All About Japan

A 'Tarai' Boat Experience on Sado Island

Japanese Food Sea of Japan Japanese Countryside Ise-Shima Summit Niigata

Sado, or Sadogashima, is a large island off Niigata Prefecture located in the Sea of Japan. A high-speed jetfoil and a regular ferry leave from Niigata City and take about an hour or 2.5 hours, respectively, to get to the island. Sado is renowned, among other things, for being the only habitat in Japan for the highly endangered crested ibis.

For those less accustomed to sea voyages, the jetfoil is remarkably comfortable and doesn't rock about, arriving in no time at all. Then, if you'd like a taste of the ocean you just traveled across, a good first step on Sado would be to try the local gourmet dish, buri katsudon (yellowtail cutlet on rice), which is hot and crunchy and just divine!

Another great local specialty to check out is a tarai-bune, or tub boat. Made of a round washing tub known locally as a tarai, this unique boat was traditionally used on Sado to gather abalone, horned turban and seaweed. These can also be ridden as a tourist experience, though the ones made for tourists are slightly larger, reputedly able to accommodate up to 500 kilograms (1102 lbs). It looks a little dangerous, but they're surprisingly stable when you actually get in!

Since this is a tourist attraction, you won't even have to row for yourself: rather, you'll be pleasantly shuttled about by someone in a traditional boat-person's costume as you seemingly slide across the surface of the water. Of course, if you'd like a chance to paddle yourself, they tend to be quite accommodating!

The sea around Sado is simply beautiful, and there are many superb locations all around the island. Hiking is also a great option!