How did Sado emerge and develop from ancient times through the Medieval and Edo Periods to the island we know today? Here you will find a brief introduction, period by period, to the various stages of Sado's history.
Ancient Times to Medieval Ages
Archaeological relics reveal that people have lived in every area of Sado for over 10,000 years. It is from the 8th century A.D. onwards, when Japan emerged as a country, that clear evidence appears of people and culture arriving from the mainland. As an independent territory, Sado already had a government and a provincial governor from about the year 750. Sado City's Kokubunji Temple, Kobie's Rengebuji Temple and Hase's Hasedera Temple exist to tell the tale. It was also at that time that it was decided to make Sado, along with Izu and Oki, a place of exile. From the Nara Period poet Asomioi Hozumi in 722 to the Muromachi Period Noh playwright Zeami, in 1434, more than 70 people were banished to Sado. Since the majority of these were cultured people, intellectuals and members of the nobility who had been caught up in political strife, their Kyoto ways were brought to Sado in many different forms and became the foundation of the culture, thought, architecture, arts and entertainment still found on Sado to this day.
Gold Mine Boom
It was after the discovery of the gold mine that Sado came to prominence in history for a different reason. Its exploitation began when Ieyasu Tokugawa, seeing a promising future in Sado as a source of gold and silver, promoted the development of the gold mine as an enterprise under Shogunate control. During its prosperous peak at the beginning of the 17th century, the mine boasted the highest gold production volume in the world and the Aikawa district, which had been a poor village up until then, swelled into a big town with a population of over forty thousand people. The Ogi district, with its port from which the gold was loaded onto ships, also prospered and became a gateway through which new culture entered Sado.
End of Edo Period to Today
However, towards the end of the Edo Period in the middle of the 19th century the gold mine, which had supported the financial affairs of the Shogunate, began to run out of gold and by the time Japan rejoined the rest of the world in the Meiji Period which followed, Sado, along with its gold mine, was left behind by the march of time. The ports of Ogi and Akadomari which had been the gateways to Sado up until then gradually declined along with the development of the port of Ryotsu. After it was designated as an assistant port for Niigata Port (which had become an open port under the Japan-US Trade Treaty of 1858) Ryotsu Port emerged as the gateway to Niigata and the route between the ports of Niigata and Ryotsu is still the main sea route to Sado.