Introduction to Sado City 

Sado Island, shaped like the letter "S" or "Z," boasts Mt. Kinpoku (1,172m above sea level) in the north, Mt. Oji (645m above sea level) in the south, and the expansive Kuninaka Plain in the center. The island, measuring approximately 855 square kilometers in area and boasting a coastline of roughly 280 kilometers, is the largest island on the Sea of Japan and is approximately 1.5 times the size of Tokyo, Awaji Island, Guam, and Phuket. 

Sado has a maritime climate with four distinct seasons, and because of the influence of the Tsushima Warm Current that flows off the coast of Sado, snowfall is less than in the main island of Japan. As of March 31, 2022, the island's population is approximately 51,000. 

Sado's rich soil and climate are utilized for agriculture and fishing, with rice farming being the primary agricultural endeavor and fruit cultivation, such as "Okesa Kaki" (Sado specialty persimmon), Le Lectier, and apples, thriving. 

The region also engages in livestock farming, including Sado beef, which has long been known as "the cattle of the phantom." In the fishing industry, various types of seafood such as crabs, shrimps, squid, yellowtail, and tuna are landed, as well as oysters grown in Lake Kamo and Mano Bay, abalone, turban shells, and seaweed from the Sea of Japan. 

Sado, formed by crustal movements that began around 3 million years ago, has developed in various ways thanks to the bounty of its rich land. Another attraction of the island is the beautiful scenery, represented by Senkaku Bay and the Ogi Peninsula, brought about by tectonic movement, which can be seen all over the island. Additionally, the topography of the island itself is a miniature of Japan, with all of Japan's coastal landforms. 

Sado is like a theme park of the earth, where the natural landscape is like an exhibit and is recognized as a Japan Geopark. Sado's distinctive natural features and culture, such as the Sado's gold and silver mine, Japanese Crested ibis, and "Tarai- Bune" (tub boat), are also a result of Sado's unique geography. 

Sado was selected for the 2021 edition of "The Green Destinations Top 100 Stories" in recognition of its World Agricultural Heritage initiatives and efforts toward sustainable tourism. Sado will continue actively working toward creating a sustainable tourist destination that can coexist with nature.


Cultural information

Sado Island possesses three distinct cultural characteristics. The first is the aristocratic culture brought by exiled aristocrats and intellectuals, the second is the samurai culture brought by magistrates and officials from Edo (the former center of the samurai government in Japan) due to the development of mining, and the third is the merchant culture brought by merchants and sailors on "Kitamae-Bune" (Japanese merchant shipping routes and the ships that traveled them from the 17th to the 19th century). 

The culture of Sado Island is considered a microcosm of Japan, as it is a fusion of these three cultures. Sado Island is one of the few places in Japan where "Noh" (the oldest theatrical art in Japan) has been seamlessly integrated into daily life. At its peak, it is said that there were over 200 Noh stages, and even today, more than 30 Noh stages remain, which is equivalent to one-third of all Noh stages in Japan. Sado Island has long been closely associated with Noh, where Zeami, the great master of Noh, was exiled. However, the widespread prevalence of Noh on the island is mainly due to the arrival of two Noh performers from Nara (the ancient capital of Japan) in the 17th century by Mr. Nagayasu Okubo, the first deputy magistrate of Sado, who was a Noh performer himself. 

The most significant characteristic of Noh on Sado Island is that it spread throughout the island as a Shinto ritual and evolved into a form of entertainment in which villagers danced, chanted, and watched Noh plays. As a remnant of this evolution, many of the existing Noh stages are built within the precincts of shrines, which are also the common property of the village. Noh performances on Sado Island, which are still passed down from generation to generation, are concentrated from June to August, especially in June, which is the month of "Takigi Noh," and can be seen somewhere every week. Visitors also have the opportunity to experience Noh and shishimai on the actual Noh stage used for Noh performances. 

"Onidaiko" is an indigenous traditional art form unique to Sado Island that is performed at numerous festivals on the island to supplicate for a bountiful harvest, a successful catch, and familial safety in the upcoming year, as well as to dispel malevolent spirits from the dwellings places within the village. It is purported that there are approximately 120 forms of Onidaiko on the island.


Transport to Sado City 

To reach Sado, take the Joetsu Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to Niigata Station, which takes approximately 2 hours, then change to a bus to Niigata Port. From Niigata Port, it takes 2 hours and 30 minutes to reach Sado by car ferry or 1 hour and 7 minutes by jetfoil.

How to get around in the surrounding areas

Sado Island is much larger than one might initially imagine, yet it lacks a railway system. Once you arrive, it can be a considerable distance to your destination. There are various modes of transportation available on the island, including local buses, regular sightseeing buses, and sightseeing cabs. A popular choice among independent travelers is to rent a car, offering a variety of car models to suit your needs and the flexibility and convenience of traversing the island without time constraints.

However, making reservations as early as possible is recommended, as the peak seasons of spring, summer, and fall are often fully booked and may not be available for rental. The roads on Sado are characterized by their narrowness and abundance of tunnels compared to those on the main island of Japan. Additionally, there are few gas stations along the coast. Thus, for those using a private or rental car, it is advisable to refuel early to ensure ample time is allotted.


What’s good to eat in Sado City 

The primary agricultural commodity of Sado Island is rice. The rice cultivated in the warm environment of Nature is widely recognized as one of the premier brands in Niigata Prefecture, alongside Uonuma city. Rice produced by Sado's unique certification system is deemed safe and secure. It is certified by Sado City as "Toki to Kurasu Sato," a brand of rice that conforms to rigorous standards, using less than half the typical amount of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and farming techniques that foster the microorganisms in the rice paddies.

Another characteristic local delicacy is "Igoneri." This dish is prepared by boiling and solidifying seaweed called "Ego-gusa," chopping it up like soba noodles, and consuming it with soy sauce and condiments such as scallions and horseradish. It is a typical local delicacy of Sado Island, where the invigorating aroma of the sea can be savored.

Sado Island is also renowned for its calf, many of which are auctioned off and sent to renowned brand-name beef-producing regions, where they grow into adult cattle. The beef reared on Sado Island is referred to as Sado beef, and although it is scarce and highly sought-after, it can be procured in hotels and restaurants on the island.

Sado Island boasts five sake breweries, each producing its own distinct sake. The sake made from succulent rice and pure water nurtured by Sado's fertile nature is known for its light, dry, and invigorating taste.

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    Information about accommodation in Sado City 

    Sado offers travelers a wide variety of lodging options, from hot spring inns to small guesthouses. 

     Tips for staying in Sado City 

    Cashless payment methods are widely utilized in some areas of Sado Island. However, some smaller establishments may only accept cash payments. To mitigate potential cash shortages, ATMs and convenience stores are dispersed throughout the island, and they are recommended to be utilized as necessary.


    Best Things to do in Sado City 

    The peak season for tourism on Sado Island is summer, particularly in August. However, the most pleasant seasons to visit are spring and fall. 

    In the spring, the Hina Festival celebrates the arrival of spring on Sado Island, and the island is adorned with beautiful Hina dolls from the 17th century Edo period to the present, as well as traditional clay dolls that have watched over Sado Island. 

    During this time, flowers bloom throughout the island, and visitors can explore the island's history and natural beauty through cherry blossoms at Sado Kinzan and Mano Park, renowned for cherry blossoms and illuminated at the appropriate time. Visitors can also see "Gosho-sakura" (cherry trees planted by Emperor Juntoku in the 13th century) and "Senryu-sakura" (mountain cherry trees that spread widely horizontally due to the weight of the snow) at Mt. Myoken, where the Osado Skyline runs through. In late April, the mountain opening takes place, and visitors are greeted by clusters of Katakuri (dogtooth violet) and Shirane-Aoi (Japanese wood poppy) in the Osado Mountains. 

    April is also a month of festivals, with Shinto rituals such as "Onidaiko"(a traditional art form in which people wearing devil masks dance while beating drums), "Yabusame" (horseback archery), and "Mikoshi" (portable shrines) being held throughout Sado Island to pray for a good harvest and family safety. In May, local performing arts are performed at events such as "Botan Matsuri (peony blossoms festival)" to enjoy the peony blossoms at Chokoku-ji Temple. There are also cycling events to get in touch with nature in Sado. 

    There are many things to see and do in the autumn as well. Sado's environmentally friendly rice, unique to the village and home to coexisting Japanese crested ibis, is known throughout Japan as one of Niigata Prefecture's leading brand-name rice production areas. The golden rice fields before the harvest are worth seeing in themselves. 

    Autumn festivals are held to give thanks for the harvest, with Shinto rituals such as the "Aikawa Festival," with a history of over 400 years, in which portable shrines and drums are paraded through the city and the "Kuji-Hachimangu Festival," in which horseback archery and traditional performing arts are dedicated. Additionally, local performing arts are presented at events such as "Okesa and the Treasure Island of Performing Arts" and "Onidaiko in Niibo and Toki Yubae Market," where visitors can enjoy traditional performing arts such as Japanese folk songs and drums from Sado Island and food stalls. 

    A triathlon is held annually in which the entire island serves as the course. The course is considered one of the most challenging in the country, but the beautiful and varied scenery of the island and the hospitality of the islanders, including their cheering and volunteer work, continue to attract more participants each year. In the fall, the autumn leaves turn red and yellow, creating a spectacular sight. The Osado Skyline and Momiji-Yama Park are some of the best spots on the island for viewing autumn leaves.

    Entertainment in Sado City 

    In April, spring festivals are held throughout the island of Sado. In particular, on April 15, when the island opens to the public, festivals are held in about 40 villages, and local devil drummers perform the "Kadozuke" dance.

    After the drummers perform at the shrine early in the morning or at midnight in some places, they go from house to house in the village to dance. At the houses that have been gated, the group is entertained with food and sake. Many people return to their homes for the festival, making it a lively day in the village. If you see a shrine banner in your travels, why not stop by? It is quite enjoyable to take a leisurely stroll following the Onidaiko (traditional drummers).

    You can feel the warm atmosphere of the village as they eagerly await the festival. However, remember that the village's Onidaiko (traditional drummers) is a Shinto (one of the Japanese religions) ritual dedicated to a shrine. Please behave in a respectful manner and do not walk across the Onidaiko (traditional drummers) during the procession or enter private property without permission