Sado is a large island located off the coast of Niigata Prefecture. Traditions, fresh cuisine, and gold can be found on your Sado trip. Sado Mine offers a reproduction of 17th and 18th century mining. But if it isn't gold you are interested in, then try wandering the old style streets, or stop off at one of the many hot spring baths.
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Developed in the Edo Era as a port of call for the shipping industry moving commodities and linking the island with the capital, Shukunegi, which was at the height of its prosperity, has retained its original appearance of a community that had been built by people in the shipping industry. In one corner of the bay, more than 100 buildings were established in dense formation with a distinct landscape of narrow alleys and stone paving, and the scenery of outside walls built from wooden boarding has been retained. That exterior can be seen as being quite simple. However, the interiors are deeply interesting for their luxurious construction which brings to mind the lifestyle of well-to-do people due to the shipping industry through examples such as black-lacquered central pillars, sculpted Buddhist altars and chests of trick construction to store money and other valuable items. The streets filled with the houses and structures built by shipwrights have been designated as an Important Preservation District of Historic Buildings by the nation and have been tended to as a town property relating the valuable history of Sado.
Within the preservation district of Shukunegi, currently 2 private houses have been opened to the general public (admission required). One house, Seikurou House, is a 200-year-old residence. The simple boarded exterior gives way to unbelievably beautiful rooms of lacquered cedar doors, Japanese zelkova floors, hearths that bespeak of the old houses, high open ceilings and other features of an old Japanese home which has been lovingly preserved as if time had stopped. Also, there are many other sights to see on the old streets such as the other open private house, Kaneko House, Sankaku-no-Ie (Triangle House) which was built to fit in with the shape of a corner lot alleyway and the old-fashioned Yosute Lane.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Shukunegi
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Shukunegi
- Tours of Shukunegi
(image by 佐渡観光協会)
There was a gold rush in the town of Aikawa in the northwestern area of Sado Island in the 17th century. Mining of gold and silver proceeded under the control of the Edo shogunate, with the tunnel reaching a total length of 400km. The annual output reached a total of 400 kg of gold and 40t of silver at its peak from a mine that was said to be the largest in the world at that time. Those assets financed the Edo shogunate for 300 years, and the formerly poor town on the island attracted miners from all over the country which led to the population exceeding 50,000. On the other hand, due to the harsh work, there were a number of deaths, and the tombs have left a legacy of tragedy. The 390-year history of the gold mine ended in 1989 but even now, much of it has remained and it has been since opened to the public as a valuable historical site. There are also deeply impressive and fascinating areas such as the Doyu-no-Wareto, a historic site in the mine which was split into a V-shape for the purposes of the mining, and the gigantic former froth floatation site which has already been praised as a historic site even though it had been built in the 20th century.
4 tour courses have been established at Sado Mine where you can learn about the history of the mine from various angles. There is the Doyuko Course where you can tour the tunnels and processing factories built for the development of the main vein during the age of modernization in the 19th century, the Souda Yuukou Course, a National Historic Site which was excavated in the Edo Era and is represented by figures of miners from those days, the Sanshi Course which is taken by flashlight through 400-year-old tunnels dug out by sanshi (prospectors) of the Edo Era (reservations are necessary), and the Sangyo Isan Course which tours by bus through the industrial legacy of the mine from the 19th century. All of the courses include a tour of the museum so that you can get a good understanding of the history of the mountain which was highlighted by the mining for gold and silver.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Sado Mine
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Sado Mine
- Tours of Sado Mine
Sado Nishimikawa Gold Park
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The existence of Sado’s Nishimikawa Gold Mine has been known since the Heian Era. However true development of the mine didn’t start until around the year 1460 at the beginning of the Sengoku (Warring States) Era, after which any gold found from the sand was placed into the war chest of subsequent commanders among other uses and became a major source of currency on the island. Although the heyday of the 16th to 17th centuries saw the largest output from the Nishimikawa mine, that output gradually started waning until the mine finally closed down in 1872. Since the gold-panning method used needed a large amount of water, large-scale canals were built in the surrounding area. Even now, there are 12km worth of remaining canals. This gold-panning is thought to be the oldest method in Japan, and at the time, mountains were undercut and the soil and rock which held the gold dust were washed through the valley river which made for a dynamic process. Currently, at Nishimikawa Gold Park, you can try out this gold-panning process.
There are exhibition galleries and video rooms at Sado Nishimikawa Gold Park, with information on gold and gold-panning available and learning about gold is possible. But the most popular attraction is undoubtedly the gold-panning. Actual Nishimikawa sand is used for courses which are divided into levels of ability. There is the beginners’ course where you can enjoy searching for gold dust by washing the sand through a sieve-like pan, the intermediate course where the sand is washed through a man-made river and then the advanced course where the sand is washed through a real river. The gold dust that you can find can then be made into accessories which you can take home as a memento.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 800 / Child: ¥ 700