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8 Things to Do on Sado Island: The Curious ‘Butterfly Island’ That’s One of Japan’s Best-Kept Secrets

Sado Island (Sadogashima / 佐渡島), one of Japan's largest islands, is located off the coast of Niigata Prefecture. With its unique history, Sado Island was once known as a place of exile.
However, today it is a destination for those off the beaten path, famous not only for its stunning natural scenery but also for being one of the few places in which Japan's traditional culture is preserved.
Here we'll introduce sightseeing spots and experiences that you will not want to miss out on when visiting Sado Island, as well as how to get there.

A microcosm of Japan: What kind of place is Sadogashima?

Sado Island, also known as Sadogashima, is the largest island on the side of the Sea of Japan, with a size that is one-and-a-half times that of central Tokyo.
In the surrounding ocean, warm and cold currents intersect, resulting in various types of seafood such as crab, shrimp, squid, amberjack, and tuna being caught, as well as an abundance of products of the sea such as oysters, abalones, turban shells, and seaweed!
Also, as there are mountains and plains on this butterfly-shaped island, it is a treasure trove of delicious rice and fruits, including Okesa persimmons, Le Lectier pears, and apples!
There is more to Sado’s uniqueness. As many former emperors, aristocrats, and intellectuals were banished to Sado, the newest aspects of Japanese culture were brought continuously in. After that, Sado Kinzan became increasingly developed, and samurais, merchants, and engineers gathered here, cultivating its unique culture.
In this manner, while being an outlying island, with its mix of aristocratic culture, samurai culture, and commoner culture, Sado is said to be a “microcosm of Japan.”
To get to Sadogashima from overseas, after going to Tokyo Station from Narita Airport, it will take about four hours even if you take the Shinkansen. Many tourists travel internationally to Niigata Airport, visiting Sado to experience the culture of an outlying island of Japan.

Getting to Sado Island from Niigata

This is how to get to Sado’s Ryōtsu Port from the Port of Niigata. It takes about one hour to get there by jetfoil and about two-and-a-half hours by car ferry. Choose which boat to take based on your preference, budget, and schedule.
■Jetfoil (time required: 1 hour 5 minutes)
A double-decker boat that can carry up to 250 people. All of the seats are reserved, and the craft can streak across the sea's surface at a speed of 80km/h. Recommended for those who want to get there as quickly as possible and those prone to seasickness. …

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