Okayama Prefecture embarked on a plan to bring more foreign travelers to the Seto Inland Sea when it built an international villa on a small island in the Kasaoka island chain in 1988.

The villa sits on a 2.86-square-kilometer patch of forest and granite known as Shiraishi Island, which translates as White Rock Island in English. While the majority of the island's 400 houses were built near sea level, the Shiraishi International Villa was constructed on top of a hill so visitors could admire the panoramic views of the Inland Sea. Guests there are able to sit on a wooden deck that overlooks the traditional Japanese-tiled roofs of homes facing the beach.

Often described as a "hidden gem," the island remained popular among both domestic and overseas tourists until 2010. With the ever-increasing numbers of non-Japanese travelers looking for off-the-beaten-path peregrinations, there was no reason to think things would ever change.