NIPPONIA No.22 September 15, 2002
Japan Travelogue

The island is also known for Sado Okesa (a folk song), the demon drum lion dance, and other traditional performing arts. These are regular attractions at festivals and annual events. Kodo, the Japanese drum group, originated on Sado. The group gave a dynamic performance at Niigata Stadium, at the opening ceremony of the first 2002 FIFA World Cup soccer game in Japan.
The Gaikaifu Coast in northern Sado is an excellent place to commune with nature. Television and film crews make movies against the backdrop of its craggy shore, and lots of hikers visit the area. Colorful wild flowers bloom there, especially hamanasu (Japanese roses) in May and iwayuri and kibanakanzo (two lily varieties) in June.
Of all the events that punctuated Sado's history, perhaps the most famous was Japan's own Gold Rush. The first mines were dug in the early 1600s. The Shogunate, centered in Edo (present-day Tokyo), directly controlled Sado and shipped tons of gold and silver from there to Edo. Prisoners from the lowest classes were forced to work the mines, and until the mid-1800s their job was backbreaking, digging into the rock and bailing water out of the mine shafts. The mines closed in 1989, but you can still see how they once were, especially at Doyu no Wareto, an old strip mine. The Sado Gold Mine theme park is situated nearby, and attracts many visitors. There you can see how the gold was extracted.
The former gold mines are in a town called Aikawa-machi. If you follow the coast from there to the south and east you'll come to Mano-machi, a popular spot because it has more historical sites than anywhere else on Sado. Of special interest along the road from Taizen-jinja Shrine to Myosen-ji Temple are the rustic buildings and lush vegetation. They blend beautifully with each other, creating an atmosphere tourists find very relaxing.
Many island communities have changed little over the years. One hamlet, Shukunegi, was famous for its shipbuilders and large cargo ships. It is located in the Ogi district of southern Sado and reminds us of the late 1600s. The lanes are so narrow that even motorcycles have a hard time passing each other, and the streets are laid out like a maze.
Historic buildings, pristine nature, ancient villages — Japanese tourists find these scenes fascinating because they bring back memories of an era that has disappeared in most parts of the country. The Japanese are slowly forgetting the true meaning of the phrase, "the good life," but they remember it again when they come to Sado. There they can enjoy the life of old Japan.


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