Japan // Northern Honshu //

Ogi and around

Sado’s second port is tiny OGI (小木), situated near the island’s southern tip. This sleepy fishing town is best known for its tub boats, which now bob around in the harbour for tourists, and the annual Earth Celebration hosted by the locally based Kodô drummers, during which the village’s population almost doubles. But the area’s principal attraction is its picturesque indented coastline to the west of town. You can take boat trips round the headland or cycle over the top to Shukunegi, a traditional fishing village huddled behind a wooden palisade.

The tub boats, or tarai-bune, were originally used for collecting seaweed, abalone and other shellfish from the rocky coves. Today they’re made of fibreglass, but still resemble the cutaway wooden barrels from which they were traditionally made. If you fancy a shot at rowing one of these awkward vessels, go to the small jetty west of the ferry pier, where the women will take you out for a ten-minute spin round the harbour. The jetty is also the departure point for sightseeing boats which sail along the coast past caves and dainty islets as far as Sawa-zaki lighthouse.

Buses run west along the coast as far as Sawasaki (line 11), but the ideal way to explore the headland is to rent a bicycle. After a tough uphill pedal out of Ogi on the road to Shukunegi, turn right towards a concrete jizō standing above the trees. From here continue another 300m along this sideroad and you’ll find a short flight of steps leading up to the Iwaya cave (岩屋) – the old trees and tiny, crumbling temple surrounded by jizō statues make a good place to catch your breath. Further along the Shukunegi road, next to a still-functioning boatyard, the Sadokoku Ogi Folk Culture Museum is worth a brief stop. It contains a delightful, dusty jumble of old photos, paper-cuts, tofu presses, straw raincoats and other remnants of local life. Behind, in a newer building, there’s a relief map of the area and beautiful examples of the ingenious traps used by Ogi fisherfolk.

From here the road drops down steeply to SHUKUNEGI (宿根木) fishing village, a registered national historic site tucked in a fold of the hills beside a little harbour full of jagged black rocks. The village itself is hardly visible behind its high wooden fence – protection against the fierce winds – where its old wooden houses, two of which are open to the public in summer, are all jumbled together with odd-shaped corners and narrow, stone-flagged alleys.