For my last day on Sadogashima I decided to go with the public bus to the other port town of Ogi on the south-western edge of the island. The main port is called Ryōtsu and located in the northern bay. The ride from the southern town of Sawata to Ogi took about one hour and fifteen minutes. It followed the coastline for a bit, then cut inland and climbed over the southern mountains. It was one hell of a lonely ride with only some ten people on the bus. Nevertheless they had a tourist information center in Ogi and you could rent a bicycle with battery assist for a few yen. I of course promptly did that and rode on to the target, the “bathtub ride” at the tiny islands of Yajima and Kyojima. In the old days locals used such tubs to ride along shallow reef coastlines, hunting for urchins and muscles. According to the lady who was my tub’s captain, some people are still doing this even today. I have the feeling though that more tourists are shipped with the bathtubs than urchins are being caught these days. It was fun but quite a wobbly affair and the danger that the tub will lose balance and empty you into the ocean was high 😉 You surely gotta balance your passengers on the tub.
Then I rode on to a secret cove and saw some incredible tugged away fishing villages. While I am looking for my prefect island retirement place, this kind of fishing village will surely not be it. The secret cove was a very nice spot though.
Back on the public bus, I changed buses somewhere in the middle of nowhere and rode on to the temple area. There is the Myosenji and the Sadogashima Kokubunji on the same road. The bus rode past Kokubunji and I thought it would be nice to walk back to it after having visited Myosenji and to board the return bus from there. Said and done, I got off at Myosenji, which is especially nice thanks to it’s five-stories pagoda. There was one family there visiting it apart from myself. Then I walked some two kilometers back along the road to Kokubunji and not a single soul was there. What was more, there was no sign of a bus stop. Yikes!
I waited at a parking area, determined to wave at the bus and hoping it stopped. There was nobody around and on the road a car passed me only once every few minutes. I already saw myself stuck there, either having to call a taxi or walking some five kilometers to the next village. But, the bus came, I waved, it stopped! Hya! Thanks! It felt very good to be back on that bus 😉 All things considered, Sadogashima is a beautiful island, remote, rather big, sparsely populated and a nice getaway from metropolis stress. I still prefer Okinawa though, because it doesn’t get cold there in winter 😉 Okinawa offers a “resort” feeling, even in the smaller and lonelier islands. Sadogashima lacks that “resort” aspect, but it has a rich history and is well worth a visit 🙂
On my second day on Sadogashima, I chose to ride with the public buses. They offer an all you can ride pass for up to three days and I took the two day pass. The main attraction on Sadogashima is the gold mine. Gold was discovered in 1601 and mining started soon after. The shogunate operated the mine for over 250 years. The mine ceased production only in 1989. Thanks to that the place is ripe with history. You can do two tours, one of the Edo times mine and one of a Meiji times shaft and if you ever go there, you should definitely do both tours. If you are a cave freak, there are also guided private tours of some two hours, which must be ordered in advance and they lead into shafts where the normal tourists do not go. I was quite happy with the regular tour though 😉 In the Edo period part, life-size robots show the toil of the people who worked there.
Many were “homeless” people who got picked up by the shogunate and were shipped to the island to toil in the mines. Their life expectancy was not very long. In the more modern Meiji period part, you get to go outside during the tour to admire the split mountain. Human hands chiseled away the missing part until that was depleted and they went underground.
Also the industrial relics of a former gold processing plant down the hill, which are all overgrown now, were quite impressive. The mine is definitely a must when you should happen to go to Sadogashima.
I walked from the mine down to the overgrown processing plant and stopped on the way at the reconstructed administration office of the shogunate that managed the mine. It looks nice from the outside, but inside it’s just empty tatami mat rooms. Right next to it is a local art museum displaying paintings of local artists. Most of the objects you can also buy and I bought this print for two thousand yen, waves in winter. I just cannot imagine how ghastly and cold it must be at Sado during winter! Brrrrr… according to Wikipedia Sado gets an average of half a meter of snow in January, average… there’s probably more! What I love about the painting is also that the presumably lighthouse looks like the ghost of some person 😉
My last stop for the day was the Sengaku bay. The public buses on the island don’t run very often and unfortunately I didn’t have enough time for a boat ride around this very scenic and beautiful bay but only snapped pics from above. Those are some fine cliffs 😉
Sadogashima is the sixth biggest island of Japan after the four main islands and the largest island of Okinawa. Sadogashima lies around 50 km off the coast of Niigata city and prefecture and the big car ferry ride there takes two and a half hours. The island has an odd shape with two mountain ridges to the east and west and a flat middle in between. The highest peak on Sadogashima is a whopping 1172 meters high and called Mt. Kinpoku.
Sado has a rich history, first as an island where political and religious figures unliked by the establishment were banished to, and second it is one of the very few places in Japan with natural resources, namely gold. Alas, the goldmine is long depleted. It took me twenty years of living in Japan before I went to this island with my usual interest more in the direction of the Izu islands and the Okinawa islands. But the company asks its employees in times of coronavirus to take their annual paid leave and so I made the rather quick decision to take a few days off and to go there.
Despite its decent size it’s a pretty quiet island with only some 55.000 inhabitants. That there are so few around might also have to do with strong winters and half a meter of snow, which I find hard to imagine! The boat ride from Niigata was a very lovely affair in nice weather, with seagulls following the ship the entire way, being fed with shrimp crackers from the tourists.
On my first day I borrowed a free bicycle from my hotel in the middle of the island and rode down south to the sea town of Sawata. There was nothing much going on on the several kilometer long beach and that was a smooth ride.
I tried to get to the south-eastern tip of the island, but without an electric assist and the sun and heat coming out, that became too daunting a ride through the hilly mountain roads. With a battery assist I would have pushed on, but not without it, considering the over fifteen kilometers I would have had to ride back. It was a lovely day on the bicycle though and I enjoyed every bit of it.