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. See also the Moooobar website.
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 [dead link].
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.
This is a small island, and the ocean is the name of the game. The public beach has the island's main ocean-related leisure facilities.
For sea kayaking and windsurfing, find C.G., a Japanese man with a ponytail and Hawaiian shirt.
There are annual festivals. If you're visiting during one, it should be an exciting time.
- Shiraishi Odori (白石踊り). Aug 14-16. This is the biggest event on the island. These dances are performed in honor of those who died in the Genpei Wars. There are 13 dances performed over the three days.
If expecting to self-cater for a significant length of time, plan on shopping in Kasaoka before getting on the ferry. There is a large supermarket very close to the ferry terminal and train station there.
- 1 Amano Store (あまのストアー), 747 Shiraishijima. 06:30-18:00. This 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.
- 2 San-chan's (さんちゃん), 457-1 Shiraishijima (At the north end of the beach), ☏ . Jul-Aug 11:00-20:00. The 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. ¥800-¥1500.
- 1 Moooo! Bar, 439 Shiraishijima (On the main beach). 10:30-23:00 daily. 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.
- 1 Shiraishi International Villa (白石島国際交流ヴィラ), 317 Shiraishijima, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Built 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. ¥3500 per person.
- 2 Amagiso Ryokan (天城荘), 75-1 Shiraishijima (Just west of the beach), ☏ . Traditional 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. ¥4000-4500 per person.
- 3 San-chan's and Shiraishi Guest House (白石島 民宿 海の家 さんちゃん), 457-1 Shiraishijima (At the north end of the beach), ☏ . The 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. ¥3000 per person.
- 4 Moooo! House (Behind the Mooo Bar). A 150-year-old traditional Japanese-style house with three comfortable, clean Japanese-style rooms. Facilities are basic: cold-water shower, small refrigerator, no kitchen, no air conditioning, no Wi-Fi. ¥2000 per person.
- 5 Camping. Camping on the beach is free, but no equipment is provided. There are public toilets on the beach.
Mobile phone service and 3G/4G Internet on Japan's major carriers are available. There is free WiFi at the port and at some hotels.
- 1 Shiraishijima Post Office (白石島郵便局), 555 Shiraishijima, ☏ . M-F 09:00-17:00. A post office. 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.