Tumultuous Beginnings and an Indeterminate Future
Sado Island – a population that continues to decline. Back in the halcyon days of 1950 its inhabitants peaked at 125,000 while fast forward to 2011 and it has fallen markedly now hovering around half that number. To add insult to injury the local tourism industry has also fallen away over the intervening years, yet another reflection of a writhing Japanese economy. One of the first things that strikes you travelling around the island is its elderly populous rambling along with walking trolleys in tow which is not unsurprising given the high proportion of over sixty-fives.
All is not lost however as Sado Island’s saviour is it has plenty to offer outdoor enthusiasts from hiking Mt. Myoken (1,172m) to snorkelling and of course plenty of natural vistas to take in. Our trip starts with a 2.5 hour car ferry from Niigata to the port of Ryotsu which is the main of the three ferry links to the island. An interesting specular is the ritual of feeding the seagulls which pester us seafaring folk until almost halfway across the strait. Though makes for some good snapshots the idea of feeding them junk food seems a little unbecoming.
Over our three days on the island we managed a trip to the Sado Gold Mine 佐渡金山 Sado Kinzan which provides an opportunity to head underground and gain an appreciation of the pitiful working conditions miners were subjected to especially during the Edo period. Due to a paucity of workers many vagrants and countless exiles were rounded up on the streets and sent there to labour. During the 17th century it was the most productive gold mine in the world and experienced continuous operation for well into the later part of last century. Interesting is a bisected mountain known as Doyunowareto 道遊の割戸 the remnants of an open cut mine visibly etched onto the horizon.
Heading up to the northern tip of the island the landscape diversifies with the treeless Onogame 大野亀 rising high from the sea. Further along brings you to the equally striking Futatsugame 二ツ亀 which resemble two sitting turtles. On the way back to Aikawa we were mesmerized by an overarching waterfall which drops within spitting distance of the road. On the whole Sado Island lived up to its expectations and makes a worthwhile getaway if you have a few days up your sleeve.