Japan Travel Diary 2017: Tottori

Ryan and I often joke that our trips to Japan are pilgrimages, but not in the traditional sense. We have intentionally and unintentionally made our way over to some of the key destinations in the manga Honey and Clover. Both of us unabashedly love this slice of life manga and the depiction of Japan within. It’s thanks to Honey and Clover that I know what and where Tottori is. Since then the image of snow flakes falling on sand dunes overlooking the sea of Japan has rather enchanted me.

Tottori day 9

The information desk at Tottori station is very helpful. We managed to buy discounted tickets for the sand museum and picked up a few guides as to bus times and locations. Although the township of Tottori is on the smaller side, the prefecture is rather large and sprawling, so it’s important to get on the right bus!

One of the last stops for our bus route was at a large gift store and look out. Usually, Ryan is not one to be swayed by the colourful boxes of beautiful omiyage at almost every transit location in Japan. However, here there were samples of almost every single snack. This marketing tactic evidently worked, as we walked away laden with pear jelly, cake, tea juice and more! Even if you’re not interested in picking up omiyage I recommend climbing up to the top of the lookout to get a panoramic view.

Tottori sand Museum is not far from the lookout or the dunes. There’s a range of large scale sand sculptures houses indoors. This year’s exhibit was somewhat bizarrely American themed. I found it a touch odd to be celebrating all things American culture in the middle of Japan. Especially in this current political climate where I’m not all too sure if that many Americans are actually all that proud of America. None the less the sand sculptures were all fairly impressive in both scale and detail and not all that expensive to see.

The real drawcard of Tottori is the sand dunes. We took the rather short (both in height and distance) rope way down to the dunes. The sand dunes are something that really has to be seen to be believed. The greenery of the mountains gives way to these immense hills of sand before meeting the sea. From the rope way station, there’s a towering expanse of incredibly soft sand. It was liberating to take off my shoes and feel the warm sand between my toes.

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There’s also plenty to do apart from admiring the scenery. When we arrived there were people conducting short camel rides and others paragliding amongst the dunes. I’m sure that this would be a magical sight as the sun sets across the dunes, but the lack of reliable transport meant that this wasn’t really an option for us.

Ray Garden seems like a bit of an anomaly out on the winding road. The cafe and restaurant is also a function space. The photo book in the door made it seem like a popular spot for weddings. It also happened to be the perfect spot for a bit of afternoon tea in the form of cake and tea. A light chiffon cake staved off the lunch time hunger that was creeping on.

With the breeze picking up we caught the bus back into town. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring. I use the world exploring in the loosest sense. We ended up following a bunch of high school kids to a supermarket and Mcdonalds. I guess it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, students will always gravitate towards the nearest Mcdonalds.

In some ways, this was strangely nostalgic. When I was on exchange in Japan, the town I stayed in was definitely far away from the bright lights and big happenings. This little sojourn took me back to those days where I spent most of my time thinking about what to have for dinner, and which supermarket was better to shop at.

There are a few guides at the station that point out where to eat in Tottori. Most of them pointed to Tottori Daizen. Even though it wasn’t the season for crab Ryan still insisted on trying a crab set, since Tottori is supposedly famous for it! It definitely wasn’t the finest or most delicate food but the portions were exceedingly generous, especially for the price. I usually pride myself on being able to finish everything but here most of the rice was left in my bowl.

Tottori is one of the more obscure places that you can visit while in Japan. Even in peak tourist season, there was hardly anyone about. In fact, most of the visitors seemed a little confused and disorientated, wondering what they were doing. Tottori presents itself almost as a liminal space. It is quaint yet somehow arresting in its small town ways and cacophony of nature. I wouldn’t say that Tottori is for everyone, or even a must visit, but it’s definitely something I’m glad I experienced even if it wasn’t the season for snow.

Tips 
Trips to Tottori are not fully covered by the JR pass. There is an 1820 yen supplement fee as the train takes non JR tracks for a portion of the journey.  The transport within Tottori is also not covered by JR. On the weekends it is possible to take a Kirin Jishi Loop Bus. A daily pass will only cost 600 yen. Otherwise, an ordinary bus to the sand dunes from the station is 370 yen one way. Make sure you check the bus timetable from the dunes because they don’t leave all that frequently.

We stayed in APA Tottori ekimae. It is roughly 5 minutes away from the station and located away from the main thoroughfare. Tottori is very much a small town and without a car, it’s difficult to leave the central area and explore further afield.

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