A few miles southwest from the coast of Hyogo Prefecture lies an Isolated beautiful Island filled with scenic beauty and nature called Shodoshima. Shodoshima literally means the island of small beans, referring to the Azuki beans that grow in abundance there. Fun fact, Shodoshima was actually known as Azuki Island before its name got changed to what it is today. It was the first area of Japan to grow olives successfully and is sometimes also known as the olive island.
Shodoshima is situated in Japan's Seto Inland Sea, a relatively lesser known place compared to the famous destinations in Japan. However, it was so worth exploring this part of the Japanese archipelago with no crowds, which was exactly what I needed during the pandemic.
There are about 30,000 people living on this Island. Although not many tourists know about Shodoshima, it is easily accessible by ferry from the main island of Honshu. (there are no airports in this area and the only way to get here is via ferry)
Shodoshima is graced with a warm climate all year round and thus for its Mediterranean atmosphere there are plenty of lush landscapes to explore, from beautiful beaches to mountain top observatories.
Renting a car is the easiest way to get around Shodoshima. I advise you to pre-book a rental car before arriving at the island, however, there are a few rental car dealers near the port. The island itself is very small and you can drive around all of Shodoshima if you are getting around by car, everything just gets easier since the bus timings are irregular, and they stop completely after 5 PM.
Top 5 attractions in Shodoshima that you cannot miss
1. ANGEL ROAD
Angel Road is one of the must see places in Shodoshima. It is a Sand bar of approximately 500m, which connects the mainland Shodoshima to small offshore Islands creating a heavenly view that you simply cant miss when you visit the island. But keep in mind that it only appears at low tide. You can walk on to the connecting Island and offer a prayer or just look around and take pictures. A quick google search will show you Angel Road's tide forecast and. some hotels even post Angel Road viewing times in the lobby. It is said that if you cross the Angel Road, holding hands with your partner/ love, an angel will come down to bless the couple in the middle of the bridge and they will remain forever in love. ( Although it depends on those who believe in such sayings, there's no harm in trying since the place itself is very romantic) Regardless of whether you are interested in the angel road for its romantic ambiance or the experience of just being able to cross from one island to another on foot, the sandbar is a beautiful place to spend time during the low tide and just be there to appreciate the breathtaking views of the sea.
Address: 24-69 Kō, Tonosho, Shōzu-gun, Kagawa 761-4101, Japan
2. NAKAYAMA SENMAIDA
The areas where rice terraces are concentrated are called senmaida(thousand rice terraces) in Japan. This traditional rural landscape is built on the sloping hills of the Nakayama district, in central Shodoshima. The Nakayama senmaida consists of approximately 800 rice terraces that come in various shapes and sizes. It has been designated as one of the best among the rice terraces of Japan. The recommended time to see the scenic beauty of the fields is from rice planting season in June to harvest season in September. The fresh water of nearby Mt Yubune, which was also selected as one of the 100 best water sources of Japan, is used for growing the rice here.
Address: Nakayama Shodoshima-cho Shozu-gun, Kagawa Access: Take the bus from Tonosho Port heading for Nakayama, get off at the “Nakayama Kasuga Jinjya Mae （中山春日神社前）” bus stop.
Recommendations: If you are already in the area don’t forget to try the local dishes that are served in KOMANE SHOKUDO, situated right next to the rice terraces. The dishes are cooked with fresh Yubune water and the taste will surprise you.
The restaurant is closed every Tuesday, so make sure to keep that in mind if you're planning to try this place.
Time: 11 am to 3 pm
3. OLIVE PARK
Shodoshima was the birthplace of olives in Japan and the Olive Park was built as a testament to the fact. The island's Mediterranean climate made it the perfect place for growing olives, which started in 1908. Since then it has gained popularity as the top producer of Japanese olives and olive oil, which is why Shodoshima earned the name of the olive island as well.
The Shodoshima olive Koen ( olive park) offers you the chance to enjoy the parks attractive walking paths that look down on the inland sea. There are more than 2000 olive trees, Greek styled buildings, and spots where you can learn about the history and use of olives. There is even a Greek Windmill where you can take pictures imitating the famous Ghibli movie Kiki's Delivery Service. The atrium even rents out broomsticks for free so you can take flight like a real witch!
P.S. don’t fall from the broom because I definitely did due to my excitement.
Address: 1941-1 Nishimura-Ko Shodoshima-cho Shozo-gun, Kagawa Access: Take the bus from Tonosho port heading for Sakate Port, get off at the “Olive Koen Guchi（オリーブ公園口）” bus stop.
4. SOY SAUCE VILLAGE
If you want to get a glimpse of a traditional Japanese factory make sure to drop by the Maruki Shoyu Soy Sauce Factory and museum. The soy sauce production here started more than 400 years ago and there are still more than 20 producers who are currently making soy sauce using traditional methods on this remote island. The place where the factories and shops of these owners are gathered is called the soy sauce village. The whole area has a different aura where the streets are lined by black collars and the air is filled with a savory essence. After visiting the museum don’t forget to treat yourself to a soy-sauce flavored ice cream. Trust me that is a thing, and it tastes a lot better than it sounds.
Address: Umaki/Nouma Shodoshima-cho Shozu-gun, Kagawa Access: Take the bus from Tonosho port heading for Sakate Port, get off at the “Umaki (馬木) ” or “Marukinmae (丸金前) " bus stop
5. Kankakei Gorge
Kankakei Gorge was selected as one of Japan's top three most beautiful gorges.
The beauty of the gorge is the result of how it went through natural processes for a million years. Densely covered by Japanese Maples, the gorge reveals itself differently in all the four seasons of Japan. Our recommendation would be during the Autumn season as you can see patchworks of blazing red and golden leaves from the top of the island all the way down to the ocean.
Address: 168 Kankakedori Shodoshima-cho Shozu-gun, Kagawa Access: Take the bus from Kusakabe port heading for “Kountei” (紅雲亭) and get off at the last stop (60 minutes by bus from Tonosho Port; change busses at Kusakabe Port).
Choshikei monkey park
This nature park is located close to the mountain pathway of Kankakei gorge. It's a madhouse up there. Choshikei has monkeys of all shapes and sizes, from little cute ones to big scary alphas. You will definitely enjoy this place if you are an animal lover. You can also experience feeding the monkeys in designated areas. One point of warning though, make sure to keep the things in your pocket safe. One of the little guys nabbed my mask from my back pocket when I wasn't looking.
I don’t know if you can relate, if you haven’t watched the movie, but I haven’t as well and it was still interesting for me.
This place is a replica of an old-time Japanese film called 24 eyes that was popular nationwide in the old days. You can also purchase local beers here and just chill facing the beaches.
As mentioned earlier, if you wish to go to Shodoshima you have to take the ferry and you can access it from 4 ferry ports in Takamatsu, Okayama, Himeji, and Kobe. If you are headed there from Tokyo it would be best to take the Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen to Shin Kobe and head over to Jumbo Ferry at Kobe Port which is a short train or taxi ride away.
The journey becomes especially cheap if you are a Japan Rail Pass holder, as the otherwise expensive ride from Tokyo to Kobe becomes completely free.
For more information on the JR pass click on the link below:
Takamatsu: 700 yen one way ( 1400 yen 2 way)
Okayama: 1090 yen one way (2180 yen 2 way)
Himeji: 1550 yen one way (3100 yen 2 way)
Kobe: 1990 yen one way (3980 yen 2way)
There are only a few hotels in Shodoshima, and our best pick was the Bay Resort Hotel Shodoshima whith rooms ranging from 10,000 yen to 13,000 yen depending on the season.
There are other cheaper options as well but we found them very inconvenient.
Please keep in mind that, this island does not have a lot of convenience stores and it gets hard to find a decent restaurant as well.
What we did was stock up on the necessities and got instant foods for backup.
If you are not on a budget, then you can try out the hotel restaurants as well but keep in mind that they do not come cheap.
Renting a car on the island was far more expensive than other places in Japan.
We rented out a K-car for 8000 yen a day. You can rent a car from your hotel as well, but during our time there were no vacancies. Also keep in mind that, most rental companies do not have a lot of cars in stock on the island so booking in advance is highly recommended.
Angel Road: entrance is free for all
Nakayama Senmaida: No entrance fee ( but the lunch in Komane is around 1200~1500 yen)
Olive park: Admission is free. But if you end up buying souvenirs and herb teas it will cost you around 1000~1500 yen
Maruki soy Sauce museum: admission 210 Yen plus around a 1000 yen for buying soy sauce, treats and souvenirs.
Kankakei gorge: There is no fee for checking the gorge out but if you want to take the ropeway to the top there is a cost of 1890 yen.
Buses: In case you don’t rent a car and decide to take the local transport then I would recommend putting aside a total of 3000yen, fares are usually around 300 yen at least from one place to another.
Food: If you decide to buy instant food it will not cost you much, but if you wish to eat out then put aside 1500 yen per day for lunch and at least 2000 yen per day for dinner. If you are not a great fan of instant foods then, just make sure to stop by a convenience store during the daytime and get both lunch and dinner bento boxes for the day.