A Showcase Beautiful Humankind Through Moving Music – The Earth Celebration on Sado Island
Sado, the largest island in off the mainland of Japan, is usually a quiet, peaceful island. But every year for the three-day Earth Celebration (EC) in August, the island transforms into a lively, international hub. Presented by world-renowned taiko drumming ensemble Kodo, EC is a music festival that brings performing art talents together from within and outside of Japan.
Each night during the three-day festival period, an outdoor concert is held at the main stage in Harbor Market at Ogi Port. Around the main stage, you will find dozens of stalls selling ethnic foods, drinks, crafts, and clothing. A relaxing, all-embracing vibe flows through the arteries of the venue. Indoor concerts at the EC Theater and free-admission performances are also held throughout the three-day period. You can also find workshops on taiko drumming and traditional dance in various areas around Ogi Port.
As the main events of Earth Celebration happen at night, visitors have a load of time to explore Sado Island during the day. On the first day of the festival, my friends and I spent a chill afternoon at the Sobama beach campsite.
We had a simple lunch, went for a swim, and returned to our tents after being stung all over by sneaky jellyfish. It was a beautiful day. “Kimochi ii na~”--it feels so comfortable here--we all agreed.
On the second day of the festival, while my friends went to watch Takigi Noh dances and take a taraibune boat tub ride, I chose to make a trip to Senkakuwan Bay Marine Park.
The whole bus journey took 2 hours in total, but it was a relaxing ride. Upon arrival at the park, I ran straight to the observation deck that offers a panoramic view of the shore. The long coastline of rugged cliffs and the vibrantly blue Sea of Japan gave my soul a chance to calm, as well as my camera roll many more otherworldly shots. Not to mention I went on a glass bottom boat ride and fed some seagulls!
Inner peace replenished, I was ready for some nighttime fun!
The main event that everyone is hyped about Earth Celebration is of course, Kodo’s finale performance on the last day of the festival. The year I went (2017), all 36 members of the world-renowned taiko performing arts ensemble collaborated and played magic on taiko drums of various sizes and tunes for more than 2 hours straight.
As the world’s top professional taiko group, Kodo takes drumming to the next level. The members don’t just play the songs, they enable the soul and spirit of taiko to dance in front of the audience. Besides synchronizing with one another’s movements, Kodo members each give their 100% in hitting each beat to its full potential. Watching the back muscles of the members glisten in sweat as the songs went on was itself a sight to see. Towards the end, members jumped off the stage and paraded next to the audience, driving every single spectator to stand up and dance with the beat. To push the lively atmosphere to a climax, colorful streamers, confetti, and banners filled the stage--suddenly the little harbor park became a party central of the island.
What I liked the most about Kodo, though, is that members always have big smiles on their faces. Seeing that, and how people from Italy, Canada, Mexico, Singapore, and Hong Kong–to name a few–all clapped and mingled with each other among the festivities, I came to understand the meaning behind this festival: we were all here to celebrate the Earth beyond differences in ethnicity, language, religion, and gender.
Thank you Sado, for a fantastic weekend. You are a fine island on your own, but the connections you allow your visitors to make with each other makes you a beautiful one.
Earth Celebration takes place for three days every mid August. Tickets are sold online about 2-3 months in advance. Each performance requires its own ticket.
Ogi Port, Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture
- By ferry: Get to Ogi directly by car ferry from Naoetsu Port in Joetsu City, Niigata. The event venue is right next to the port.
- If you’re coming from Ryotsu Port in Niigata City, take the Main Line bus bound for Aikawa from Ryotsu to Sawata. At Sawata, transfer to the Ogi Line for Ogi.