I had a very unique experience of a tub boat in Sado Island. It is literally a tub boat made of a tub cut into half. That’s why they call it a “tub boat”. But you may wonder “why tub?”. The story goes back to the early 19th Century when a big earthquake hit Sado Island.
The Origin of Tub Boat
The earthquake in 1802 was so big that the area around Ogi Port in Sado Island was deformed. The seabed was raised in some parts and a cove was formed. Because many rock reefs appeared from the water at that time, it became difficult to move around by the ordinary boats. Under such circumstances, fishermen in the area came up with the idea of a tub boat made of a washing tub. It was a large tub but smaller than fishermen’s boats. Thanks to the unique idea of tub boats, fishermen could easily paddle in the sea with many rocks and reefs and catch sea shells and sea weeds.
Tub Boats in Shukunegi and Ogi
There are two places where you can enjoy floating on a tub boat. The one is Shukunegi area and the other is Ogi Port. Both places are close to each other and both are port towns in the South of Sado Island. Ogi Port has a quiet inland sea where tub boats carry tourists. This is more touristic place than Shukunegi. Shukunegi also attracts many tourists because of its historic houses and old streetscape. But I felt that the local guys who row the tub boats in Shukunegi were ordinary local men. In Ogi, on the other hand, the ladies with traditional kimono row the tub boats, which made me feel more touristic. But I guess you can enjoy tub boats in either place.
As you can see, the sea water in Sado is very clear. Sometimes, you can see fish swimming in the sea.
If you walk up the slope of Shukunegi, you can see the village houses gathered in the port area. This landscape is beautiful but you may also notice the unique roofs of those houses.
Many roofs of the houses in Shukunegi have many round stones. These roofs were called “Ishioki Kobabuki Yane”. It means the roofs made of layers of thin boards with stones on them. Shukunegi has about 40 houses of this type.
Strolling around Tub Boat Village of Shukunegi
Shukunegi is a small village but this is not just a place for tub boats. The long history of the village made the townscape retro-flavoured. The narrow allays with antique architecture bring you back to the atmosphere of the 19th Century.
Houses in Shukunegi are quite different from traditional Japanese houses in other area. The boards of Japanese cedar are stacked. This can help avoid salty winds from the sea and created a unified landscape.
An Inn over a Century Old
One old house called “Isaburo” allows one party per day to stay. It was originally a residence of a boatman and converted into an inn in 1892. This is a small inn with no meals but has a kitchen facility. Up to 8 people can stay. The price is ¥10,000 up to 3 people and the additional charge is ¥3,500 per person.
I happened to find an interesting ornaments under the eave. It was a signage on which a Chinese character was carved. The character reads Ishi. This is because the family name of the owner of the house is Ishizuka. I later found out that this wooden fan-shaped ornament with a Chinese character was an iconic item.
I didn’t enter inside as it didn’t look like open to public. But it seems it’s worth visiting if you have a chance to stay here.
The interior of Isaburo is wonderful furniture of lacker.
Walking around Geopark in the Tub Boat Village of Ogi
Another tub boat village, Ogi is a part of Geopark. Have you heard of “geopark”?
A geopark is a unified area that advances the protection and use of geological heritage in a sustainable way and promotes the economic well-being of the people who live there.
It is a place where you can confirm the trace of the geological movement. As I wrote previously, the area around Shukunegi and Ogi was formed by the earthquake in the early 19th Century. As a result, the trail in this area gives you an interesting impression.
For More Information on Tub Boat Village of Shukunegi and Ogi
In order to get to Sado Island, take a ferry boat or a jetfoil from Niigata Port. Your boat will arrive at Ryotsu Port. (There is another route from Naoets to Ogi Port.) The journey between Niigata and Ryotsu is about 2 hours and 30 min by ferry boat and 65 min by jet foil.
Once you arrive at Sado, the most convenient way to travel around the island is car rental. There is no train service in Sado. There are bus routes and you can visit many of the famous touristic destinations by bus. But the bus services may be sporadic.
Sado is an island but the size is as large as 23 wards in Tokyo. So if you want to visit many places in the island, it’s better to stay at least a couple of days.