This article is sponsored content for the Japan National Tourism Organization
Proudly sitting in Japan’s Inland Sea, it’s fair to say that in recent years the islands of the Setouchi region have garnered a fair amount of attention. Art islands like Naoshima and Teshima are no longer ‘secret gems’, but rather ‘must see’ destinations. The region’s transformation is not a blight on the beauty and uniqueness of the destinations, but a testament to their appeal.
That said, there’s something inherently appealing about traveling to a place and feeling like you’ve arrived there before anyone else. In other words, the ego pull of finding an untouched gem is strong. So, let me give you an insider tip: Shodoshima is in a prime position to be the next island hotspot for those who have done the “islands of art” and are looking for their next discovery.
With a diverse food scene, excellent nature, and plenty of attractions, it’s also a top destination for first-time travelers who don’t just hike the well-trodden tourist trails. As the second largest island in the Seto Inland Sea and one of Setouchi Triennial art festivals, it won’t stay under the radar for too long. Here’s a guide to some of its top attractions and a tasting platter of the diversity you’ll find here.
Shodoshima’s landscape is incredibly diverse, and you can practically read its history in the layers of rock that line the gravity-defying cliffs of Kankakei Gorge. The area is rich with volcanic soil that has formed over the years, its smoothness sculpted by the ravages of mother nature to create geologically unique views, best admired from the Kankakei Gorge accessible by cable car.
For those who want to get to know the territory more intimately, two hiking trails wind along the gorges. Short and steep, they offer the best of both worlds, demanding but accessible. Visiting Japan in autumn? So missing the sight of this place in its fiery red and orange splendor would be a crime.
Yamaroku Shoyu (soy sauce)
One thing you will learn while exploring Japan is that nothing can be too specialized and you can never be too careful, especially when it comes to the culinary arts. An ideal example is the iconic Yamaroku Shoyu soy sauce brewery. The island is recognized as one of the most soy sauce-centric destinations in the country, making it the unofficial capital of this ubiquitous dark beer.
Yamaroku Shoyu’s blend is brewed with the full use of time, both metaphorically and literally. The brewery uses aged wooden barrels rich in healthy bacteria that add flavor and a level of umami depth that you can’t get from supermarket brands. So complex and rich, it can even be poured over ice cream for that sweet and salty umami combination.
road of angels
Angel Road is a natural phenomenon, and the island’s main “love attraction” is incredibly popular with domestic travelers looking to secure their relationships.
It is essentially a sandbar or “road” that comes and goes with the tide, usually surfacing by mid-afternoon, depending on the season. According to island legends, if you cross the sandbar holding the hand of that special someone, your wishes will come true. For those who are not so fancy, it’s still a panoramic view!
Art among the olives
There’s something so delightfully serious and absurd about Shodoshima’s public work, Regent in Olives. What is that? An egg with a whale on it? A penguin, or an abstract tribute to the king of rock ‘n roll? Honestly, it doesn’t really matter because the joy is in the abstraction of it all, and it’s the perfect embodiment of Shodoshima’s love for the outdoors, olives and having fun at through art.
The best part of Regent in Olives? The owner of the olive grove he has been living in since the Setouchi Triennale in 2013, Mr. Iwachan polished sculpture every day since its appearance, so when you’re there, be sure to snap a photo in its unerringly brilliant reflection. You can visit this list for a more comprehensive list of art exhibits scattered around the map.
How to get to Shodoshima
From Takamatsu or Okayama, there are regular ferries. The trip takes about an hour each way, and some options stop at the ports of Tonosho, Kusakabe, Ikeda, and Sakate on Shodoshima. If you are coming from Kobe, Shikoku Ferry also operates car ferries between Himeji and Shodoshima Port Fukuda. Kobe Shodoshima Jumbo Ferry operates multiple routes between Kobe and Sakate Port on Shodoshima daily. Alternatively, the island has plenty of accommodation, so consider booking a few nights there, exploring the island at a leisurely pace and letting its charms unfold naturally.
The writer traveled as a guest of the National Tourism Organization of Japan.