This fascinating island is full of history, culture, food and nature


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Japan 2019 Travel Guide: Sado

A small island located off the coast of Niigata on Honshu, Sado is the perfect place to discover Japanese traditions…

The Culture Vulture

Onidaiko (demon drumming) is a form of folk entertainment unique to Sado, with ‘demons’ dancing to the beat of drums. It’s performed at shrine festivals to pray for plentiful harvests and bountiful catches of seafood, as well as to drive out misfortune. Look out for one of the more than 100 active Onidaiko groups across the island – no two groups have the same dance moves.

Japan 2019 Travel Guide: Sado

Beat the drum: An Onidaiko display – folk entertainment

Another tradition alive and well is Noh, a form of Japanese theatre involving music, dance and drama performed since the 14th century. A third of Japan’s remaining Noh stages are on Sado Island.

The Foodie

Burikatsu-don is a yellowtail cutlet rice bowl using Sado-produced ingredients, from the fish to the rice flour for the coating to the sauce.

A handful of Sado farmers grow Violette de Sollies figs, often referred to as the “rare black diamond” as they’re scarce. Be sure to hunt them down!

The Adventurer

The taraibune (tub boat) can only be found on the island of Sado. It is still used to collect shellfish and seaweed from the rocky coastal waters not accessible by traditional fishing boats, but it is also possible for tourists to take a leisurely ride in them.

Head to Futatsugame at low tide, when a walkway appears to connect the two large rocks off the coast. Another giant rock to seek out is Onogame, a 167-metre tall monolith overlooking the ocean.

Japan 2019 Travel Guide: Sado

Hard rock: Onogame is 167m tall and overlooks the ocean

The Party Animal

Snack bars may not sound glamorous but these are some of the most happening places to be at on Sado at night. Drink to your heart’s content and enjoy karaoke at these bars. One recommendation is Usagi, located a ten-minute walk from Ryotsu Port.

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How to get there

Travel to Sado Island’s Ryotsu Port in one hour by high-speed jetfoil or two-and-a-half hours by car ferry from Niigata. The island is also accessible from Naoetsu Port, with boats docking at Ogi Port on the island.