotsu route offers a passenger jetfoil and car ferry. The jetfoil is faster but more expensive, while the car ferry takes over twice as long but is less than half the price. This is the most popular option, and runs at least ten times daily.

The Naoetsu-Ogi and Teradomari-Akadomari routes only run during peak seasons and aren't as easily accessible at the main Niigata City port.

Quick Facts

Political and intellectual enemies like Zeami and Nichiren were banished here until the 1700s

The island is home to Kodo the world-renowned taiko ensemble

Sado is famous for its endangered Japanese crested ibis

A lesser-known island getaway

Sado has picturesque beaches, cascading rice paddies and winding mountain roads. There's great hiking and swimming to be enjoyed here. Best navigated by driving the scenic routes around the island, Sado shows a rugged side of Japan that many never see.

Although it's possible to travel to and from Sado in a day, the best island experience is to stay overnight in one of the many traditional ryokan inns, relaxing in a hot spring bath and enjoying home-cooked meals featuring Niigata's famous rice.

The art of rice

Niigata is known throughout Japan for its singularly delicious rice and beautiful tiered rice paddies, and Sado is no exception with its iconic Iwakubi Shoryu rice paddies.

Anywhere you go on the island will serve Niigata rice and sake, especially if you stay in a traditional ryokan inn. However, if you'd like to sample the island's award-winning sake at the source, pay a visit to the Hokusetsu Brewery. You can even savor your sake here in a music room designed to gently mellow the brew.

Travel the seas in a washtub

Sado Island is famous for its clear sea waters and rocky shores, and one of the most interesting ways to experience them is in a tarai-fune—boating in a wooden tub. On the southern tip of the island in the town of Ogi, you can take a short ride in one of these traditional boats, steered by a local dressed in an authentic period costume.

Celebrate the earth

The biggest event on Sado Island is the annual Earth Celebration Festival in August, drawing huge crowds to the small town of Ogi every year. The Kodo Taiko Ensemble, locals from the island who are famous worldwide for their ground-shaking take on traditional Japanese drumming, started and run this festival.

The Kodo group pushes the limits at each performance. Musicians from around the world are invited to collaborate with Kodo, since the festival is dedicated to global unity. If you're looking for a unique Japanese music festival, this is the one to visit.

Drum up some fun

Experience traditional culture first hand by taking a taiko drumming experience session at the Sado Island Taiko Center, home to giant drums made from zelkova logs and cowhide skin. The Taiko Center is located just one minute from Kodo Village, where the world-renowned taiko ensemble is based. You can watch the professionals play and learn to create some thunder yourself.

One for the birds

Sado Island is home to some rare fauna. It preserves an important ecological habitat for the toki, or Japanese crested ibis. These birds almost went extinct as their feathers were used in Japanese futons, but recent rehabilitation efforts are seeing results and the population is increasing.

There are some now living in the wild on Sado Island, but your best chance to admire and learn more about them is at Toki Forest Park.

Turtle beach

At the northern tip of the island is Futatsugame, a sandy beach with an offshore islet said to resemble two turtles. Relax here for an afternoon in the clearest waters in Sado, one of Japan's Top 100 Sea-Bathing Spots. There's also a beautiful hiking trail that takes you up into the cliffs for some gorgeous sea views.

Scenic drives

Driving is the best way to see all Sado has to offer, and if you do a spin around the Osado Skyline is a must. The winding mountain road offers panoramas of the entire island and out to sea, and will eventually bring you to the Sado Kinzan Gold Mine.

Panning for gold

The Sado Kinzan Gold Mine and Nishimikawa Gold Park are located on the island's western coast. You can try gold panning for yourself and learn more about Sado's gold mining past, which is what brought the island to the attention and under the direct control of the shogun.

And of course, some heritage

Konpon-ji and Myosho-ji were local temples home to the famous Buddhist reformer Nichiren (1222-1282), who was exiled to Sado for two years. He created his own school of Buddhism. Myosho-ji is known for its beautiful garden.

Shukunegi is a small atmospheric old port town that is perfect for a stroll through a preserved townscape.

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