Tag Archive: culture

Sado Island

Please forgive how late this post is, about a month late exactly.

Back in September I took a weekend camping trip up to Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture with two friends. Sado Island is famous for many things,  like wooden boats, the red-crested ibis, noh theaters, beautiful beaches, sea food, and the Sado Gold Mine. The island is the largest isolated island in Japan. It has beautiful rock formations and lots of hiking on the mountainous terrain.


We left Takasaki Station early morning Friday by bullet train. It was very exciting for me, having never ridden a bullet train before. Watching our train come in was very cool and we took lots of pictures like the tourists we are.



After the bullet train ride we arrived on the coast of Japan in time to catch the ferry to the island. The ferry we took was a car and passenger ferry, so it was huge! We bought our tickets and boarded the ferry.


Within minutes we were all motion sick. It was awful. The only thing that helped was laying down and taking a nap, or sitting outside watching the waves. It was a two hour boat ride.

Thankfully, we finally made it to port on Sado Island! We landed at Ryotsu Port. We disembarked with all of the other passengers and had a look around. We wanted to rent a car, but all of the car rental places were booked up! So instead we bought unlimited use bus tickets for 2 days, which cost about $20 and probably paid for themselves twice. We ate a snack in Ryotsu, then went exploring. We found a farmer’s market and bought some apples and bananas for breakfast the next day. We also loaded up on snacks in case the campground didn’t have food nearby. Then we hopped on a bus to our campsite in Tassha.


When we first got to the campsite, we were a little disappointed and confused. Where were the beautiful beaches? We asked a gift shop attendant and found out that we were in the right place. It was a gloomy day, and threatening to rain. We were a bit worried about the fact that it might thunderstorm, and we had no running water/bathrooms after 8pm. We decided to stick out anyway and put up the tent. We took a walk on the shoreline and then hiked up the road to explore. There wasn’t much around us. Sleeping in the tent that night was a little scary (I swear I heard a cat outside the tent!) but we made it through.  In the morning, the sun was out and we got to see the beautiful beach that was advertised. The gift shop opened at 8 am and we finally got to use the bathroom! We pulled down the tent and caught the next bus to our second destination: The Sado Gold Mine.


Back in the day, the Tokugawa Shogunate was funded by the gold from the Sado Gold Mine. Now the mine is shut down, but it provides a fun tour into history for people. You can walk through and see animated robots doing the everyday work that real mine workers used to do. They even had a lot of signs in English! We paid 800 yen each to tour half of the mine. Then, we walked through a museum with lots of information and old artifacts from the mine. Then of course the exit took you to a gift shop! I’m a sucker for souvenirs.


Outside the gift shop we saw a place selling dango, a specialty of Niigata prefecture. We bought sakura dango and enjoyed them together.

Next up on the trip, the port town of Ogi. We took a nice long bus ride down the island to our last stop. When we got off, we weren’t sure what we had gotten ourselves into. We didn’t know where we were, had no transportation (besides the next bus) and we had our heavy bags to carry everywhere. Thankfully the weather was nice, actually it was a bit hot for backpacking that day. We had intended to camp again, but the campgrounds were mostly closed for the season. We got over our initial nervousness to go look around and we found the tourist information building and got the phone number for the local hostel. Once we made a reservation, we hiked up to it on foot with all of our bags (it was quite a climb!) and paid about 3600 each for a night in a nice little youth hostel that seemed to be only run by an old lady. Once we dropped off our bags, we hiked back down to explore the town and soon realized that this place was tiny. There was no way we could have gotten lost! It was such a small town, the kind where you can walk through the downtown area and not even realize it… But anyway we found dinner at a nice little restaurant, took pictures of the ocean, and bought souvenirs. We were lucky enough to see one of the famous wooden tub boats being rowed (picture at top of the post). It was a peaceful night. As it was getting dark, we went back up the road to our hostel and spent the rest of the night enjoying the electricity and cell phone reception.

Then Sunday came too fast. It was time to leave. We got to spend a little bit more time in the little town before our ferry left. We left from a different port than we came in, because it would have cost a lot of money to take a bus back to the main port now that our passes were expired. This ferry got us to a fairly big train station on the main island of Japan, so it all worked out. Our second ferry also seemed like a much smoother ride, and it didn’t take as long to get back either. We weren’t too motion sick to go outside and enjoy the view, and we even got to feed some seagulls! That was fun.




Goodbye Sado!

It took about 7 hours, 1 ferry, 1 bus, 3 trains, and 1 bicycle ride to get back home in Maebashi. But my weekend in Sado Island was a great one! I would recommend a trip to Sado Island during the summer season, when more things are open, and I would also suggest renting a car too. But either way it’s a fun trip.

I almost forgot to add a certain funny story. While Laura and I were on the bullet train back to Takasaki station, we were sitting next to a nice looking old lady. She had a heavy carry on bag with her, so I offered to put it up for her. Then we talked the rest of the train ride! She didn’t speak much English, but she had been all over the world and told us some cool stories about her travels in Europe (from what we could understand…). Then she gave us some souvenirs from her latest trip! It was too kind. Laura and I conspired to gift her back. I mentioned earlier that I was a sucker for souvenirs, and I had bought some at the Sado Gold mine. I pulled out a key chain, hid it in my hand, then right when we got to our stop, we sneak attack gifted her and ran away. It was great!


Visit Sado

August: The Month of Matsuri!

Happy Obon everyone!

The months of July, August, and September are big months for festivals, I’ve noticed. It seems like every weekend there’s a festival to go to. I’ve been rained out of two festivals so far, but I got some good pictures from the Yagibushi festival in Kiryu, Gunma last weekend.

The festival started off hot and humid. The streets of Kiryu were lined with food stalls. Popular items were fried chicken, okonomiyaki, yakisoba, shaved ice, chocolate covered bananas, among others. I tried yakimanjuu, the specialty of gunma. It was kind of like chewy bread on a stick… that’s the only way I can describe it. Every big intersection had a lantern lit platform where people could stand and sing, while on the ground dancers performed in front.





As it got darker, there were more people gearing up for the dancing portion of the festival.

I ate one of these:


It was filled with meat and very hot (temperature-wise). Also greasy.

All of the lanterns lit up at night. It was very pretty.


Then the singing and dancing started! I don’t think you can imagine what it was like from just a description I could give you, but luckily I have a video!

As you can see, it was very crowded! But fun. And yes, my fellow foreigners and I jumped in and danced too.

That’s one of many festivals in the area. I’m sure I’ll go to some more in September as well, especially the Maebashi Matsuri.

Coming soon: Gunma Orientation.

Thanks for reading!