James-Paul Jacob
James-Paul Jacob

Tottori is a great place for sand dunes, shabu shabu and no crowds

by James-Paul Jacob
Stripes Okinawa

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Japan’s landscape isn’t just temples, green foliage and mountains. Desert dwellers also have a place found in Tottori Prefecture. Just west of Kyoto and easily accessible via car, shinkansen or plane, rolling sand dunes await.

My wife and I flew to Tottori and used a rental car to get us across the sandy destination. It is one of the country’s least populated, but what it lacks in people, Tottori makes up for in views and sights worth spending time exploring.

So, what is there to do here? For starters, check out the sand dunes, which span roughly 16 kilometers along the Sea of Japan coast and vary from 2 km wide to about 50 meters high. Head to The Sand Museum next door to see some of the majestic sand sculptures created by artists from different countries. General admission is 600 yen (about $5.85) and 300 yen for elementary through high school students. The museum is open from April to January.  The museum’s impressive sand sculptures rival Hokkaido Snow Festival’s displays as these are in a climate-controlled space and don’t require heavy snow gear to enjoy.

Further west in Tottori, Mt. Daisen is a sight to see. Just as majestic as Mt. Fuji, Mt. Daisen also makes for a great hike. Don’t forget to stop in at several milk farms at the mountain base where you’ll find many milk products for sale. The ice cream here is as rich and flavorful as it gets!

Another stop nearby is an abandoned railway complete with a bamboo forest, minus the crowds, we enjoyed spending time exploring.

Another stop on our Tottori tour was to the east of the dunes, where the Uradome Coast spans for 15 km from Cape Kugami to Shichiyama.  There are boat tours which travel through the remarkably blue-turquoise waters. If you’re not interested in boat tours, you can travel via car along the coast and hike the nooks and crannies where you can find pristine beaches without hordes of crowds!

While we were there we made sure to try many of Tottori Prefecture’s local food delicacies. We had local pears, crab and pickled scallions, known as “Sakyu Rakkyo.” These pickles came in different flavors, but my favorite was the sour apple. Also worth noting, the prefecture is the birthplace of shabu shabu, a nationally popular hot pot dish that includes thinly slice meat and veggies dipped into different sauces. The wagyu beef is also considered some of the best in the country, so give it a try next time you’re there!

The lack of crowds and the sandy dunes are a change of pace compared to other parts of Japan. Tottori holds many treasures and traversing it has been the best vacation my wife and I have had here so far!

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