When visiting Tottori Prefecture, a visit to the Tottori Sakyu (Tottori Sand Dunes), part of Sanin Kaigan National Park, is mandatory! These sand dunes stretch along 16 kilometers of the Sea of Japan’s coastline. They, the biggest sand dunes in Japan, were formed when sediment carried from the nearby Chugoku Mountains by the Sendaigawa River was washed out to the Sea of Japan. The dunes themselves were formed as the sand was redeposited on shore. These dunes have been around for over 100,000 years, but their shapes are even now, constantly changing due to the winds.
The feeling you get when you stand in front of the massive dunes is inexplicable. Climbing to the top, especially with the sun beating down on you, is quite difficult because the dunes stand at about 50 meters tall. I hike often, but still found myself short on breath trying to climb upwards on a ground that was constantly sliding out from under me. But once you reach the top, the view is out of this world. It makes the struggle worth it.
From the dunes on the shore, you can see the bright blue ocean which sparkles in the sunlight about half a kilometer away. You can continue walking over the tops of the dunes to get down to the shore. The beach often has good waves and is frequented by surfers, who are interesting to watch and offer great photo opportunities.
When climbing the dunes, it is recommended to remove your shoes, so as to not get sand in them and to make it easier to climb the dunes. When I went, towards the end of October, it was chilly so my feet got pretty cold. If you go in the fall, make sure to bring warm socks so your feet don’t freeze after you climb! Also, this is one trip that you don’t want to forget to bring a camera because the scenery is amazing. If you are lucky enough to go in the summer, definitely bring a swimsuit to take a dip in the ocean and cool off after the trek up the dunes. My favorite part of the dune excursion was to race friends down the dunes, both on my feet and sliding down like a slide.
Traveling to the sand dunes is probably easiest by car, but there is also a bus that leaves from Tottori Station. The bus, which takes 20 minutes to get to the dunes, only costs 370 yen. There is even an airport around 2 km away, called the Tottori Sakyu Conan Airport. To get to Tottori, you can take a train from Osaka or an overnight bus from Tokyo.
At the sand dunes, there are camels you can ride! Seeing people on camels gives the illusions of being in the middle of the desert. But the sea so close is a welcoming site. Camel rides cost 1300 yen for one person, or 2500 yen for two people. So bring a friend and save 100 yen! Other attractions are offered as well (for a price), including horse-drawn carriages, paragliding, biking on special fat tire bikes, and even sand boarding.
The Sand Museum
Nearby is the Sand Museum. I did not have time to go, but strongly suggest you check it out. The hours are 9am to 6pm (8pm on Saturdays) and admission ends 30 minutes before closing. Admission is only 600 yen for the awesome exhibits which change yearly. Each exhibit is displayed from mid-April until early January of the following year. Each year the exhibitions take on a theme of a country or region, and include impressive sculptures crafted from sand. The sand used in the sculptures comes from road construction being done in the area, which is a lot like the sand of the dunes. (https://www.japan.travel/en/spot/951/). Remember those sand castles you crafted as a child on the beach? These are much more spectacular! Enjoy.