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3-Day Model Trip Day3 / Zenko-ji - Takada - Naoetsu - Ogi

Joshinetsu

3-Day Model Trip Day3 / Joshinetsu / Zenko-ji - Takada - Naoetsu - Ogi

Take the JR Shin'etsu Line train from Nagano Station for Joetsu (JR Takada Station). Then make a 10-minute bus trip to the site of Takada Castle. The castle was built by Matsudaira Tadaaki, the sixth son of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Edo Shogunate. At present the site of the castle is a spacious public park where cherries bloom riotously in spring.

Return to Takada Station and once again board the Shin'etsu Line for Naoetsu Station. Then board a bus for Naoetsu Harbor, from which you can reach Ogi, the entrance to Sado Island, by high-speed hydrofoil in about an hour. (Hydrofoils do not run between mid-November and late March. During those months, there are two ferry runs daily.)

With an area of 854 square kilometers, Sado is the largest of the Japanese islands after the four main islands-Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. It has long flourished as an agricultural, fishing and ranching zone and as a port of call for ships crossing the Sea of Japan.

When you are in Ogi, you should try a ride on a "tarai-bune," or tub boat. "Tarai" are round-shaped wooden tubs, which were normally used for laundry and bathing in many parts of Japan until the 1960s. Large oval "tarai" (180-centimeter circumference, 60-centimeter depth) have long been used as boats in this area, where people paddle them about to gather edible seaweeds and shellfish from sea boulders. At Ogi Harbor, you can ride in one paddled by a woman clad in traditional costume.

From the 17th into the 19th century, gold and silver were extensively mined on Sado Island. At their peak, the mines produced roughly 40 tons of gold per year. Though no longer commercially productive, some mines are preserved as tourist attractions to tell of past prosperity and the harsh living conditions of the laborers on whom it depended.

Sado Kinzan in the town of Aikawa has been restored to give tourists an idea of what mining was like there during the Edo period (1603-1867). Robots reproduce the mining operations of the time, but Aikawa is far from Ogi Harbor (45 kilometers, or about 80 minutes by car) and bus transportation is infrequent. So, if you don't have plenty of time, it's probably a better idea to visit Gold Park at Nishi-mikawa, about 30 minutes by bus from Ogi Harbor. (Be sure to check the schedule because there is only one bus every 1-2 hours.) At Gold Park, you can pan for gold dust and have what you find mounted on a card or pendant. There are also extensive exhibitions on the boom days on Sado. Mining-related souvenirs are on sale.

Sado is as famous for traditional culture as for its beautiful scenery. The Noh drama is especially revered, and several historical Noh stages survive. If you are interested, Sado Noh-no-Sato in Ryotsu is a good place to learn more. Located 60 minutes by car from Ogi Harbor, it features shortened Noh plays enacted by high-tech robots and close-up displays of No costumes. In addition to Noh drama, Sado offers a local puppet drama about 250 years old, which is an officially designated Important Intangible Folk Culture Property. Performances may be seen at Silver Village Sado in Sawada from April through November (1 hour by bus from Ogi Harbor and 30 minutes by bus from Nishi-mikawa Gold Park). Since both are fairly remote, it is best not to try to do everything in one day.