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Shodo Island Cuisine

Shodoshima Means Red Bean Island, but the Local Cuisine is More than Red Beans …. It's Cool Beans! Fresh, Authentic, Delicious and Unique …

New York, NY ... August 17, 2005 ... Tokyo's hip culture breeds trendy restaurants and cutting edge cuisine, but Japan's real specialties - even delicacies -- are found not in the city, but in the local towns and villages. In the countryside, ingredients are fresh, recipes authentic, local customs add a twist, and the ambiance is natural to the core.

Shodoshima, meaning "red bean island" (sometimes translated as "small bean island") lives up to its foodie name. The 60 square mile island is the second largest of the more than 700 islands in Japan's Seto Inland Sea - the sea that separates Japan's main island, Honshu, from the nation's fourth largest island, Shikoku. Just a 75-minute flight plus a 30-minute high-speed ferry ride from Tokyo, Shodo is accessible but a world away from bustling, big city stress, crowds, and nightlife scenes. Here, nightlife is supplanted by wildlife, particularly monkeys and peacocks, and a restaurant meal becomes a dinner in a local family's home.

At the Olivean Resort, the island's largest and most upscale accommodations facility, a people-to-people program (offered with tour packages from the USA) includes round-trip transportation to the home of a local Shodoshima family for an authentic and memorable sukiyaki dinner. Sukiyaki or Japanese beef stew is a must-try Shodoshima dish. It is cooked in a special pot called a sukiyaki nabe on a flame at the center of the table right in front of you. As with fondue, diners contribute to the cooking process themselves, adding pre-cut beef, vegetables, and that special sauce right to the pot. Shodoshima's sukiyaki is prized because it incorporates locally processed soy sauce and exceptionally tender, marbleized beef called Sanuki ushi produced from carefully raised Wa gyu, Japanese black-fur cows.

Sanuki ushi, was first developed in 1882 on Shodoshima, where Wa gyu were bred at the time. It was introduced to the Kansai region - Kobe-Osaka-Kyoto in about 1910, where meat from cattle fattened using the same Shodo Island perfected method, became world renowned under the name Kobe Beef. In the meantime, however, the desire for quality sanuki ushi also spread throughout the Inland Sea, and soon tiny Odeshima, an island less than half a mile round and just one mile west of Shodo, took on the task of breading the Wa gyu. Today, Odeshima is home to only seven families but more than 550 cows, and breeders make regular beef shipments to Shodo Island.

Soy sauce or shoyu production began on Shodoshima around the year 1600. The industry thrived because of the island's good source of salt and convenient access to marine transportation. Today, Shodoshima is the fourth largest soy sauce production region in Japan with over 30 factories on the island. These factories have even become tourist destinations themselves. For example, the Marukan company, which has processed Osaka-grown soy beans into shoyu since 1897, opened the Soy Sauce Historical Museum (daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.) at its facility in Shodoshima's picturesque port town of Uchinomi. The easy-to-comprehend bilingual display explains the meticulous process from harvesting through roasting, mashing, fermenting, aging and crushing a wheat, soy, malt and sea-water mixture eventually leading to that perfect liquid component to your sukiyaki or divine flavoring for your sushi. The Marukan facility even has a gift shop/tasting room, where pickles, soy sauce and moromi (unrefined soy sauce, often used as a dip) can be sampled before purchase. Factory tours can be arranged here to witness moromi production, and soy sauce production can be observed at Marushima Shoyu (9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m., Mon.-Fri.) and Yamashita Shoyu (8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri.) factories.

Because of its abundance of quality soy sauce, Shodoshima has become Japan's number one producer of tsukudani. This is seafood, meat or seaweed that has been cooked in soy sauce and mirin (a sweet alcohol made from mochigome -- pounded sticky rice and komekoji -- yeast), dried, washed, boiled and then packaged. Tsukudani factory tours are available at the Takarashokuhin production facility (9 a.m.- 4 p.m. weekdays).

Hand-stretched somen - thin vermicelli-style noodles -- are a Shodoshima delicacy. You can learn more at the Shodoshima Tenobe Somen Museum (8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; closed Sunday in January & February), where a factory tour is free, but a 35-minute make-your-own somen with chopsticks experience is 500 yen. Several other production facilities also offer the opportunity to make-your-own somen.

In October, rice harvesting can be witnessed at the abundant terraced rice fields - among the very few in Japan -- scattered across the island. At this same time, olive harvesting can be observed in Olive Park. In Mid-December, both Olive Park and Olive Garden offer free 30 to 60 minute olive squeezing factory tours (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) The island produces a number of fresh olive food and beauty products. A clear, almost flavorless olive oil is used for cooking, and here they pickle green olives (not just the usual Japanese Daikon radishes).

Rare culinary treasures from the Inland Sea, such as Whiting, Sea Bream, Turban, and Abalone are served with sake and rice. Namako or Sea Cucumber, known for its "sea smell" and crunchy texture is an extremely popular Shodoshima delicacy. It is most commonly vinegared and served with grated Daikon radish and sour orange juice. However, unique to Shodoshima, it is also served broiled and dried after its intestines are removed, for a dish called Iriko or Kinko. The intestines themselves are then pickled in salt producing a dish called Konowata. Namako is also often cooked over a low flame until it becomes tender, then used as an ingredient for clear soup. It is even incorporated into a rice cake covered with sweetened soy flour. In fact, nothing on the animal goes to waste. Even the reproductive organs, konoko, are dried and savored.

Shodoshima's beauty and tranquility will invigorate your spirit as its food excites your palate. Air inclusive packages from the United States vary from deluxe, escorted tours to independent rail packages, but all allow you to savor the rich and diverse cuisine. If you stay at the Olivean Resort, don't miss its 14-course kaiseki feast, featuring a seasonal tasting menu of local produce, fresh fish, house-made tofu, hand-made noodles, and more, exquisitely presented by your graceful, kimono-clad waitress on regionally crafted and fired ceramic dishes and bowls.

Travelers can select from tours lasting 8-days/6 nights, 9-days/7-nights or 10-days/8-nights, incorporating three to four days on Shodo at the Olivean Resort or other lodging establishments of your choosing, with time in other areas of Japan - Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka on Honshu or Mastuyama and Takamatsu on Shikoku. Information on tour packages can be found on the Japan National Tourist Organization's website at the following link: A special land-only package, organized by the Olivean Resort, allows tourists to pay for five nights and stay a sixth night free Deluxe packages already include tour options, but you can also take a regular tourist bus or rent a bicycle. In addition to the Olivean Resort, Shodo Island accommodations include business hotels, minshuku (guest houses), ryokan (Japanese inns) and two youth hostels. JNTO can provide more detailed information on accommodations and transportation. You can email JNTO through out website at:

Information is provided as a courtesy to users of this website. Though the JNTO endeavors to ensure the information is accurate, users of the information are to act on such using their own judgement and at their own risk. Neither the JNTO nor any holder of copyright to the information shall be held responsible in any way whatsoever for any loss or misunderstanding, either direct or indirect, that is incurred as a result of utilizing the information.

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