Dan Flying Solo

Sado Island: A two-day Tokyo escape of traditional Taiko drums, tub boats and temples

These mines are likely the contributors to most of Tokugawa shogunate’s fortune, a dynasty clan from the Edo Period of Japan, but now are fully closed, not because the gold run out, but to protect the environment, especially the Ibis birds.

The two main mining tunnels are however much better preserved, and an audio-guide tour will take you through these and around the back, where little trains and mountain views are shared with tool museums. The Sado Kinzan tunnels themselves show the conditions, traditions and reality of the mines, and being Japan, robots played the parter of the miners to depict that in further detail. There was something quite eerie about being way underground, and the occasional robotic arm or face moving towards you.

Back in the warmth of the winter sun, we rounded off our gold-history lesson with a spot of panning. While explosives would have rushed the gold from the mountains into the waters, for tourists, a ready-made experience of inside sandy beds await. Here, you’ll be shown how to pan and have a window to bag yourself a few flakes to take home. Apparently, I have a natural talent, as my 18-pieces of tiny sliver seemed to set a new record, and I walked off into the sunset a few dollars richer.

Speaking of sunsets, I’d been told that Sado Island has some of the best in the world, and tonight, the only night of my trip without cloud cover, that was very much true.

A viewing platform on the rocky Sado Island coast

Stopping off at Senkakuwan Bay, on the suggestion of Nagata, I purchased a ticket to the viewing platform here, where a little white bridge carries you across to a rocky outpost. At first glance, I had assumed it was a small temple, but getting closer, I realised it was a bar area, likely famous for sunset Sake in the summer months. The views around this part of the coast were spectacular, and the dramatic rock formations made me realise the comparison to Hawaii.

From a photography point of view, the vistas looking back out on the viewing platform actually trumped standing upon it, and in-season small boats depart from here for tours. A quite sad aquarium with equally sad-looking fish can also be found here, the only place on Sado Island I didn’t enjoy.

Driving the coastal road to the far southern-point of Sado, the sky danced from oranges and yellows to purples and reds, and by the time we arrived at Hananoki Inn, my 150-year old Ryokan and home on the Island, the sky was starting to twinkle with stars.

Sara Lassiter

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