Cultured and curious, historic and hedonistic, seafood obsessed and friendly, Sado Island and its people welcome you with a smile as glittering as the gold in its mines.
A few days ago, I got a chance to visit Sado Island with my friends, and I couldn’t get enough of this place. If you are also planning a short trip nearby for scenic beauty, sandless beaches, amazing history, and sun that sets with a “zoo” sound, then Sado is the perfect place for you. And who knows, you could become rich by panning Gold in Nishimikawa Gold Park!
In his book, The Travels of Marco Polo, Marco Polo described Japan as the “Land of Gold” in the 14th century, and places like Sado justify this description. Sado has been recognized as the center of Gold production in Japan for a long time. It was popular for mining gold entirely by hand without any mechanical equipment.
If even that did not convince you, then let me tell you, Japan is going to recommend Sado Island Gold mine for the 2023 UNESCO World Heritage List. It would be the 26th world heritage site in Japan. So, pack your bags to visit this wonderful island under Niigata prefecture with a population of more than 50,000.
How to Reach Sado Island
Sado is an island a little larger in area than Singapore and is located in the Sea of Japan, 40 kilometers from the coast of Niigata prefecture. As it is surrounded by water, the most convenient way to reach Sado is by Sado Kisen Ferry.
It takes two and a half hours from Niigata to Sado by ferry and 65 minutes by jetfoil, where we can enjoy the beautiful sea and seagulls on the way. Plus, it is not heavy on the pocket.
Places to Visit in Sado
Sado is famous for its Gold mines, and fortunately, tourists can experience it too. We can do that by panning gold from the sand by ourselves and can even bring the gold home. If gold dust is too little for you and there’s strength in your arms, you can do activities like attempting to take a 15 kg solid gold bar out of a glass box with one hand in 30 seconds. I wish you luck!
Photo credits: photo taken by the author
Sado Island Gold Mines
The incredibly big gold and silver mine is a candidate for a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is 400km in length, a distance equivalent from Sado to Tokyo. It gave a whooping output of 2,330 tons of silver and 78 tons of gold in 388 years during its operation period, which dates back to 1601 till the year 1989, when due to exhaustion of resources, the business discontinued. The tunnel is dark and cold, so I suggest you bring some extra clothes and a torch. This tunnel will amaze you with the accurate presentation of full-size dolls operating in a way just like the real deal. It’s a great learning experience about mining tools, methods, gold and silver ores, etc. I highly recommend visiting this place.
Kirarium Sado is basically an information center for gold and silver mines. It could also serve as a starting point for your trip as here you can get enough information about the area’s history. Everything is explained in English for the international visitors to connect to the culture better in an easy-to-understand manner with the help of art, painting, and videos.
Nishimikawa Gold Park
Visiting Gold Park was one of the most memorable experiences of our trip. The tourists most love this place because we get the opportunity to pan gold and experience the feeling of the “Gold Rush.” They teach us how to find gold from the sand and water with the help of a small basket, and if we follow the instructions carefully, we can find some gold dust too. I personally found six gold pieces and brought them back home. They even have shops nearby that sell pendants and necklaces where we can put the gold we collected and flaunt it later or gift our loved ones.
The Park remains open seven days a week, but timings may vary depending on the season, from 8:30 am to 5 pm. We can also buy other beautiful souvenirs like golden fridge magnets or cinnamon cookies as a memory.
Sado Magistrate’s Office
Sado Magistrate’s Office was formed to manage the gold and gold coins. It was built in the early Edo period but was designed again in 1994 after it caught fire repeatedly in between. The guide there was very humble and explained everything from the process of collecting ore to obtaining the gold manually without much technical assistance.
Kitazawa Flotation Plant
Kitazawa floatation plant is a scenic place which was constructed as a thermal power station in 1908, followed by a flotation plant in the year 1938, which was efficient enough to process more than 50,000 tons of ore every month. We took some of the most amazing pictures of our trip here.
Sado Precision is basically a factory where they manufacture mechanized parts used in medical, energy, and aviation fields. The factory manager is a very dedicated human being, and it was a great learning experience to visit and see the workings of a factory so closely.
Food in Sado
The most critical concern during traveling is food, but we got you covered. Sado is famous for its delicious seafood and fantastic hospitality. Everything was colorful and mesmerizing, from prawns and squids to dessert at the end.
It was the first time I had that much seafood on my plate, but it was a good experience, and I want to try it again.
Photo credits: Taken by the author
Accomodation on Sado Island
Sado has various Japanese-style inns to spend the night and rest comfortably, but if you want to stay in a business-style hotel, Sado won’t disappoint you. We stayed in Tabi no Hotel Sado.
It was my first time staying in a Japanese hotel, and I can whole-heartedly say I am highly impressed.
Now that you know what to expect ask your best friends to go with you by sharing this article, book your tickets and pack your bags for your awaiting trip to Sado Island. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to ask us in the comment section below or message us at @guidablejapan on Instagram.
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