4. Japan’s gold history on Sado Island
There are a few different places you can take in the history of Gold on Sado Island, which made this island very wealthy and was shipped off to the mainland; The Gold Museum, the old Gold Mines, and the Gold Panning centre.
The Gold Museum provides an excellent overview of the history of the Island, especially about the gold industry and essential trading routes, of which Sado was a vital spot. The entrance is cheap, and I was impressed at the high-tech quality of the museum, and the fact all the videos were in English and Subtitled. Through a handful of different rooms, you are taken on a tour of the history, and animations are projected on 3D tables and walls, depicting water floods, gold flying, and mountains terrain.
A short drive from the museum are the mines themselves, the exterior stations now looking like some kind of Aztec Ruins, coated in green moss, fading back into the surrounding nature, but on closer inspection, concrete pillars and floors that had been abandoned, and exposed to the elements.
The two old mining tunnels are 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.
While explosives would have rushed the gold from the mountains into the waters, for tourists, a ready-made experience of inside sandy beds await for gold panning.
5. Temple hopping amongst nature
As with most of Japan, Temples can be found all across Sado Island, and due to the reduction in population, and nature reclaiming spaces, there is a real mix of temples to admire. From the pristine and preserved, to the abandoned and atmospheric.
Some of my favourites to visit on the island are Seisuiji Temple, where a rocky staircase lined with towering trees frame the entrance, before entering and being greeted by a beautiful and yet slowly decaying theatre, or the only Pagoda on the island, which is set amongst stunning gardens, at the Nichirenshumyosen Temple.
For something a bit more random, head to Chokokuji Temple, also known as the Rabbit Temple, not just because of the large rabbit statue outside, but because of all the bunnies bouncing around freely in the gardens!