In Sado Island, there are two mountain ranges: O-Sado mountain range has about 1,000-meter mountains and covers the northern part of the island. Ko-Sado mountain range in the southern part has warm, low hills, and palm trees and other flora associated with a southern climate can be seen there. A large plain, which is known for producing delicious rice, and a lake are between the two mountain ranges. The sea around the island boasts of some of the clearest water in all Japan and is known as an excellent diving spot.
Once Sado was a place of exile and many cultural figures, intellectuals and aristocrats who lost out in political battles were sent there. Because of that, various aspects of the life style and culture of the capital, Kyoto, was introduced to Sado.
Zeami, who brought the Noh drama to perfection, was exiled to Sado Island in 1434, when he was 72 years old. Okubo Nagayasu, a magistrate of Sado, had been a Noh actor and encouraged Noh. For these reasons, Noh became popular in Sado. At first, Noh was studied by public officials to broaden their education, but later developed as shrine rituals. Honma Hidenobu founded the Sado Hosho school of Noh and Noh gradually spread among commoners. The 18th head of the Honma family maintains the tradition of the Hosho school today. There are more than 30 Noh stages in Sado–once there were more than 200–and performances can be enjoyed from April to October every year.
“Ondeko” is a unique classic performing art that cannot be found in other place but Sado. Demons crazily dance accompanied by soul-stirring drum sounds. It is in origin a religious ritual to ward off devils and to ensure a good harvest.
“Kodo,” a drum performance group that is based in Sado and performs all over the world, has held “Earth Celebration” since 1988, in which musicians and artists of folk music and performing art are invited and play open-air concerts. In 2009, it was held from August 16 through 18.
Sado was long known for gold and silver deposits and the Tokugawa government developed gold mining here in the Edo period. The output of Sado Kinzan (Sado Gold Mine) was the largest in the world during its heyday in the 17th century. The mining operations finally ended for good in 1989. A section of the mine is now an unusual museum using animatronic wax figures to reproduce scenes of the mining in the old Edo days.
Sado is blessed with delicious agricultural produce, such as Koshihikari rice, and sweet and juicy persimmons. Oysters, yellowtails, shrimps, and crabs are delicious, especially from autumn to winter. Thanks to good-tasting rice and water, the island’s sake is also much appreciated.
For those in good physical condition, why not enjoy a bike tour? Oka Tours, tel: 0422-26-6644, conducts a six-day seven-night bicycle tour around the island, originating from Tokyo.