History buffs, nature fans, and Japanese culture enthusiasts will want to check out this island in the Sea of Japan.

As a nation of islands, it’s no surprise that some of Japan’s best tourists spots would be, well, islands. What’s interesting is that many islands have their own special claim to fame. For example, Aoshima in Ehime prefecture, west of Tokyo, is also known as “Cat Island”. and Yakushima, even farther west in Kyushu, is remembered as the inspiration for the hit film Princess Mononoke.

But in a nation of islands, some will get overlooked for other destinations, even though they have more to offer. Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture, off the northern coats of Japan’s main island of Honshu, is one of those islands.

Sado Island can be reached by ferry from Niigata City, which is two and a half hours by bullet train from Tokyo. Although many Japanese travel agencies offer all-inclusive trips to the island, it remains a relatively unknown travel destination in Japan, despite being a major historical and cultural asset to Japan.

Sado Island has a very long history. According to the island’s website, historical artifacts reveal that it was inhabited as many as 10,000 years ago. Not to mention that, according to Japanese mythology, Sado was one of the first seven islands created when the god Izanami thrust his spear into the ocean and pulled up the land that would become Japan.

As history advanced and Japan saw various eras, it became a place of exile where famous political dissidents were sent by the shogunates. As such, a lot of things to see on the island include memorials and death places of famous exiles. For example, Hongyouji Temple was built in honor of the monk Nichiren Shonin, the founder of Nichiren Buddhism. He supposedly foresaw a foreign invasion and an uprising against the ruling Hojo Clan through his Buddhist practice, and when the Mongols invaded and a coup was attempted soon after, the Hojo weren’t happy with him, so they exiled him to Sado.

▼ Hongyouji Temple is also a place were lots of beautiful hydrangea grow in summer.

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In the Tokugawa Era, the island was mined for gold, and later for silver, a practice which continued until 1989. Some of the sites you can see on the island include a nineteenth century mine shaft and mining buildings, and you can also go into the mines themselves.

▼ The first and second images of this netizen’s post are of the Aikawa area on Sado Island, which includes a flotation plant used to process gold and silver.

Sado is also home to numerous traditional arts, including folk dances, puppet theater, and especially Noh performances. There are many Noh theaters to explore on Sado, which makes it a paradise for Japanese traditional culture buffs.

Springtime is the best time to visit Sado if you want to take part in some of its many festivals. In April the island comes alive with some neat traditions like the ondeko (a deity mask dance), yabusame (horseback archery), and mikoshi (portable shrine) processions.

But never fear, it seems like every month in spring, summer, and fall there’s something going on in Sado, so you’re likely to find something cool whenever you choose to visit.

Besides, Sado’s beautiful natural features are inviting in any season. There are wildflower fields, terraced rice paddies, ponds, lakes, beautiful mountains, and much more. It’s also home to the endangered toki, or Japanese crested ibis, which actually went extinct in the wild in 2003, before it was revived through artificial insemination projects.

▼ Enormous cedar trees in Osado Ishina, which can be accessed by nature trails

Of course, as an island Sado has some stunning ocean views, too.

▼ Sunsets over the water seem to be universally beautiful here. Also, the last photo is a photo of a Japanese crested ibis.

You can also swim in the ocean and explore rocky ocean outcroppings. There are some amazing rock formations to find, like Akagameiwa, which is made of red iron quartz, and is said to actually be a giant turtle that turned to stone after it saved a fisherman’s life.

Rich in culture, history, and nature, Sado is definitely a great place to visit. Why not make it a day trip from Niigata, or go all out with an overnight stay? You can rent a room in a ryokan, bathe in the onsen, and eat some of Sado’s delicious seafood before you head back to Niigata to check out their famous lantern festival. You won’t regret it!

Source: Twitter/@Dhanow
Featured Image: Twitter@Dhanow
Reference: Sado Island Official website