Some 35km off the coast of Honshu in the Sea of Japan, Sado Island seems remote even today. For centuries it was in fact a colony of exiles and prisoners and most of them never came back once they were shipped off to Sado.
Don’t worry; this is not the case anymore! Nowadays, there are a number of ways to get on and off the island via car ferry or jetfoil boat. There is no bridge to connect the island with the mainland yet, and Sado Airport was closed down some years ago.
If you board a car ferry or jetfoil boat operated by Sado Kisen Ferry, you are sure to return from Sado after some relaxing days on this easy-going island.
For those in a hurry, the jetfoil boat is racing across in 1 hour. If you have time, or you come by car, then the car ferry will carry you there in 2 hour 30 minutes.
I took the jetfoil and sat by the window to watch the waves and the seagulls. There is not much else to do on your journey except for watching Japanese TV on one of the screens in the passenger area, or reading up about Sado Island. Pick up some tourist information pamphlets at the Niigata Port; these will keep you busy until you step of the boat.
In any case, taking the car ferry might be slower but it is a good way to appreciate the scenery. The jetfoil does not allow you to step out of the seating area to admire the landscape of the island on approach.
The main transportation hub on the island is Ryotsu Port on the west side of Sado where both the car ferry and the jetfoil boat from Niigata Port are heading to.
Right next to the terminal building of Ryotsu Port a big statue of a Noh mask welcomes you. This is a reminder that Noh theatre has a long tradition on the island. There are said to be still 30 Noh stages from originally 200, many of which belong to shrines. The Noh season on Sado starts in April and runs until October.
If you want to go to the southern part of Sado, then you might want to check out a different sea route. There are two more gateways to the island: Naoetsu Port or Teradomari Port. The car ferry from Naoetsu Port takes you to Ogi Port on the southwest side of Sado Island. A high-speed boat from Teradomari Port takes you to Akadomari Port in the south of Sado.
From the port areas there are local busses (seasonal) that bring you to your destination. However, when you access the island via Ryotsu Port, then you will also be able to rent a car or rent a bicycle there.
In any case, racing across the ocean in a jetfoil is one of the less usual means of transportation and a nice start of your Sado adventures.