Thursday, November 8, 2012

Southern area of Sado Island (佐渡)

Sado Island (佐渡ヶ島) is the sixth largest island in the Japanese archipelago. Historically, this island was a places for exiled people to stay. Many exiled lived here in the past, including one emperor, a No theater master and a famous Buddhist monk, Nichiren. Later, in the Edo period, gold was found and it attracted many people to the island. Today, it is a very rural and isolated place in which good food and traditions are the norm. It is located off the coast of Niigata prefecture in the Sea of Japan and the connections to the main island are by ferry. The car ferry is really expensive, around 30000 yen or 300 euros for the round trip. However, during November, the ferry company, Sado kisen, is offering a very nice offer and the car fee is now only 10000 yen (or 100 euros). Therefore, we went there for a long 3-day weekend. (we intended to go there for 2 days, but our ferry back got cancelled and we had to stay there one more night!)

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Our ferry departed from the port of Naoetsu 直江津 and arrived in Ogi 小木 in the southern part of the island. The ferry takes a bit more than 2 hours, but the fact that you can use your own car in the island is great! Since we had our own wheels, we could do quite a lot of sightseeing in the 2 full days +  we were there. We started with a visit to a really beautiful and picturesque small fishing town, Shukunegi 宿根木. Shukunegi is a small town inside a wooden fence to protect it from the sea winds. Streets are really narrow and compact and houses are made in a very traditional way. There are some houses which can be visited and provide a further inside into the lives of these people.

On the way back to Ogi, we stop in a mysterious temple inside a cave, Iwayasan 岩屋山. The approach to the cave is really spooky, following a hiking trail in a bamboo forest with lots of forest sounds and no people around. We did not meet a single person during our visit. However, there were many small buddha statues and standing jizou around the cave. The cave itself was also very interesting, with many more stone buddhas on the walls and some altars, it really looked like a buddhist temple.

In the surrounding mountains, leaves had started turning reddish to match the cooler season. And a giant stone buddha could be seen popping out the trees.

After our visit to Iwayasan, it was time to come back to Ogi and enjoy some local delicacies! Burikatsudon ブリカツどん, deep-fried breaded Japanese amberjack (according to wikipedia...) on rice...

...and Ika kamameshi, イカ釜飯, which Naoko wisely described as squid Japanese Paella. ;)

With our stomachs full, it was time to enjoy the local tourist attraction, the Taraibune たらい船, in the nearby port. Of course, we also tried to navigate our boat and that was the most interesting thing.

After our ride in this funny looking boats, we traveled north. However, on our last morning in Sado, we took the ferry again in Ogi and could do some extra sightseeing around the town. We could go to Yajima and Kyojima 矢島・経島, and the islands with the beautiful red bridge became one of the highlights of the trip!

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