This Year's Top Trending Travel Destination Ishigaki Has A Very Dark Past
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A tiny island in Japan has been named the top trending travel spot for 2018 by TripAdvisor, making it possibly the most beautiful place on Earth that you've never heard of.
The sweet island paradise, known as Ishigaki, has a population of just 50,000 and is situated in Japan's southwestern Okinawa Prefecture - an area that has sometimes been compared to Hawaii in the past.
The winning destinations were decided using an algorithm that measures the year-on-year increase in positive TripAdvisor ratings for hotels, restaurants and attractions for the place, along with the number of bookings compared to those made in previous years.
But Ishigaki came out on top, thanks to its turquoise waters, sandy beaches, tropical mangrove forests and world-class diving spots. Sounds bloody peachy to us.
"It shouldn't come as a surprise that Ishigaki is a trending travel spot," Rebecca Hallett, Japan expert at guidebook publisher Rough Guides, told the Telegraph. "Japanese travellers have been heading there for fine-sand beaches and fancy-fish spotting for years."
She added: "If getting away from it all here isn't hardcore enough for you (it's over 400 kilometres south of the main Okinawan island, itself over 1,500 kilometres from Tokyo), you can take a ferry to one of the Yaeyama Islands' even more remote and mysterious islands, like wild Iriomote or tiny, distant Yonaguni."
However, despite the island's utopian first impressions, it's not always been without its problems - having once harboured a fugitive behind one of Japan's deadliest attacks.
You may have heard of the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack, an act of domestic terrorism conducted by members of cult movement Aum Shinrikyo. In a series of five coordinated attacks, the cultists dispersed the highly toxic chemical sarin in three subway lines during the morning rush hour, killing 12 and injuring thousands of others.
While many of the perpetrators were sentenced to death after the incident, one of the attackers, Yasuo Hayashi - who was carrying the sarin that resulted in eight of the 12 deaths, according to the courts - managed to get away, eventually escaping to the island paradise of Ishigaki.
Hayashi was on the run for some time, and it wasn't until 21 months later that he was found. According to the Japan Times, he was arrested in December 1996 on the remote island, with tabloids nicknaming him 'the killing machine' for his involvement in the attack.
Hayashi then became the fifth Aum member to have a death sentence finalised - the others being Masato Yokoyama, Kazuaki Okazaki, Satoru Hashimoto and Aum founder Shoko Asahara.
Trouble in paradise? When you get a Japanese doomsday cult and one of Japan's deadliest terror attacks involved, that seems like a bit of an understatement...
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