When you think of Japan, images of hustling, bustling major cities—like Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka—may come to mind. And while there are plenty of reasons to head to where the rest of the tourists are (hello, epic food and the highest-quality matcha!), there’s a much smaller area nearby, where the pace of things is much slower, idyllic, and essentially just all-around perfect.
When TripAdvisor released its annual Travelers’ Choice awards earlier this year, Ishigaki, Japan—an island 1,200 miles from Tokyo—was named the top destination on the rise. Now months later, its popularity is still growing, and it’s pretty easy to see why: This gem is nothing short of dreamy. The water is the bluest of blue, there are white sandy beaches everywhere, and you’ll see so many tropical fish swimming around the coral reefs that you’ll feel like you’re in Finding Nemo. Oh, and the average temp in the winter is in the temperate 70s, so there’s also that. Yeah, it’s a true wanderluster’s wonderland year-round.
If you plan a getaway to visit this slice of paradise, you can drop the go-go-go mind-set to focus on relaxation, whether you’re soaking up the sun on the beach (while wearing sunscreen, of course!), making some fishy friends while snorkeling, enjoying some umi budo—AKA sea grapes—which is a type of seaweed that’s eaten as a snack, or hiking through the lush rainforests to see some wildlife. Then if you want to venture over to the main city area—the not-as-peaceful city of Ishigaki, which has a population of around 50,000—you’ll find plenty of restaurants and shops.
Basically, this destination is pure magic…and it might just be worth adding to the top of your bucket list.
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