What is Sado Island? All about Sado Island

Sado island

Silent Beauty of Sado Island

Sado Island, just off the coast of Niigata, has quietly been getting on with life for centuries. The island with a population of just over 60,000 floats on a sea of stories, involving: exile, gold, extreme population growth then decline, a boom in tourism amongst Japanese mainlanders in the 90s that is slowly petering out, while also laying claim to being the final sanctuary of the endangered Japanese Crested Ibis, or toki in Japanese. This island has a plethora of stories to tell and luckily for inquisitive visitors, some kind and friendly folks more than happy to tell them. Hidden secrets wait peacefully on the island for those willing to take a trip to hear them.

Seisuiji Temple

Seisuiji Temple

Seisuiji is an atmospheric old temple which can be found hidden away in a forest of pines in the Niibono area on the island. The three Chinese characters used to write the temple name, Seisuiji (清水寺), are the same three used at the famous temple in Kyoto, Kiyomizudera – clear water temple. The difference being that in Kyoto, the Japanese reading is used for the characters, and on Sado the Chinese reading is used. Seisuiji was established during the 9th century by a Buddhist monk from Kyoto, ostensibly for inhabitants of Sado Island to pray at, without having to go all the way to Kiyomizudera in Kyoto. There are resemblances between the two temples.

Sado Gold Mine

Sado Gold Mine

Sado struck gold in an area known as Aikawa in 1601. It had been dug for 388 years and one of the largest gold mine in the world at that time. The excavation caused a surge in population growth during the period as ambitious mainlanders flocked to the island in search of fortune. At its most productive period during the Edo era (1603-1867), the mine was producing 400kg of gold per annum. The gold mine was functioning up until 1989 under the Mitsubishi banner, but is now open to visitors wishing to take a peek into the lives of the miners in days of yore. There are two courses on offer – a historic one looking at conditions in the Edo period, and a slightly more modern course which looks at conditions in the Meiji period (1868-1912).

Shukunegi Village

Shukunegi Village

Shukunegi village is a well-preserved old town, with a distinctive quaint feel to it. The windy streets are all tied in with Shukunegi’s history as a port town inhabited by ship craftsmen, hence why those wooden houses have a ship-like feel to them. As well as hidden cafes and restaurants, the village is host to many stories. As you wander through the streets, you may notice some houses with small doors. This was due to a taxation law based on the size of a house’s door – thus people made their doors smaller to pay less tax. Crafty!

Noh Theatre

Noh Theatre

With approximately 35 Noh[1] stages on the island (making up about a third of the total number of stages in the whole of Japan), Sado Islanders are passionate about this art form which is rich in tradition and history. The large presence of Noh stages on the island, and the passion of the local people for it, can probably be put down to the fact that one of the big names of Noh, Zeami Motokiyo, was sent to Sado as a political exile during the 15th Century. During the spring and summer months, arts festivals and events are rife on the island, and in June, Noh plays can be seen throughout the island every Friday.

Taraibune: Barrel Boats

Taraibune: Barrel Boats

For those looking to try something unique to Sado, taking a ride in a taraibune (a small boat made from a barrel) is well worth a look. Traditionally used in fishing for abalone and other sea creatures that dwell in rocky areas, the barrels allowed for easy access to areas that other boats were not so maneuverable in. Visitors can take a ride in a barrel boat from Ogi Town.

How to Get to Sado

There are a number of ways to get to Sado island from Tokyo. The fastest is to take the Shinkansen from JR Tokyo Station to Niigata, then take a bus from JR Niigata to Sado Kisen Terminal. From Sado Kisen Terminal, a quick hop on the “Jetfoil” will take you across to Ryotsu Port on the Island in roughly one hour. Once on the Island itself, getting around by bus, rental car or bicycle is no problem at all. For those on a tighter budget, a highway bus will take you from Shinjuku to JR Niigata, followed by the bus to Sado Kisen Terminal. From Sado Kisen Terminal, there are also ferries which take approximately 180 minutes and are cheaper than the Jetfoil.

[1] Noh is a musical dance drama that was developed fully in the Muromachi period (1338-1573) by Kanami and his son Zeami and supported by the samurai (warrior) for a long time. Noh is characterized by the masks the actors wear, which have primary importance in the plays.

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

What is Hyakuninisshu?

Hyakunin Isshu is a classical Japanese anthology of one hundred Japanese waka by one hundred poets. Waka is classical Japanese poetry composed in combinations of five- and seven-syllabled lines. There were several different forms of waka in ancient times, but most styles gradually disappeared except for tanka, the dominant style of waka composed in 5-7-5-7-7 syllabled lines. It can also refer to the card game which uses a deck composed of cards based on the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu. It was compiled by Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241) while he lived in the Mt. Ogura’s villa, Sagano district of Kyoto. There are several methods of playing the game that are relatively less demanding and thus are easier to play. Due to the simplicity of some of the rules, it has been a popular game amongst the general public. Games are sometime played in official national competition.

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

Japan’s Biggest Railway Museum

Japan’s biggest railway museum

Something that foreign people who come to Japan never fail to be surprised at is Japanese railways. They make no secret of their surprise at “Trains that come exactly by the timetable – it’s amazing” and “If the train is just two or three minutes late they even apologize and say ‘We are terribly sorry’.” However, that’s partly because in Japan, the railways are a means of transportation for citizens that is indispensable to everyday life.

A museum related to those railways is located in Saitama Prefecture, and is the largest museum of that kind in Japan. The museum was opened on October 14, 2007 by an foundation affiliated with East Japan Railway Company (JR East), based around a theme of the history, technology, and inner workings of the railways. The museum has proved very popular ever since it opened, and reached the five million visitor mark in April last year. That’s well over one million visitors a year.

The museum brings out the attraction of the railways with features such as a collection of roughly 580,000 items (around 2,000 of which are actually exhibited), 36 real trains on exhibit, Japan’s largest diorama model railway, and train driving simulators.

A woman in her 30s who was visiting for the second time said half-jokingly, “Coming here temporarily turns me into a Tetsuko! (Female railway fanatic)”

The spacious museum building, with a floor space of 28,000m2 spread over three floors, is divided into six zones. It’s kind of railway theme park where you can see, learn, ride and play – so there’s something to enjoy even if you don’t like railways so much. In addition, there are also restaurants where you can savor curry and rice served in a bygone-era dining car or try the special meals supplied to train crew only. You can also purchase popular ekiben boxed lunches and eat them inside the train exhibits (limited trains only). It feels like a simulated experience of a real little train journey.

A man from Tokyo in his 50s seemed to find it deeply moving. “Ah, those were the days. This brings back memories of the old days when I used to board a train with a lady and go off on a journey. I’d like to go back to those times!” A woman from Saitama Prefecture in her 20s was intrigued. “The trains in the old days were more stylish. If there were trains like these today, I’d like to ride in them.” A male also from Saitama in his 30s said, “Next time, I’d like to bring some drink here and have a party in one of the trains.”

However visitors can freely eat and drink in some of the exhibition trains, alcohol is not permitted.

The five train driving simulators are particularly popular with children. The simulators offer an authenticity that even adults can enjoy, which includes the use of real footage of the Yamanote line actually running through central Tokyo. In addition, the train driver experience class features the actual training equipment used for developing professional train drivers, which must be a constant delight for railway fanatics. The facility gives the impression of being something that can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of their generation. Indeed, many visitors bringing their families are seen on weekends. Noting the popularity of this museum, West Japan Railway Company (JR West) is also planning a railway museum in Kyoto. Scheduled to open in spring 2016 for a total project cost of seven billion yen ($77 million), the museum aims to attract 800,000 visitors a year.

150 Series steam locomotive (first steam locomotive)

This was the steam locomotive used when Japan’s railways first started operating in 1872. Made in the UK, it connected Shinbashi and Yokohama – a distance of roughly 29km – in 53 minutes. It is also listed as “kokuho”, a nationally important cultural asset.

The original Shinkansen bullet train

This is the front part of the 0 Series train that was put into service on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, which started operating in 1964. It is the main attraction of the Shinkansen-related exhibition. You can actually go inside and experience what it was like in a 0 Series car at the time.

Japan’s largest HO scale model railway diorama

The diorama intricately recreates not just railways, but also buildings and even people. The lighting changes for nighttime, midday, and morning, while detailed performances such as fireworks going off are also a must-see.

Stove trains

Even today, stove trains are in active service in cold northern areas such as Hokkaido. It’s said that some people place a mesh on top of the stove and grill dried squid.

Driving experience

Although there are five simulators, including trains in current use, the main attraction is the D51 Series steam locomotive. You can experience just what it was like to actually operate a steam locomotive. The specifications are authentic and it cost 100 million yen ($1.11 million) to make. Tasks such as loading coal into the furnace with a scoop, and the shaking and rolling of the train, are intricately recreated.

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

Living with Ashes in Kagoshima

Sakurajima is the most frequently erupting volcano in Japan. In fact, it erupted again on December 17 (2020). The previous eruption was four months ago, in August. If you want to see a volcanic eruption in Japan, the best chance is to visit Sakurajima.

In Kyushu’s southernmost prefecture of Kagoshima, the Mt. Ontake volcano still erupts frequently. The 1,182 meter-high peak offers a splendid view, and when it erupts, we are once again reminded of the majesty of nature.

While visitors find delight in witnessing an eruption, such is not the case for nearby residents, whose cars and laundry are coated with volcanic ash.

On occasions when a large amount of ash is deposited, the local government distributes special bags to households, in order for them to sweep up the ash, fill the bags and leave them for collection. While the ash was once regarded as unusable and thrown away, now it is being used as an ingredient in women’s facial scrub. It is also mixed with other ingredients to produce concrete.

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

“Kumamon” — Kumamoto’s Popular Mascot

To appeal to visitors and other visitors, localities around Japan are finding a cute mascot indispensable. Among these, “Kumamon,” bear character from Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu, is enjoying a surge in popularity.

According to a survey by RJC Research, Kumamon jumped from 46th place in 2011 to 3rd place in 2012, putting it just behind Shiga Prefecture’s 1st-place “Hikonyan” and Nara Prefecture’s 2nd-place “Sento-kun” as the nation’s most popular. The name “Kumamon” is taken from Kumamoto’s local dialect and means a person who hails from Kumamoto Prefecture. (Kuma means “bear,” and in the local dialect, the suffix “-mon” is tacked on to a place name when referring to its natives.”)

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

Japan’s World Heritage Sites

Mt. Fuji and Kamakura Vying for World Heritage Status

Looking down hikers from the summit of Mt. Fuji
Symbol of Kamakura, Big Buddha statute at Kotoku-in Temple

Last year, Japan’s Mt. Fuji and the old military capital of Kamakura were proposed as possible candidates for UNESCO-designated World Heritage sites.

In the proposal letter, Mt. Fuji was described as encompassing 25 assets, including the Fujinomiya Asama shinto shrine, the Oshino Hakkai springs and others, emphasizing its value as an object of Japanese religious worship as well as a subject for various types of art, including woodblock prints. Kamakura offers 10 major resources, including the Great Buddha statue, the Enkaku-ji temple and others. With the town merged into the surrounding hills, it served as Japan’s military capital during the Kamakura era (1185-1333), and emphasizes its status as a place where the samurai (warrior) culture flourished.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) within UNESCO, undertook a survey of the two locations last summer, and around this coming May is expected to issue its recommendations to UNESCO’s committee on world heritage sites. Both Kamakura and Mt. Fuji are accessible by Tokyo in from one to two hours by bus or train. They have long attracted many visitors. Some residents of Kamakura have even been heard to object to world heritage status, saying, “We’ve already got more visitors than we can handle.” And regarding Mt. Fuji, one American was heard to remark, “It is already so famous worldwide. I can’t see any need for it to be registered as a world heritage site.”

List of World Heritage sites in Japan (current)

Buddhist Monuments in the Hōryū-ji Area
Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Ryukyu Kingdom
Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Atomic Dome)
Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto
Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara
Itsukushima Shinto Shrine
Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape
Ogasawara Islands
Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range
Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama
Shrines and Temples of Nikkō

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

Local Flavors on Parade at Tokyo Festival

The “Furusato Matsuri Tokyo 2013” exhibition, bringing together festivals from throughout Japan and local delicacies, was held in the Tokyo Dome stadium in January. This year’s was the fifth of its kind. During the nine-day period, the show attracted some 400,000 visitors.

In addition to stage performances of the songs, dances and drum performances featured at various festivals from around Japan, the event also introduced more than 300 booths offering a dizzying assortment of local food treats. With plenty of desserts, plus locally brewed varieties of sake and beer being offered, no visitor went away hungry.

Tokyo Dome is normally utilized as a baseball stadium so it has bleacher seating for nearly 50,000 people, but in this case, it proved a good venue for eating as well. Likewise, by being able to attract so many visitors, the concessionaires found the event to be an excellent public relations opportunity. The cost of admission was 1,500 yen ($16), but tickets limited to weekdays and evenings only (after 4:00 pm) offered reduced prices of 1,200 ($13) and 1,000 yen ($11), respectively. Although located in the center of Tokyo, attending the event enabled visitors to take a full tour of the country, so it was particularly appealing to foreign visitors. It will be held again in January 2014.

Boxed lunches from Hokkaido featured such
mouth-watering delicacies as ikura (salmon
roe), uni (sea urchin roe) and kani (crab meat).
This Hokkaido-style dessert features Yubari
melons topped with frozen custard.
This boxed lunch from Miyagi Prefecture
features juicy slices of ox tongue atop a bed
of rice.
Yokote fried noodles from Akita Prefecture was
awarded the “B-kyu Gurume” grand prix, for
cheap and tasty food.
投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

What is Kingyosukui?

Scooper For Goldfish Scooping

Goldfish scooping called “Kingyo-sukui” in Japanese is a traditional Japanese game in which a player scoops goldfish with a special scooper. “Kingyo” means goldfish and “sukui” means scooping. Japanese traditional festivals held at a shrine commonly have a stall for this activity. Both children and adults enjoy the game. The basic rule is that the player scoops goldfish from a small pool with a paper scooper called a “poi” and puts them into a bowl with the poi. This game requires care and speed
as the poi can tear easily. The game is over when the poi is completely broken or incapable of scooping properly. Even if one part of the poi is torn, the player can continue the game with the remaining part.
You can bring back home goldfish you could successfully scoop up. There is a nationwide tournament every year in Nara Prefecture and the person
who won the tournament in 2011 scooped up as many as 87 goldfish.

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

The History of Japanese Houses: The Evolution of Japanese Buildings and Architecture

The History of Japanese Houses: The Evolution of Japanese Buildings

The Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum, located in a western suburb of Tokyo, is a sprawling outdoor facility displaying buildings representative of the historical periods beginning from the Edo era in 1603 to the 19th century (Meiji Era), and 20th century (Taisho and Showa eras). Visitors are able to enter and view the buildings’ interiors, and obtain impressions about what life was like for the people who lived during those times.

Buildings of the Edo era (1603-1867)

This farmhouse was built in the late Edo era. Upon entering the doorway, the dirt flooring continues as-is for part of the room. The irori (open hearth) inside is where people sat to take meals, and as there was no ceiling but rather just the eaves of the roof, the rooms were rather dim even during the daytime. As people disdained luxuries in the Edo era, decorative alcoves and tiled roofs were severely regulated. The restrictions on social class were such that the homes of bushi (members of the ruling warrior class) were permitted have steps in their entranceways and decorative alcoves. These were also permitted in the homes of wealthy farmers.

Buildings of the Meiji era (1868-1912)

From the Meiji era homes began to shed their feudal limitations, and were built to reflect the affluence of their owner. This house, built in 1906, was the central section of the residence of Korekiyo Takahashi, a leading political figure from the Meiji era until his death in 1936, known for his flair in economics. The house boasts an intricate structure using hemlock spruce, and sliding glass doors — which were still expensive at the time — to separate the wooden passageways from the garden.

Buildings of the Taisho era (1912-1926)

The Meiji era, which preceded Taisho, was one in which Japan was greatly influenced by the West, including people’s homes. But initially Westernization was limited mainly to politicians and business magnates, and others in the upper economic classes. But with the Taisho era, more middle-class urban residents began adopting Westernized living styles, leading to the construction of dwellings combining Japanese and Western styles, which sprang up in suburban areas. While many featured tables and chairs, people still removed their shoes upon entry, and most preferred to maintain the practice of relaxing on tatami (rush mat) flooring.

This house, which adopts a semi-Westernized design, was built in 1925 as a private residence. The exterior is characterized by its steep hipped roof with tile roofing and eaves that jut out horizontally. The house was lived in and well cared for by its owner until 1996.

Buildings of the Showa era(1926-1989)

Bombing raids on cities during the Second World War resulted in the destruction of much urban housing and in the years immediately following the war, many low-quality, barrack-like homes were constructed. For practical reasons, kitchen and dining areas were combined, along with other innovations. In the prewar years, homes — whether farm houses or town houses — in many cases tended to be used for both working and living, but with the growth in salaried office workers after the war, it became more common for people to live apart from their work. You can see still many of them remain in Tokyo. So we take up a unique building here. This photo studio was built in 1937. Both the ceiling and wall of the northern façade on its second floor were made entire of glass, which was angled so as to ensure a consistent amount of light for photography. Such a design may be said typical of photo studios that were built in the days of primitive lighting equipment.

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

Where Is Japan’s Most Popular Onsen, Mineral Hot Springs?

1. Hakone (Kanagawa Prefecture)

2. Yufuin (Oita Prefecture)

3. Kusatsu (Gunma Prefecture)

4. Noboribetsu (Hokkaido)

5. Beppu (Oita Prefecture)

Source: Recruit Lifestyle

Japan boasts a wide variety of onsen (hot-springs resorts), ranging from large spa-type facilities with the latest modern equipment to traditional hot springs that offer rustic charm. These days it has become rare for people to make extended stays at hot-spring resorts for therapeutic purposes, but hot springs are still popular among people of all generations as a place to go and relax.

According to a nationwide survey of 8,721 people from their teens to their 70s conducted last year, hot springs areas subjects said they wished most to visit again were given as per the above list. One reason why more than one respondent out of three named the Hakone onsen may be due to the large number of voters residing in the Kanto region close to Tokyo. Notable was the high popularity of the Yufuin (2nd place) and Beppu (5th place) spas both of which are located in Oita Prefecture — about 1,000 kilometers from Tokyo. This popularity is underscored by Yufuin’s ranking first place in response to another survey question, “Of the places you have not yet visited, which mineral springs would you most like to try?” The biggest reasons given for chosing Yufuin were, “Because it’s famous” (with 74%), followed by “The town seems to have a nice atmosphere (45%) and “I’m interested in the therapeutic effects and quality of the mineral waters” (36%).

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時: