By Kenji Chida
Sip cool beer from a handmade bamboo cup as you sway languidly in a hammock. Gaze at gentle lapping waves on a peaceful sandy beach in front of you. Listen to the sound of chirping crickets invisible in the lush green hills behind you. No, I am not describing a fictional perfect holiday getaway. I am describing and introducing you to one of Japan’s hidden gems: Shiraishi Island (白石島), the island of white rock, mists and trances.
Nestled in the bosom of the Seto Inland Sea in Okayama Prefecture, this tiny, quirky island is truly a great discovery. As yet unknown to most Japanese (great for Golden Week!) it is the perfect place to relax and restore your weary soul back to its optimum genki level.
Shiraishi is a stripped down, non-commercial break from the ordinary. If you’re looking to relax in a hammock on a quiet beach sipping cocktails, on this island you’ve got it. If you’re into water sports such as windsurfing, kayaking and sailing, just find Paul and Amy at the bovine-friendly Moooo! Bar. Enjoy walking? Try the gentle hike up to the top of the island—take a bottle of water with you and check out the view, it’s amazing!
Shiraishi is an exact miniature copy of Shikoku Island. It even has a smaller version of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage (known as the Shiraishi Pilgrimage) where numbered statues of Buddhist monks are dotted around various parts of the island. Seek out the statues nestled in rock crevices or hidden in the undergrowth beneath cool shady woodland, and ring the ancient peace bells upon discovering the hidden Indonesian temple at the island’s centre.
In the summer evenings expect local entertainment on a makeshift stage on the beach, nights around a bonfire exchanging travel stories, eating delicious freshly caught fish served grilled or as sashimi (Japanese raw fish) as well as classics such as yakisoba (Japanese fried noodles), curry rice and even burritos or pizza for those craving western cuisine.
Shiraishi offers a great selection but comfortable accommodation at reasonable prices. Choose to stay at friendly local minshuku such as San-Chan’s (western-style bed and breakfast options available here). Alternatively if you’re looking for exclusive privacy for a romantic break or a vacation away with groups of friends, then check in at The Cottage or the Okayama International Villa for Shiraishi (the international villas are the only villas operated by Okayama Prefecture and the local cities in Japan that offer amazing accommodation at one of the lowest rates in Japan). If you really want to go back to basics, bring camping equipment and ‘rough’ it on the beach.
This island holds a unique magic. Prepare to be charmed by the locals, entranced by the nature and thoroughly refreshed by the experience, as I was.
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Japan is such an amazing country and everywhere I go here, it never fails to surprise me with unexpected delights, whether they be beautiful parks and peaceful gardens, obsure islands, cool bars or awesome eateries.I'm here to share my passion for good food and drink and to introduce you to some of my latest discoveries. Enjoy exploring Japan! :)