“I was a stranger in parts where strangers seldom came.”
–Donald Richie, The Inland Sea

In 1971, Donald Richie fretted that Shodo-shima, second-largest of the islands of the Inland Sea, would soon be overrun by bridge-building Honshu residents who would obliterate the “attractions of this attractively backward place” and replace them with the crowded, colorless urban sameness of Tokyo’s metropolitan areas. Nearly four decades later, the visitor to Shodo can happily report that Richie’s lament was premature.

Sure, the main port of Tonosho has a garish pachinko arcade and a clutch of omiyage shops selling the usual assortments of kitsch. But ride a bicycle ten minutes in any direction and you’ll find yourself cycling back in time through picturesque seascapes, olive groves, and soaring jagged-toothed mountain peaks.

Shodo-shima is perhaps most famous as the setting for the award-winning 1954 film “Twenty-Four Eyes,” based on the novel of the same name by native daughter Sakae Tsuboi. Fans of the movie will be pleased to see that despite some development, the landscape around the Tanoura village school featured in the film has changed little.

The center of Shodo-shima is dominated by Kanka-kei, one of Japan’s “Three Most Beautiful Gorges.” The gorge attracts legions of tourists in the autumn for its beautiful colors, but hikers in other seasons can enjoy the precipitous lookouts in contemplative tranquility. (A ¥1250 roundtrip cable car journey through the gorge is available for visitors who like to enjoy their scenery without strain.)

Shodoshima is also one of Japan’s major areas of olive oil production. Olive afficionados may be disappointed that whole olives are mostly unavailable, but an olive-flavored soft cream after a hard day’s bike ride makes a welcome treat! A new hot spring complex on the south coast celebrates all things olive-related. Elsewhere on the island, pilgrims can perform a shorter version of the 88-Temple Shikoku walk. Near Tonosho, three islets join together at low tide to form “Angel Road,” a beautiful stretch of tidepools and pine-clad sandstone cliffs.

Shodoshima can be reached via an hour-long ferry ride from Takamatsu or Okayama; public transportation on the island is infrequent, but rental cars are cheap and passing drivers are hitchhiker-friendly. Because of Shodoshima’s relative isolation, it’s advisable to stay the night at one of the island’s many minishiku (traditional inns), which serve delicious evening meals of locally-made somen and fresh seafood.

ドナルド・リッチー著「THE INLAND SEA」








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