Japan is made of over 7,000 islands and while people are aware of the main four islands, many smaller and lesser known islands around the country offer their own form of beauty, nature, and wonder. Shodoshima Island (小豆島) rests on the western coast of Japan in the Shikoku Region. It’s a popular, artsy destination internationally- known, like the nearby famous Naoshima, for the Setouchi Triennale – a contemporary art festival held once every three years on several island located in the Seto Inland Sea. The island’s proximity to Okayama, Kagawa, and Osaka makes it a great destination for those looking to get out of the city. Shodoshima offers outdoor adventures, scenic landscapes, and art which will surely make a visit to the island unforgettable. In this article, we’ll outline a one-day trip on the best way to spend a day on Shodoshima Island.
Getting to Shodoshima
Shodoshima Island is only accessible by ferry off the ports in Western Japan in Takamatsu, Okayama, Himeji and Kobe. There are a number of ports and ferry companies that operate this route and times and prices vary per port. Takamatsu Port and the port in Okayama seem to be the closest since it only takes an hour to arrive on the island. Departures to the island start early in the morning and continue until early evening and depending on your embarkation point, the ferry departs between every 40 minutes to 2 hrs. The tickets for the ferry differ between ¥700 – ¥2,000 per person, for an additional charge you can also take your own car on the ferry. To get a good start on your adventure through the island we recommend leaving for Shoshana around 8am latest to avoid crowds and see the most sights.
For more information and time tables and to make your reservation (recommended in the holidays season), see Shodoshima Travel Navi.
How to get around the island
Of the almost 3,000 islands located in the Seto Inland Sea, Shodoshima is the second largest island with a width of about 20 kilometers. There is a bus network that connects the six ports and the coastal area of Shodoshima, however a rental car is your best option to get around the island. There are several car rental companies located on the island or you can bring your own car on the ferry, though this is relatively expensive. It is also possible to rent a bicycle at some places like Tonosho Port.
You can always count on finding good folklore in more unexplored areas of Japan. Angel Road (エンジェルロード) is known as the perfect spot for couples to reconnect and strengthen their love for each other. The pathway is a 500-meter long sandbar that connects the main island to the three smaller islands off of the coast. It’s said that walking hand in hand with your partner down the pathway will strengthen your relationship. Angel Road begins behind the Shodoshima Kokusai Hotel and at the end of the road, there’s a small rock outcropping that has a great view of the road as well as the coastline. There’s a “Love Bell” near a small shrine, legend has is that ringing the bell will solidify your love forever.
Shodoshima Olive Park
Olive lovers will surely be excited to learn that Shodoshima is the birthplace of olive cultivation in Japan. Shodoshima has the perfect Mediterranean-like climate which allows for olives to grow successfully and earned the island the nickname Olive Island. Shodoshima Olive Park (道の駅小豆島オリーブ公園) offers attractive walking paths through the hillside where visitors can get a little bit of the Mediterranean atmosphere in Japan. There’s a small museum that teaches visitors about the history of olive cultivation on the island as well as restaurants, shops, and cafes. Visitors can purchase interesting items like olive candy, olive cosmetics, and even olive ice cream. For anime lovers, the park is also a big attraction for fans of Studio Ghibli’s Kiki’s Delivery Service since the island was featured in the movie. Fans can dress up like Kiki and pose with broomsticks similar to the teen witch in the movie.
Shodoshima Olive Park
8.30am – 5pm
This spectacular ravine is ranked one of the three most beautiful gorges in Japan. A ropeway follows the length of the Kankakei Gorge (寒霞渓) between two stations which can be reached by car or bus. The upper station at the highest peak in the gorge has an observation deck with breathtaking views of the entire island. Be sure to try kawarange – a local game in which players must throw a clay disk through a hoop. If the disk makes it through the hoop, then your deepest wishes will come true. For those looking for a bit more of an adventure, Kankakei Gorge offers many interesting hiking trails which take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to hike. You’ll find some old traditional temples in the forest along with native animals like monkeys and lizards.
Kankakei Gorge Ropeway
8.30am – 5pm (8am during the autumn color season; until 4.30pm in winter); departures every 12 minutes
Admission fee ¥1,050 (one-way)
Twenty-Four Eyes Movie Studio
Set in the turbulent past between 1928 and 1946, Twenty-Four Eyes is a movie based on the novel written by Tsuboi Sakae, a Shodoshima native. The story follows the relationship of love and respect between a new teacher and her 12 students during the rise of Japanese nationalism in the lead up to WWII. Visitors can enjoy the nostalgic feel of the Showa period (1926-1989) and explore the wooden schoolhouse and other facilities within the studio. The studio cafe is particularly interesting as the menu features local specialties along with old fashioned school lunch sets
Twenty-Four Eyes Movie Studio
9am – 5pm
Admission fee ¥880 (movie village + original school house)
A discount coupon is available online
On the side of Yubuneyama mountain, visitors can catch a spectacular agricultural landscape view of Senmaida. The name means “thousand rice fields’ ‘ and the area surely lives up to its reputation. Nearby is an outdoor kabuki theater where you can also view a local kabuki play that has been performed since the Edo period (1603 – 1868).
Yokai Art Museum
Most people are introduced to Japanese folklore through anime like Yu Yu Hakusho, Inuyasha, and even Naruto. If you’re interested in Japanese spiritual creatures or monsters from beyond our dimension then the Yokai Art Museum is a must-visit. The museum has over 800 different depictions of both modern and conventional yokai spirits in drawings, paintings, and sculptures. The art museum was actually built across five old traditional Japanese warehouse buildings which seems to add to the mysterious atmosphere of the subject. Each building contains a different theme of yokais, so be sure to take your time as you’re exploring.
88 temple pilgrimage
Like the nearby Shikoku island, Shodoshima has a pilgrimage route Shodoshima 88 Temple Pilgrimage that visits 88 temples along its way. The smaller sibling of the popular Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage is just a little shorter, only ~180 km long, but still takes about 2 weeks to complete on foot. The pilgrimage begins near Sakate Port and brings you to 88 temples across the island in a clockwise direction, but of course you are free to change to route as you please.
Where to stay on Shodoshima
Shodoshima can easily be done as a daytrip, but for those who’d like to spend a night or two on the island, there’s a few options. There are a few campsites on Shodoshima, as well as hotels and ryokans.
While everyone is certainly hip to Japan’s larger cities, it’s always good to get out of the metropolitan life for a slower pace of travel. Shodoshima island offers many exclusive and interesting sights to see. Just get on a boat and start making your way over here.
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Jamila Brown is a five-year resident of Japan, teaching in the day and writing at night. She enjoys movies, reading, cosplaying, and eating good food in her downtime.
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