Inland Sea No. 2 Shodoshima Island
小豆島 Shodo-shima (small bean island), Kagawa Prefecture
GPS location: 134 degrees 17 minutes East, 34 degrees 28 minutes North
Shodoshima is the second biggest island in the Seto Inland Sea after Awajishima. Shodoshima has a perimeter of 126 kilometers and a population of around 35,000. While Shodoshima is not as big as Awajishima, it is much busier.
When we entered on the Moooo! boat in Kusakabe Port on the south side of the island, we could smell the fragrance of olive trees. Shodoshima, despite being named “small bean island,” is famous not for beans but olives. Olive trees were first planted there in 1908.
The island’s mascot is, not surprisingly, an olive! However, the only thing resembling an olive is the character’s olive green complexion and a stem that looked more like it belonged to a tomato. Otherwise, he had that canned look about him, which stems from the propensity of Japanese companies to create animated characters that all look similar—a round body with arms and legs, and a face with two eyes, a nose and a mouth. To me, he looks more like a green jack-o-lantern. The stuffed version of the mascot, pardon the pun, is almost a foot tall. I don’t know about you but the thought of massive olives with arms and legs running for their lives from the hors d’oeuvre tray is not something to relish. This olive is, quite literally, the pits.
I would have preferred an olive created by, say Takashi Murakami, who surely would have been a bit more creative. He would have given the olive a pickled expression, or stuffed his mouth with pimento. He may have even made him edible. An edible mascot that would constantly have to be replaced, would be far more marketable. Then they could get someone famous to promote the olive character goods such as the popular song legend in Japan: Olivia Newton John.
Upon arrival on Shodoshima, I picked up a booklet from the tourist information center in front of Olive Beach. The cover of the booklet states in English, “Welcome to Shodoshima. Rusting Olive trees greet you on ‘Peace Island.’”
The olive being the meibutsu (main product) of the island, there was a host of merchandise available made from olives: soaps, shampoos, oils, etc. You can even buy olive socks on Shodoshima. I didn’t however, see any rusting olive trees.
The pamphlet went on to explain, in Japanese, that the olive is a symbol of peace. I have a feeling they meant that the olive branch is a symbol of peace. Olives themselves have not been known to generate much peace. If they were, cocktail parties would be an integral part of peace treaties and surrendering armies would hold up martinis instead of white flags.
But one of the best reasons to go to Shodoshima is for their Buddhist pilgrimage, which is based on the original Kobo Daishi 88-temple pilgrimage on Shikoku. The Shodoshima pilgrimage takes two weeks on foot and many of the temples are high up in the mountains. Many Japanese people do the Shodoshima pilgrimage in preparation for the bigger Shikoku one. You won’t find any information on this pilgrimage in English, however, and surprisingly little even in Japanese. But we were able to get a map and on bicycles visited a few temples in just an hour. The addition of mountain climbs made the pilgrimage not just spiritual, but healthy-spiritual.
After pilgrimaging, we found solace in a different kind of spirits when we wandered into a local izakaya for dinner. I ordered a martini, and was careful to scrutinize the olive, looking for any appendages. It was perfectly smooth and had no arms or legs. As a matter of fact, it looked kind of blank.
But, nonetheless, there was something very peaceful about retiring to the company of a martini with an olive. And when you consider that the olive is produced from an olive branch, on Shodoshima Island the olive really is the perfect peace of fruit.
Shodoshima has 7 different ports.
Tourist information center at Olive Beach. Shodoshima is the site of the filming of the Japanese movie “24 Eyes.”
Things to do: Ropeway, soy factory tour, easy bus system. There is an Olive Park that is very famous but we don’t recommend it because it is just a tourist trap where they take you on a 30-second tour and then try to sell you overpriced olive products. The park’s setting is nice, however, if you want to walk up and enjoy the views in the park. There is also an overpriced onsen up there.
Private Boats: You can dock sailboats or motorboats near Kusakabe port for a nominal charge overnight. Public restrooms available with running water. Onsen near Olive Park but you’ll need a bicycle. Be careful, Shodoshima closes down early at night, like 7pm for restaurants!
Find out more information on Kusukabe Port as well as other ports on Shodoshima at the Sail Japan website.
Olive Youth Hostel is between Kusakabe Port and Olive Beach. It is run by a guy named Daisuke who speaks excellent English.
There is also a camp ground run by a Dutch guy and Japanese woman called Dutch Pancake Camping. This is not camping with pancakes, but rather camping and in the morning going to their beautiful little cafe inside a windmill to have some Dutch pancakes for breakfast! Highly recommended. Look for a separate article on the cafe in the future.
There are a lot of old, dirty minshukus on Shodoshima, so be careful where you stay. I’d go with one of the places above if I were you. On the other hand, if you know of a great place to stay, please let us know in the “comments” section.
Car ferries leave from Takamatsu (Kagawa pref) to Shodoshima (Ikeda and Kusakabe ports)
Takamatsu to Ikeda Port, Kokusai Ferry Co. 0879-75-0405 (1hr.)
Leaving: 6:50; 8:32; 11:10, 13:10; 14:10; 16:47, 18:15, 19:30
For “kei-on” light cars up to 4 meters long, 4,810 yen, cars up to 5 meters 6,050 yen (includes driver, passengers extra)
Takamatsu to Kusakabe Port, Uchinomi Ferry Co. 0879-82-1080 (1hr.) Blue Line
Leaves: 7:50, 10:50, 13:30, 16:15, 19:00
For “kei-on” light cars up to 4 meters long 4,810 yen, cars up to 5 meters 6,050 yen.
(includes driver, passengers 670 yen per person extra)
There is an express boat operated by Goto Sangyo Kisen (06 6573 0530) to Kobe (1 hour 35 mins) and Osaka (2 hours 10 mins) twice daily with more sailings on weekends and national holidays from Sakate on Shodoshima. A slower ryokan ferry operated by Kansai Kisen (06 6572 5181) travels between Sakate and Kobe (3 hours) and Osaka (4 hours 20 mins).
There are ferries to Uno with the Shodoshima Ferry Company (0879 62 1348) and Shin Okayama in Okayama Prefecture with the Ryobi Ferry Company (086 274 1222) and to Takamatsu in Kagawa Prefecture on Shikoku with the Shikoku Ferry Group (087 851 0131) from Tonosho on Shodoshima.
From Ikeda and Kusakabe on Shodoshima there are also ferries to Takamatsu. From Ikeda the passage with the Kokusai Ferry Company (0879 75 0405) is 1 hour. From Kusakabe, the journey with the Uchinomi Ferry Company (0879 82 1080) is also 1 hour
There is a 1 hour ryokan ferry to Hinase in Okayama Prefecture from Obe on Shodoshima with Setouchi Kanko Kisen (0869 72 0698).