Your mental images of Japan likely include such scenes as cherry blossoms swaying in the breeze, steam rising from relaxing onsens, and the majestic Mount Fuji. A trip to Tottori, however, will introduce you to a very different and unexpected side of Japan.
Tottori City is located in western Japan, near the Sea of Japan. It is famous for more than 30 square kilometers of sand dunes that blanket the coast north of the city.
How to get to Tottori
You can use your Japan Rail Pass to travel throughout Japan quickly, easily, and inexpensively. If you’re headed to Tottori, this helpful information is here to guide the way.
From Tokyo to Tottori
From Tokyo, take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka Station. From there, transfer to the Super Hakuto or Hamakaze. This trip takes roughly 6 hours, one-way.
From Osaka to Tottori
A number of options are available to reach Tottori from Osaka. The fastest and most frequent train is the Limited Express Super Hakuto. When using your JR Pass with this train, however, you will be required to cover an additional fee due to the use of non-JR rail lines.
From Kyoto to Tottori
Take the Super Hakuto Limited Express from Kyoto to Tottori Station. The train runs every two hours, and the trip takes around 3 hours. As mentioned with Osaka, a supplemental fee will be required.
If you’d prefer a trip covered entirely by the JR Pass, you may use the Limited Express Hamakaze. Runs of this train from Osaka to Tottori are limited to early in the morning and late at night. Slower local trains that travel the same route can also be accessed using the JR Pass.
Alternatively, if you come from Kobe, Himeji or Okayama, you may travel to Okayama Station, and from there take the JR Super Inaba to Tottori, with no extra charge. Travel time from Okayama Station is one hour and 45 minutes.
How to get to the Tottori Sand Dunes
Once in Tottori, you can reach the dunes either by bus or by taxi. Taxis are the fastest and most direct; they generally cost around ¥2200 and take a trip of about 20 minutes.
The city bus departs hourly from Stop #0, located in front of Tottori Station. This ride also takes about 20 minutes and costs ¥370.
The Kirin Jishi Loop Bus operates from late July to the end of August, on weekends, and on national holidays. The Loop Bus departs from Tottori Station every one to two hours. The A-Course takes 25 minutes to reach the sand dunes, while the B-Course takes around an hour to reach them. You may purchase a day pass for ¥600, or pay per ride at the rate of ¥300.
Things to do in Tottori
Many people visiting the dunes enjoy the breathtaking views, as some dunes rise 50 meters in height. Natural forces constantly reshape the dunes. Sports such as sandboarding and paragliding are available, as is a chairlift to the observation deck of the Sakyu Center.
A favorite activity is that of camel rides, which make the dunes resemble a scene from the desert. Camel rides operate from 10 am to 4 pm daily, with slightly longer hours during the summer months. Two people may ride for ¥2500, or ¥1300 for an individual.
The dunes are also popular with players of the augmented reality game Pokemon GO. Players visiting the dunes can encounter both ground and water Pokemon. PokeStops are located at various tourist hotspots. From time to time, special Pokemon-themed events are held at the dunes. For example, in November 2017, a Safari Zone event was held there that included “spawnings” of rare Pokemon such as Unown and Mr. Mime.
Tottori is also the hometown of many manga and anime artists, like Gosho Aoyama, creator for Detective Conan. Funnily enough, in 2015 the Totori Airport was renovated and renamed to Totori Conan Airport. Posters, merchandise, and figures of Conan are all around the terminal!
Finally, near the dunes, the Tottori Sand Museum features artwork from famous artists sculpted completely from sand. The museum is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm but may be closed from January to April to prepare new exhibits. Admission is ¥600.
Are you ready to start exploring the famous sand dunes of Tottori? Book your JR Pass and start planning your next Japanese adventure today.