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Arts & culture

Sado Island

Traditional arts beloved by the samurai are kept alive in daily island life.

There are many Japanese traditional arts, including Kabuki or Bunraku puppet theater. One such art is Noh theater, in which performers wear Noh masks as they dance and perform upon a dedicated Noh stage, accompanied by music. Although it began as a sacred dance dedicated to the gods in the ancient Nara and Heian periods, it was also loved by samurai such as Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, and its form was later refined. People on the street here on Sado Island are able to enjoy Noh performance in everyday life.

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There were once over 200 Noh theater stages on the island!

Of all the dedicated Noh theater stages scattered over Japan, around one-third can be found here on Sado Island. The tiny island is home to more than 30 Noh stages. In its Meiji era heyday, the number of stages exceeded 200. Most of these are annexed to Shinto shrines, offering entertainment and religious ritual at the same time for island residents, and they have deep roots in island life. Performances are staged from spring through fall, with summer nights particularly memorable as each village stages Noh performances accompanied by burning bonfires. Sado Island residents are surrounded by nature and Noh stages, as if gathered at a festival. Enter the circle yourself, and gain instant familiarity with the world of Noh.

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Kodo: the taiko drumming and performance arts group born on Sado Island

On Sado Island, where Japanese traditional arts such as Noh theater are kept alive, the culture surrounding taiko drumming is also deep-rooted. A traditional Japanese percussion instrument used in festivals, the taiko drum has a distinctive powerful sound that reverberates inside the body. Adding a contemporary interpretation of traditional Japanese taiko, the group Kodo has taken taiko drumming performances all around the world. Based in the mountain village of Kodo-mura, the group also stages concerts at world-renowned venues such as New York’s Carnegie Hall. The Kodo group has also become central to the outdoor festival known as Earth Celebration held each August on Sado. It’s a great time to visit Sado at this time when the island receives many visitors from abroad.

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For reference


Approx. 1 hour and 5 minutes from Narita Airport to Niigata Airport
Approx. 55 minutes from Chubu International Airport to Niigata Airport
Approx. 1 hour and 10 minutes from Itami Airport to Niigata Airport
Approx. 1 hour and a half from Fukuoka Airport to Niigata Airport
Approx. 3 hours from Naha Airport to Niigata Airport
Approx. 25 minutes by limousine bus from Narita Airport to JR Niigata Station
  • Approx. 15 minutes by bus from JR Niigata Station to Niigata Port
  • Approx. 1 hour and 5 minutes by high-speed jetfoil and 2 hours and a half by car ferry from Niigata Port to Sado Island


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