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Sado Island - Slipping Slowly Off the Map

semi-overcast 16 °C

In the 13th Century, Sado Island, a few hours ferry ride off the west coast of Honshu in the Sea of Japan, was a distant place where disgraced emperors, poets and priests were exiled. Today it is best known by tourists for its taiko drummers and traditional wooden fishing coracles known as Tarai-bune…
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Sado is the fifth largest island of Japan with a population that once exceeded 120,000, but in recent decades the population has nosedived as legions of youngsters fled to seek their fortunes in the bright lights of Niigata and Tokyo. Almost half the population of Sado are senior citizens today so it’s not surprising that bits of it are falling apart. The last flight left a couple of years ago and the big hotel in the port town of Ogi was abandoned when half the front fell off. The old school in Ogi is still here – inhabited only by the ghosts of the teachers and pupils...
School_room.jpgThe unlocked door invited us in and beyond the abandoned classroom we found Ogi’s skeletons - the cold detritus of everyday life stripped of its living flesh. It’s all here: the furniture; tools; washtubs; rice bowls; and even the clocks, left behind by the generations of the departed…
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Room after room, corridor after corridor, stuffed from floor to ceiling with the largest un-curated agglomeration of everyday artefacts imaginable. On Judgement Day the re-incarnated residents of Sado island will have no problem re-furnishing their modest abodes with familiar objects. They will also find many of their temples much as they left them. This is the Kokubun-ji temple dating from the 8th century…
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The Seisui-Ji temple is pegged as the highlight of Sado but is no more than a fuzzy memory in the minds of the locals. There are no signs and no one could point us in the right direction. Nevertheless, our intrepid guide, and excellent translator, Tom Whalley, had the tenacity of the great explorer Hiram Bingham searching the Peruvian Andes for the lost city of Machu Picchu, and there it was...
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An overgrown avenue of trees at the end of a farm track led us up a long flight of broken stone steps to the decayed remains of one of Japan’s oldest sacred places…
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This temple was built in 808 AD and is a replica of the great Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto, but, like many of the buildings on Sado island, it has seen better days. The nearby Myosen-ji temple, circa 1278), containing the tomb of Suketomo Hino a courtier of the Emperor Godaigo (1288-1339), has faired much better and is accompanied by an impressive five-story pagoda built in the 1830s…
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As the hillsides of Sado blush pink with the awakening cherry buds we have to leave this sleepy isle to rejoin the hurly-burly of Honshu to experience one of nature’s most spectacular displays – the mankai – the blossoming of the cherry trees in Kanazawa.
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Posted by Hawkson 19:18 Archived in Japan

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Comments

My workshop should look so neat. No spider webs, visible dust. Eerie.
Fascinating coracle. Curious as to how it's propelled. The bonnetted lady obviously has it figured out. Note the two males serving as ballast.

by R and B

What a time warp. How fascinating. You are so blessed to be going to so many places so many times.

by Sue Fitzwilson

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