Sado Island

Sado ferry

Sado seems to be one of those places that everyone talks about going to but few actually get to. After 10 years in Japan this was my first trip to the island, on a story for an airline magazine.

First photos were on the ferry – a pretty chilly voyage as it was still mid spring up on the Japan Sea coast. The photo above was actually taken at 6am, despite the sunset glow (changed the white balance to get that look).

seagulls on the Sado ferry

the first day I visited Sado Kinzan gold mine. During the Edo-period Sado had one of the most productive gold mines in the world. The gold was dug by the slave labor of criminals sent from all over Japan.

It was a drizzly day, but darkish photos match the tone of the place, I hope.

The island is attempting to have the mine designated a world heritage site. I have to say I don’t fancy their chances. Japan already has 14 sites and I’ve heard the UNESCO committee is giving priority to developing countries.

But the mine looks interesting, all overgrown and atmospheric: very Ghibli-esque.

Sado Kinzan gold mine

temple on Sadogashima

This is Johnny Wales, one of Sado’s first caucasian residents. I invited myself round after seeing his photo in a pamplet in the tourist info office and asking for his number. He’s an illustrator, sculptor and puppeteer. Check out his excellent site for details.

He lives in an amazing old farmhouse. He first came to the island in 1975, which is the year I was born. He has a commuter train strap nailed to the ceiling of his atelier to remind him why he lives on Sado not in Tokyo!

I took a few photos on him sitting on the porch. It’s good to catch those fleeting moments when the subject looks away.

Johnny Wales

This is  the owner of the hot spring minshuku I stayed in on my final night. He’s an “onsen sommelier”. I thought that might mean he drinks the waters, but he’s just an expert on the properties of hot springs.

Taken in between wiping the condensation off my lens.

inn owner and “onsen sommelier”

A real sunset this time.

lake on Sadogashima

Sado island, Apr 2009 – Images by Tony McNicol
full gallery of Sado photos

3 Responses to “Sado Island”

  1. Tornadoes28 says:

    Did you go visit the American deserter Robert Jenkins on Sado island? He works as a greeter at a local department store.

  2. tony says:

    No I didn’t, although I did turn down an invitation to meet him. Too busy running around taking photos!

  3. Will says:

    Hi Tony,

    I met you a couple of months back at the FCCJ at the Eikoh Hosoe show and then we had a few beers with Jeremy and Rob.I was down at the Gary Mcleod show the other day too, very nice.

    I’ve been enjoying your blog, so I thought I’d drop you a line. Really nice work in Sado, Johnny Wales seems like an interesting guy.

    I’ll keep coming back,



Leave a Reply