Shodoshima (Shodo Island) with 30,000 residents is the birthplace of olive cultivation in Japan, the second largest island in the Seto Inland Sea with a 125 km coastline. The island can be reached by car ferry from Takamatsu. The symbol of the island is the olive tree. Olive monument “Gift of The Sun” is a sculpture in the form of large wreath by olive leaves, which is a symbol of Tonosho port of Shodoshima island. Through the gleaming gold ring one can view the sea, and the leaves are engraved with the messages of island children conveying their dreams for the future.
The island’s Mediterranean climate made it an ideal place for growing olives, which was first succeeded in 1908. Since then the island has been a top producer of Japanese olives and olive oil, and has earned Shodoshima the nickname “Olive Island”.
When driving a car you feel as though you are in ‘mini Cordoba’ as olive trees are grown all over the island – olive orchards, along the roads on right and left sides and as a single trees near houses. To sit on a bench at the lookout point, one can reflect on the magnificent olive tree’s history, travelling tens of thousands of kilometres of ocean, from Andalucia, Spain to Shodoshima. When the tree arrived Shodoshima in March 2011, it was just the trunk. This ancient olive tree bears flowers and fruits now the age of 1000. The unique shape also has the strong life force and when touching the bark you can feel the power of the ages. Another magnificent ancient olive tree grows in Ginza,Tokyo.
Shodoshima is a big island with plenty of things to see and do. You will need to spend more than just a day on the island to have enough time to explore everything there is to offer. Few tourism facilities featuring olives have been built on Shodoshima Island of Kagawa Prefecture but Olive Island is now so popular that there is a public place called Shodoshima Olive, which is located on a small hill overlooking the Seto Inland Sea.
Shodoshima Olive Park, where as many as 2,000 olive trees are planted, is one of the best places to travel on this island. . A white windmill with turning sails welcomes you to the park. It is surrounded by olive trees and reaching up to the blue sky makes it the premium site in the serene beautiful scenery of Shodoshima Island. It was built in testimony of affiliation with Milos Island in Greece.The park has several features including a walking path that takes you across the hillside.
Shodoshima Olive Garden lies just to the west of Olive Park. A walk in the Olive Garden, along the paths lined with olive trees, is the perfect setting to enjoy a moment of serenity. There is a small museum that teaches visitors about the history of olive cultivation on Shodoshima, an exhibition room and an olive orchard where guests can take a tour or visit the oil processing facility during milling season. A restaurant, cafe and souvenir shops allow sampling and purchase of the various olive related products, such as olive oil, olive candy, olive cosmetics, olive noodles and olive ice cream.
The view of Shodoshima from the top is really spectacular and atthe observation Olive Garden restaurant Restlea, which lies on top of the hill, Shodoshima olive oil is a featured in various dishes on the menu.
Olive oil is not the first thing that comes to mind when talking about ingredients in Japanese food. The olive oil is used in traditional Japanese dishes and Sashimi is served with olive oil in much the same way as Italian Carpaccio. The olive oil was used in canned sardines and tuna from Kagoshima.
Using good quality extra-virgin olive oil is very important to make your sauces and dressings tasty and satisfying. The first Japanese known to have eaten olive fruits was Toyotomi Hideyoshi, an Imperial Regent of Japan. He received a barrel of salted olives from Spanish King Felipe II in 1594. In the early 1860s, the shogun’s physician, Hayashi Doukai, who studied Dutch medicine in Nagasaki, developed the first trial orchard in Japan to produce olive oil for medical use. The prefecture still has the oldest original olive tree in the area.
Olives and olive-related products are recognized as Kagawa foods. As well as winning both domestic and international awards for the quality of its olive oil, Kagawa has created two offshoot food brands from its olive industry – “olive beef” and “olive yellowtail”. Olive oil produced here is mixed with foodstuff promoted as containing a high level of oleic acid in meat. Dried and powdered olive leaves are added to the feedstuff for farmed yellowtail fish.
Waste organic matter from olive pressing is used as feed for cattle and the Yellowtail Amberjack. Due to the high amount of polyphenol in the olive waste, the flesh of the respective meats does not oxidize or lose colour easily. The cattle don’t like the bitter taste of pressed olives but in Japan was discovered that once the olive pulp has been dried, it is relatively sweet and gives off a smell of caramel.
On Shodo Island, olive oil production is carefully executed using calculated skills and precision, starting with hand-picking olives at the exact time for the perfect flavour. Toyo Olive Company Limited is one of the old olive companies in Shodoshima, they sell delicious Tolea extra virgin olive oil, very tasty olive candy and wonderful cosmetics products. Olive leaf tea is produced with the same process as Japanese green tea by Yamahisa olive leaf tea farm. The olive farm looks just like a tea field but in fact all those shrubs are olive trees on 90 hectares of land in two locations. Olive tea is a refreshing beverage with a slightly astringent, bitter feel in the mouth. Perhaps these fields will become the island’s next tourist attraction! Interest to olive oil is increasing. Japan is a small producer with an olive acreage of approximately 500 ha, 85% of which is under intensive farming and 5% is under super-intensive farming, while the traditional system is applied to the rest. Average production of olive oil stands at 30 tonnes.
Olives grow well on the island, but it’s not always easy. There is a great deal of olive cultivation expertise on Shodoshima, with plantations numbering up to thousands of trees. The varieties grown include Arbequina, Frontoio, Nevadillo, Manzanillo, Mission and Lucca. The amount of effort expended in manual cultivation has a direct effect on olive production. When olives were first introduced to the island, the people no doubt tackled olive production with as much enthusiasm as now. Shodoshima Island olive oil is the product of years of effort and innovation on the part of the island’s farmers. Olives and olive oil are now a key culinary export of Shodoshima and rest assured the next generation of islanders will maintain this tradition. We can only expect their tireless drive to continue to push their product toward perfection.