Monday, September 6, 2010

Trip to Sado Island - part 2

As I wrote in the previous post, hubby and I had been to Sado Island in Niigata prefecture on 18th July, and visited Toki-Forest Park and Sado Gold Mine. After that we visited three more sightseeing places about which I will write in this post. From Sado Gold Mine, first we went to see Sado History and Legend Museum.

Sado History and Legend Museum
Sado History and Legend Museum (Sado Rekishi Dentetsukan) exhibits the cultural history of Sado Island using life-sized animatronics robot puppets in impressive stage settings with wonderful sound effects and lightings. These robot puppets move around, narrate, dance, and reenact historical events and local legends of Sado Island. Many displays center around the history of Sado Island as a place of exile and the life of three of the prominent political dissidents, the deposed monarch Emperor Juntoku, the Buddhist monk Nichiren, and the founder of Noh, Zeami Motokiyo are introduced. In addition, there are robots and holograms depicting some of the folktales and local legends of Sado Island. There is also a separate corner in the museum that is dedicated to the late local artist Sasaki Shodo who was designated as a living national treasure for his invaluable skills as a metal casting artist.

Sado History and Legend Museum is located in a place called Mano, which is 18 kilometers south-east of Sado Gold Mine. It took us about 40 minutes to reach the museum by our car. At the entrance of the museum, we bought tickets worth 700 Yen per person as admission fee for the museum. On entering the museum premises, we saw an elegant Japanese garden with a pond. We appreciated the beauty of the garden for some time and relaxed nearby.
I am standing at the entrance of Sado History and Legend Museum

Hubby standing inside the museum precinct

I am standing in front of a pond of Japanese garden inside the museum precinct. Museum building is seen in the background.

On entering the museum, we were welcomed by many animatronics robot puppets enacting various scenes from the history and local legends of Sado Island. The enactment of each scene by the puppets lasts only for a couple of minutes and then we have to move on to the next puppets performing another scene. Scenes 1-3 depict the life of Emperor Juntoku who was exiled to Sado Island in 1221 during Kamakura era. The first scene depicts the first Empress Keiko of Emperor Juntoku. She was born in Sado Island and is deified at Ichinomiya shrine in Hatano.
First Empress Keiko of Emperor Juntoku

The second scene depicts Emperor Juntoku sorrowfully appreciating the moon on the remote island. Because of the Jokyu incident, ex-Emperor Gotoba (Juntoku’s father) was exiled to Oki Island, Emperor Tsuchimikado to Tosa, and Emperor Juntoku to Sado Island. He stayed in Sado Island for 21 years and died at the age of 45 in 1242.
Emperor Juntoku

First Empress Keiko

The third scene is a picture scroll of Emperor Juntoku which shows the Imperial Palace, metropolitan Kyoto, Jokyu incident, and the exile to Sado Island.
Picture scroll of Emperor Juntoku

Picture scroll of Emperor Juntoku

Scenes 4 to 6 depict the life of Buddhist monk Nichiren who was exiled to Sado Island in 1271 during Kamakura era because he incurred the displeasure of Hojo Tokimune. The fourth scene depicts the religious persecution of Monk Nichiren. One night he was about to be decapitated at the entrance of his abode Kamakuraryu. But when he kept on chanting the Nichiren Buddhist sutra, a brilliant lightening miraculously flashed in the sky which terrified his executioners into inaction that saved his life.
Religious persecution of Buddhist monk Nichiren

The fifth scene depicts Monk Nichiren writing above the waves in rough sea. The sea suddenly got rough when he was exiled to Sado Island. The boat on which he was travelling started rocking dangerously on the sea waves. However, as soon as he wrote the Nichiren chant above the water in pole, the winds and waves got calm.
Monk Nichiren writing above the waves in rough sea

The sixth scene depicts Tsukahara debate session of Nichiren. In what is known as Tsukahara debate that took place on the 16th day of the first month of 1272, Monk Nichiren discussed and debated religious problems with other priests of various Buddhist sects who came to see him. The debate took place in front of the dilapidated hut of Monk Nichiren located in a local graveyard of Sado Island. Bearing cold, snow, strong winds, and hunger, the monk debated and won several converts.
Tsukahara debate session of Nichiren

Scenes 7 and 8 depict the life of Zeami Motokiyo who was exiled to Sado Island in 1434 during Muromachi era because General Ashikaga Yoshinori kept away from him. The seventh scene depicts a dance performance by Zeami to pray for rain. Once, people of Sado suffered a spell of dry weather. So one summer day, Zeami performed a dance to pray for rain. Suddenly big drops of rain began to fall, and people surprisedly looked at the dance in the rain.
A dance performance by Zeami to pray for rain

The eighth scene shows the Zeami Kannon statue.
Zeami Kannon statue

Scenes 9 to 12 depict various legends of Sado Island. The ninth scene depicts a narrating uncle and aunt. A drunken uncle and sleepy aunt narrate Sado legends humorously. It was really cute and I compiled a short video of the narration.
Narrating uncle and aunt

A compiled video of narrating uncle and aunt

The tenth scene depicts the legend of Anjyu. Sansho Dahyu is a famous short story written by a Meiji period writer Mori Ogai. A sister and brother named Anjyu and Zushio along with their mother were travelling to Sado Island where their father was on exile. The sister and brother were separated from their mother by a trickster atrocious priestess. Anjyu and Zushio were sold as slaves in a manorial estate and their mother was sold into prostitution in Sado Island. The brother and sister missed their mother. So after becoming adults, they tried to search for her.
Legend of Anjyu

The eleventh scene depicts the legend of Twilight Crane. Twilight Crane is a contemporary Japanese play written by Kinoshita Junji. Once an old man helped a crane wounded by an arrow. In order to return the kindness, the crane wove its own feathers into beautiful clothes. This story is narrated in the world of fantasy.
Legend of Twilight Crane

The twelfth and final scene depicts the legend of Okesa. The legend is based on a cat and is set on Sado Island. An old couple owned a cat and they were very attached to it. The couple was exceedingly poor and there seemed to be no solution to their poverty. The cat, in return for the sacrifices of the couple down the years, turned into a beautiful geisha, and took the name of Okesa. Okesa made money for the couple and helped to make their business thrive.
Legend of Okesa

Next, we visited a separate corner inside the museum which is a memorial exhibition hall dedicated to the late local artist Sasaki Shodo. He was designated as a living national treasure for his invaluable skills as a metal as well as wax casting artist. He was commemorated in 1990 on a Japanese stamp. Many of his works are on display at the exhibition hall and we appreciated them very much. He is also well known for making Zuicho, which is an imaginary auspicious bird modeled after the Japanese crested ibis. Zuicho is a rooftop decoration adorning the Tokyo Imperial Palace, and a replica of the bird is on display at the exhibition hall.
Replica of Zuicho bird

I am standing in front of Zuicho bird

After this, we came out of the museum building and again appreciated the beauty of the Japanese garden inside the museum precinct. Many carp fishes (koi) were moving around in the pond of the garden and hubby fed the carps.
Japanese garden with a pond

Many carp fishes in the pond

Hubby feeding the carp fishes

Next, we went to a souvenir shop of the museum and bought a few souvenirs. At the shop we met former US soldier Charles Jenkins who works there since 2008. He is known for having defected to North Korea while serving in the US Army, and then marrying Soga Hitomi, one of the several Japanese nationals who were abducted by the North Korean Government in the 1970s and 80s. After his wife was found and relocated to Japan, Jenkins turned himself in at an US Army Base in Japan in 2004, and moved to Sado Island after serving his sentence for desertion.
Hubby and I posing with Charles Jenkins

Learning about the history and traditions of Sado Island guided by the animatronics robots was really joyful. We were at the museum complex for about 1 hour. Next, we went to see Myosenji Temple.

Myosenji Temple
Myosenji Temple is said to have been founded by Endo Tamemori in 1278. He was a samurai who went from Kyoto to Sado Island accompanying ex-Emperor Juntoku in 1221. Later on during the exile of Buddhist monk Nichiren to Sado Island, Endo Tamemori became a devout follower and one of the first disciples of the monk. He changed his name to Nittoku Abutsubo and supported by his wife Sennichini turned their house into a temple which was originally built in a place called Kanaimachi. The temple was shifted near the castle of Honma family in 1326, and then it was moved to the present location in 1589. Mandala shousokubun written by Monk Nichiren and hand-copied sutras of Hino Suketomo are preserved at this temple.

Myosenji Temple is located on the outskirts of Mano about 5 kilometers north-east of Sado History and Legend Museum, and it took us about 15 minutes to reach there by our car. Admission to the temple premises was free. At the entrance of the temple, we saw a temple gate named Niomon. It was constructed in 1677 and is one of the oldest structures in this temple premises. The gate looked rather old but some of the red color of the gate is still preserved. This gate has a pair of wooden guardian statues called Nio, one on either side of the entrance. These fierce looking Nio statues, one open-mouthed and the other close-mouthed, are supposed to protect the temple from evil spirits.
Niomon gate

Statue of open-mouthed Nio

Statue of close-mouthed Nio

We crossed Niomon gate and entered the temples premises, where we saw a huge graceful five-storied wooden pagoda. This pagoda was built in 1825. Construction work on the pagoda was overseen by Mosauemon and his son of Aikawa district, and they took 30 years to complete it. It is 24.1 meters high and is said to have been modeled on the pagoda of Nikko-Toshogu Shrine. It is a very rare pagoda of the Edo period with a very good conservation condition. The structure, style, and tilt of the roofs of the pagoda are of typical Edo era. The main central pillar of the pagoda is made of a single tree of cedar. This pagoda is the only five storied wooden pagoda found in Niigata prefecture and is designated as an important national cultural asset.
Five-storied pagoda

Another view of five-storied pagoda

I am standing in front of the pagoda

Next, we saw the temple main gate named Sanmon and passed through it. We walked inside the temple premises for some time, which was very calm and serene. In one corner of the temple precinct, there is a tombstone of Hino Suketomo. He was a court noble in Kamakura era and was exiled to Sado Island in 1325, for his involvement in a plot with Emperor Godaigo to suppress Hojo regents and overthrow the Kamakura government in the so-called ‘Sochu Incident’ of 1324. He was imprisoned in Sado Island for seven years before being executed by Honma clan. He was buried at this place. But some Historians say that his remains were taken by his followers to Mount Koya in Wakayama prefecture. In 1875, his grave was moved near Emperor Juntoku’s grave in Mano Goryo.
Sanmon gate

Temple precinct

Tombstone of Hino Suketomo

Next, we saw a small temple hall named Soshidou. The hall was reconstructed in 1880 and is 11 square meters in area. Three wooden statues of deities named Shyuso Gomokuzou, Abutsubo Nittoku Shonin Sennichini Gozen, and Shashinkuyou no Gomokuzou are kept inside this hall.
Soshidou Hall

Next, we saw the main hall of the temple named Hondou. This hall was reconstructed in 1863 and is 22 square meters in area. The hall is constructed in a typical Edo era style and is the largest hall in the temple premises. A wooden image of Monk Nichiren about 50 cm tall is enshrined in this hall. It is the oldest image of Monk Nichiren as the letters written in black India ink inside the image reads that it was made in the third month of 1274. The legend has it that Abutsubo sculpted this image by himself in adoration of Monk Nichiren.
Hondou Hall

Another view of Hondou Hall

I am standing near the entrance of Hondou Hall

Image of Monk Nichiren inside Hondou Hall

Finally, we saw another hall named Kuri which was reconstructed in 1862. The hall has a thatched roof. It was a kitchen for the priests.
Kuri Hall

It was nice to see so many old structures in Myosenji Temple complex. After spending about 45 minutes at the temple precinct, we left the place. Next, we visited Meoto Iwa Rocks.

Meoto Iwa Rocks
Meoto Iwa Rocks are located just south of central Aikawa. It is 24 kilometers north-west of Myosenji Temple and it took us about 55 minutes to reach there by our car. As we neared Meoto Iwa Rocks, we started getting a dramatic view of Nanaura Coastline, which is a gentle stretch of protruding coast on the west side of Sado Island stretching from Aikawa to Futami district. The scene was calm and full of variety of rocks. On reaching Meoto Iwa Rocks, we were pleasantly surprised by the scenic beauty that surrounded us. Meoto Iwa Rocks are a pair of rocks which are massive and have fantastic shape. ‘Meoto’ means ‘husband and wife’, and so the rocks represent the union by marriage of man and woman. We took a few photos of us in front of these rocks. It is really a beautiful spot. We stayed at this place for about 20 minutes and then returned back to Ryotsu Port.
Rocky Nanaura Coastline

Meoto Iwa Rocks

Hubby and I standing along with Meoto Iwa Rocks in the background

Meoto Iwa Rocks as seen from another angle

I am standing in front of the rocks

Hubby and I along with Meoto Iwa Rocks

Travel by car ferry
Although Ryotsu Port is just 16 kilometers east of Meoto Iwa Rocks, the shortest road distance from the rocks to the port is 32 kilometers and it took us about 1 hour and 10 minutes to reach the port by our car. We reached the port at about 6.45 pm. We were going to travel by car ferry to Niigata Port at 7.30 pm, and so hubby parked our car in the queue of cars waiting to board the ferry. Then we went to a nearby restaurant and had some snacks and a cup of tea. While returning back to the queue of cars, we got a nice view of the car ferry we were to board. We also saw a tower of a Noh museum building that had two large Noh masks placed on the tower. Unfortunately, it was almost time to return back to Niigata and so we could not visit the Noh museum. At 7.15 pm, a crew staff of the ferry directed the waiting queue of cars and hubby drove his car on to the ferry. Later we went to our seats and dozed off during the entire trip back to Niigata. We reached Niigata Port at 9.30 pm, and returned back to the hotel near Niigata railway station at about 10 pm. On reaching our room, we immediately retired to bed.
Car ferry

Noh masks on the tower of Noh museum building

The next morning, hubby drove for 4.5 hours and we reached our home at about 3 pm. We loved our visit to Sado Island with its abundant natural beauty untouched by modern development.


lee shinyoung said...

wow! I enjoyed the photos! Japanis indeed beautiful...

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for the comment Lee Shinyoung. Good to know that you enjoyed the photos. Yeah, Japan is a beautiful country.

sono said...

Going to visit Sado Island in April. Was thrilled to read about the toki birds & the historical museum which we plan to see. Your blog is so thorough and photos are beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Now that I've found your site, I will continue to visit and read your blogs.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your comment Sono. I am glad that these posts will be of some use in planning your Sado trip in April. Have a nice trip...Please visit my blog often and keep your comments.