Shiraishi Island's my favourite place in the whole of Japan - it's just the perfect escape from the rat race. Its location, far off the beaten track, means it offers unparalleled opportunities to escape from it all and get back in touch with a simple, honest way of life surrounded by stunning and invigorating nature. You can enjoy cocktails on a sun-drenched beach, seaside sports, traditional Seto Inland Sea cuisine and lodgings, and even a hiking trail around 88 mini temples and one huge, glittering temple complex boasting a range of South-East Asian influences. Be sure to make it up to the observatory at the top of the hill for breathtaking views of the island chains set against the brilliant cobalt blue of the sea. The friendly and super-helpful locals are well used to foreign guests and have none of the hang-ups or pretensions of modern city-dwelling folk. Its quiet and tranquil atmosphere belies an action-packed realm of possibilities - I've been there countless times and am still finding new layers to the place. Come prepared for lack of modern conveniences: bring plenty of cash as ATMs are almost non-existent and credit cards aren't accepted (as far as I'm aware). Accommodation is clean but very basic and there's a limited choice of places to eat - this is the polar opposite of some '5-star luxury hotel and spa resort' scenario, but 100 times as refreshing precisely because it's so stripped down. Time slows to a standstill as the cares and concerns of the modern world melt away, and you find yourself surrounded by warm friends - you can truly talk to anyone and have a great time. Come with an open mind and truly rediscover yourself. Open May to October.
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