Shodoshima Island Guide
Shodoshima Map and Location
Japan is one of the countries in the world with a significant number of islands. With the majority of the country experiencing temperate climate, these islands become great summer getaways for the Japanese. One of these is located in the Seto Inland Sea with a 125-kilometer coastline – a length could house multiple beaches enough for all the residents in one of Tokyo’s districts! Shodo Island is a small piece of land located in the Seto Inland Sea of Japan from the Kagawa prefecture of the Shikoku region of Japan.
The word “Shodoshima” literally means “Island of Small Beans” pertaining to the popular Japanese Mung bean or Azuki beans. In history, it was popularly known as the Azukishima or Azuki Island. It used to be a part of the Sanuki Province of Japan. Furthermore, Shodoshima is known to be the first location in Japan to mass produce olives, making it the old olive capital of Japan.
Out of all the islands in the Inland Sea, Shodo is the largest with a total land area of 153 square kilometers. This is why compared to neighboring islands with only one town or municipality, Shodo Island has two namely, Tonosho and Shodoshima (or also known as Shodoshimacho). Joining the two towns’ populations together make up a total of about 30,000 residents in the entire island. Between the two, Shodoshimacho has a larger area and a larger population of Tonosho has an area a tenth smaller than the other town.
The island of Shodo is located in the southern region of Japan. However, it still experiences a warm and temperate climate. The island is best known for its Mediterranean climate. Due to this, the island knows August as the warmest month and January to be its coldest month. Being an island, it also experiences a significant amount of rainfall due to monsoons between the months of March and October. The month with the most amount of rainfall happens during the months of June and July. It is known that December is its driest month.
The weather in the island is mostly pleasant, with its humidity and temperature perfect for growing olives and azuki beans. A lot of people enjoy the island mainly because they feel like they are in the Mediterranean. Its blue skies and clear waters are best to beat the hot summer weather on the island – making it a popular summertime destination.
Travel tips to Shodoshima Island
Shodoshima International Hotels
Since the island is a popular destination for its beaches, there are a number of resorts all over the hundred-kilometer coastline. However, for those who wish to enjoy a city tour, there are also rooms, hotels, and lodgings available inside the island. Among the most popular would be the Bay Resort Hotel Shodoshima, Olivex Uchinomi, Resort Hotel Olivean Shodoshima, and the Shodoshima Olive Guesthouse.
Shodoshima Transportation: Shodoshima Ferry
One of the most convenient ways of reaching Shodoshima Island would be via the Shodoshima Ferry. These are boats (the most popular out of all would be the Dai Ni Shodoshima Maru and the Kokusai Maru) that take passengers from different ports surrounding the island. These include the Takamatsu ferry port, Okayama port, Himeji Port, Hinase Port, and Uno Port. There is also a Kobe Shinko port from Shodoshima. The time of the trip and the cost varies depending on the destination.
This particular ferry ride is very popular for the Setouchi Island Hopping (Naoshima, Teshima, and Shodoshima) which is a tour of the three largest islands in the Seto Inland Sea. The tour is usually a day trip. A ride from island to island can take a few minutes to an hour where the island tour can take a few hours. The island hopping trip usually ends before dark.
Even though Shodoshima is an island, it impressively has a hot spring water resource located a few kilometers below the surface of the earth. Because of this, there are a number of ryokans and onsens around the island. This is great for those who wish to experience a relaxing vacation or getaway. After a long trip touring the entire island, a long dip in the warm hot spring waters is a great way to end the day.
Must Eat in Shodoshima
Shodoshima Soy Sauce
One of the most popular export product of the island would be their delicious, traditionally-made soy-sauce. It is said that the island has been monopolizing the production of soy sauce in the region since the ancient times. There are companies that, up until today, still use their traditional methods of soy sauce production. They use traditional barrels made from cedar for the fermentation of soybeans. These are stored in dim-lighted traditional, wooden warehouses for a time until the soy sauce is ready for processing and packaging.
It is said that Shodoshima soy sauce is one of the tastiest of its kind in Japan. A number of facilities in the island that produce soy sauce have been in existence since before the Meiji period, these developed from houses and kitchens that produced large amounts of soy sauce. So many are these facilities that the island was once known as Shou no gou or Country of Soy Sauce.
Everything about Shodoshima Olives
Despite the island’s name, Azuki beans are less popular on the island compared to its number one produce which is olives. What is interesting is that there are a number of orchards on the island that is home to rows upon rows of olive trees. The residents of the island are quite proud of this crop, that it has become one of the favorite ingredients. What is impressive is that they are able to put an olive in everything be it an appetizer, a main course, or even a desert.
Of course, everyone familiar with the culinary world knows the wonders of olive oil. Also, of course, olives are great with martinis. However, residents of Shodoshima has taken olive-addiction to a whole new level! They have olive-flavored appetizers like salted and roasted olives. For the main course, they have olive pasta, meat doused in olive oil, and more. And the most interesting, there are restaurants and shops that offer olive chocolate, olive cakes, and sugar-coated olives for dessert.
The island’s love for olives goes beyond food. There are olive scented soaps, olive bath salts, and even olive-based cosmetics. There is even a hotel named Hotel Olivian which is best known for its spa facilities.
Soumen, the Noodle of the Ages
Many people are actually familiar with udon, soba, and ramen. However, a special kind of noodle dish is produced popularly in Shodoshima and this is known as the Soumen. Soumen is a noodle dish made with thread-like sized wheat noodles. These are thin and long which are dried traditionally under the sun. These are often served with tasty broth made from local seafood from the ports of the island.
Shodoshima 88 Temple Pilgrimage
Circuit pilgrimage is quite popular but unique to the Japanese. It is when an individual, or a pilgrim, visit a series of temples and shrines in a specific order for which the starting point and the ending point are the same. The Shodoshima 88 Temple Pilgrimage, known as the Kobo Daishi, is one of the most popular circuit pilgrimage destinations in all of Japan.
The difficult thing about the Shodoshima pilgrimage route is that there is very little information available in other languages except for Japanese. There are a few pilgrimage maps and a pilgrimage center near Tonosho port. There are also no guides available for this route as it is mostly a religious activity, and can take a few weeks to complete. The traditional way to complete the pilgrimage would be on foot but there are now maps and books that show alternative ways such as public transport routes and roads.
Other Places to Visit Shodoshima
Shodoshima Olive Park
It was in the early 1900s when growing olives in the island became a popular activity. A foreign plant that produces delectable produce, there is no wonder why the island became the leader in olive production in the entire country. One of the best places to enjoy the beauty and wonder of olives would be in Olive Park.
What is special about this park is the fact that this was where the first olive trees in Japan were planted more than a century ago. This has garnered an iconic and historical title not only for the park but the island as well. There are pathways along the orchard which are great for walking, running, or cycling.
Inside the park are different facilities that tourists can enjoy. There is a museum that teaches tourists about the history of olive cultivation in the island. There are a café and a restaurant that features different dishes and delicacies with hints of olive. There is also a hot spring ryokan in the park known as the Sun Olive. The source of hot spring water comes from 1.6 kilometers below the surface of the earth.
This park can be reached via a bus going to Sakate or Fukuda Port from the Tonosha port. The traveler can get down at the Olive ga Oka station. The ride costs roughly 300 yen and takes about 25 minutes going to the museum. It can also be accessed
Other than beaches and parks, Shodoshima island has more to offer when it comes to travel destinations. One of these would be the Kankakei Gorge, which is located in the centermost area of the island. The gorge is so impressive that it is known to be one of the three best gorges in all of Japan.
The Kankakei gorge is also popular for its hiking trails which are about two to three kilometers long. The hike is fairly easy as majority runs through forests with minor twists and turns but can be a bit steep for those who are inexperienced. The total time of travel up the hill can take an hour and a few minutes while going down can take 30 to 45 minutes.
The best thing about this is that it can be reached without taking hours of hiking. A ropeway runs through the entire gorge which takes passengers from the lower station to the upper station. Riding the ropeway can be expensive, but it is the best to experience the deep ravines. For those who wish to take their time up the gorge, both ropeway stations can be reached by car.
This pathway is one of the many places in Japan where people travel to for the experience of magic. Why? This is because Angel Road hides at certain times of the day, and appears in others. For people who have already traveled to Angel Road, they would know that there isn’t any actual magic. Instead, it is more of an interesting scientific phenomenon.
The Angel Road is a narrow pathway that connects the main island of Shodoshima to smaller islands nearby. What is interesting is that it is only revealed during the lowest of tides, meaning that this pathway only exists twice every day. It is a very beautiful pathway made completely of fine white sand, with minimal amounts of large rocks. It is quite a romantic place to visit.
It is said that if a couple walks through Angel Road holding hands and successfully crosses to the smaller islands, then the relationship will be blessed and strengthened. It is said to bring luck and prosperity to the couple. There is even a lookout point in one of the islands known as the Hill of Promise which overlooks Angel Road.
When crossing one island to the other, it is best to be aware of the time and not spend too long on the small island. If the tide gets high, Angel Road will disappear and there are risks of becoming stranded on the small island. Angel road can be accessed via a bus along the Nishiura line. The ride takes about 10 minutes and 150 yen.