Shiraishi island is an easy place to escape to from Hiroshima, it is located in Okayama but it takes just under 2 hours to get to the island by train from Hiroshima to Kasaoka station and then a short ferry across the bay.
The beach itself is a pretty clean stretch of white sand beach and the locals are friendly and welcoming to outsiders (thanks in many ways to Amy & Paul). The small town is charming and easy to navigate, there are even some easy hikes to enjoy on the island. There are sea kayaks, windsurfers and paddle boats and other water sport rentals on the beach. The restaurants that spill out onto the beach offer delicious food, all-you-can eat and drink deals and will even set you up with your own BBQ grill for dinner- a very popular choice. If you are into fishing and you make a good catch, you can ask one of the beachside eateries to cook it up for your dinner.
MOOOO bar website for upcoming events, available accommodation and the latest updated information on the island courtesy of local, long-timer ex-pat residents Amy and Paul. These two local Shiraishi island experts run a great beach bar “Moooo bar” and shop on the beach. They are also crazy about cows and even have a cow designed sailboat. Captain Paul offers Moooo! sailing tours along the Seto-Naikai (Seto Inland Sea). They know everything there is to know about the island and the community and are the go-to people to do any bookings in English on the island. They also make great ice-cream floats and absolutely fantastic Moooo-garitas!
There are a few different options for places to stay. Up the hill, there is a popular Villa which was previously run by the prefecture, but is now in private hands. The villa has western rooms with beds or tatami mat rooms with futons. A large kitchen for guest to use, veranda with a view of the sea and shared toilet and bath areas. These rooms seem a little more expensive than some of the other places available on the island especially since they charge for small children even if no extra bedding is required. No meals are provided either, but the views of the sea and the comfortable wooden deck and lounge make it a great place to chill out and get away from it all. When we stayed at the villa there was another family and a quiet couple there, but the atmosphere can change depending on who the other guests are at the same time sharing the bathroom, kitchen and toilets. The rooms and living areas are cleaned every few days and there are washing machines available as well as clothesline space for guests.
Most accommodation prices are per person, not per room. We stayed at the Villa a few times and then right on the beach the next time- it worked out cheaper to stay beach-side, but you do not have access to a kitchen or fridge. Check the Moooo bar website and the Daily Moooo blog for further details and availability. It is also possible to camp on the beach for a nominal fee.
From Kasaoka train station, it is about a 10 minute walk to the ferry terminal. (There are two terminals- one can ferry cars across too, although that is unnecessary we found, the island is easy to walk around and a car doesn’t get you much further. There is free parking at the port in Kasaoka and next to the harbor at Shiraishi). There are very few clear signs around, but the locals are easygoing and helpful with directions if asked.
Golden week and other long holidays in warmer months are popular times for people to flock to the island. The biggest event of the year happens in August during the Obon holidays which has made the island famous. Obon dance performances are held in town and then on the main beach to signify the passing of spirits from the land to the sea. It is quite something to watch or even take part in if you would like and although it sounds serious and religious, it is somber in some parts of the ceremony and then there is a rather fun, lighthearted festival atmosphere that takes over the whole town.
- Charles Lane wrote a great review of his vacation on Shiraishi island for the Washington Post called “That was Zen”in 2005 which captures the essence of a visit to the island.
- Japanese TV news report(in Japanese) about Amy Chavez and how foreigners appreciate the island and Japanese culture on Shiraishi.
- A historical Japanese news program about the 800 year old dance of Shiraishi-jima (1952)
- Amy & Paul’s Moooo bar website
- Shiraishi island’s own Amy Chavez is a regularly featured writer on the Japan Times and has published 2 books about Japan