Shiraishi Island (白石島, Shiraishijima) is an island in the Seto Inland Sea. Administratively, it is part of Kasaoka city in Okayama prefecture.
Shiraishi is a quiet island of roughly 500 inhabitants (as of 2017). It is mostly visited for its summer activities: swimming, sea kayaking, windsurfing, and lounging on the beach. The vast majority of visitors come on weekends in July and August. The island's Bon dance, commemorating a bloody battle centuries ago, is well-known and attracts a large crowd each August.
The island also has its own miniature version of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage.
Since the 1990s, the Okayama prefectural government has specifically encouraged foreign tourism on Shiraishi Island. They help maintain the Shiraishi Island International Villa, a guesthouse specifically targeted at foreign visitors.
This means that there is a surprising amount of information available in English about the island. The best English-language sources for information on Shiraishi are:
- The website and blog written by the proprietor of local drinking establishment the Moooo! Bar.
- The website made by the latest manager of the International Villa, starting in 2018.
Most travelers will arrive by direct ferry from Kasaoka, which is easily accessible by JR train; it is also possible to come from Shikoku if you are willing to travel on Saturdays and change ferries a few times.
There are two ferry companies serving the route from Kasaoka to Shiraishi. The more useful of the two is operated by Sanyo Kisen, and departs most frequently. The path from the train station to the Sanyo Kisen ferry terminal is well signed in English and takes less than ten minutes to walk.
Although this ferry does not carry cars, free parking is available in the summer months near their terminal. There is generally no reason to take a car to Shiraishi; the island can be walked from end to end in an hour or less.
The Mooo! Bar homepage contains detailed information on the ferries in English.
The Sanyo Kisen ferry timetable is also available in Japanese from the official website.
Sanyo Kisen also operates a car ferry, but it leaves from a different port.
The island is quite small about six kilometers in circumference. This makes it easy to get around by foot or bicycle. There is no public transportation on the island.
Sea kayaking and windsurfingIt's possible to rent a sea kayak or windsurfer. Look for a Japanese man with a ponytail and Hawaiian shirt; he is generally known as C.G. (Sea Grandfather) or Sea-kun. The folks at the Moooo! Bar can help locate him if he's not around.
Summer festivals and eventsSee the Moooo! Bar home page for annual dates.
The beachThe main attraction on the island is the public beach, where most of the island's facilities are located. Usual beach activities such as swimming and lounging are possible. Public toilets are available.
Moooo! ShopThe Mooo! Shop sells souvenirs and beach necessities.
Amano StoreThis is the one and only supermarket on the island. While not huge, it does carry enough ingredients for a self-caterer comfortable with Japanese cooking, as well as a decent selection of fruits, vegetables, and bread.
San-chan'sThe only real restaurant on the island, serving simple Japanese beach fare such as curry noodles and fried rice, along with alcoholic beverages. English menu. If planning on having dinner there on a weeknight, it may be best to let them know ahead of time; they may otherwise close early. They can also arrange barbecues.
Moooo! BarMore than just a bar, this is the island's hub of information and help for foreign visitors. In 2017, the bar was expanded and now also includes rentable, shaded lounge chairs on the beach. The proprietors also help with hotel booking and arrival on the island. Snacks are also available, and breakfast can be provided with advance notice.
Shiraishi International VillaBuilt to give international visitors an affordable place to experience rural life in Okayama, this is the most popular and well-known accommodation on the island among non-Japanese. On a hill with a deck and views over the beach and the sunset. It also has a full kitchen. Mostly Western-style rooms, with a shared bath. English spoken by reservations staff.
Amagiso Ryokan and MinshukuTraditional Japanese-style rooms and shared bath. During the high season, meals may be available upon advance request. No kitchen, but a barbecue area is available.
San-chan's and Shiraishi Guest Housephone: +81 86-568-3169The cheapest accommodation on the island. Reputation for being slightly less clean than the other options. The guest house is newer and has a shared kitchen. No English spoken. Free Wi-Fi.
Moooo! HouseThe 150-year-old traditional Japanese-style house immediately behind the Mooo! Bar contains three comfortable, clean Japanese-style rooms. Facilities are basic: cold-water shower, small refrigerator, no kitchen, no air conditioning, no Wi-Fi.
CampingCamping on the beach is free, but no equipment is provided. There are public toilets on the beach.
Japan PostThere is a Japan Post office on the island. An ATM is available during business hours.
It's possible to make day trips to some of the other islands serviced by the Sanyo Kisen ferry such as Manabeshima. Kasaoka is likely to be your jumping-off point to other major destinations.