Ever since I first heard about there being sand dunes in Japan I have really wanted to visit Tottori prefecture to see them for myself. I’ve mentioned this to many students over the last five years or so and most of them are quite surprised. Some of them really couldn’t believe that it’s been on my Japan bucket list for a while when they found out that I have been to some pretty decent deserts in the likes of Tunisia, Jordan, Australia and the USA. You would maybe expect to see deserts in those countries but you really wouldn’t forecast there to be one in Japan and therein lies the beauty of it all for me.
After a 100 minute train journey from Yonago I arrived at Tottori Station and as soon as the doors opened I rushed to catch the bus from outside which was leaving just a few minutes later. The next one would’ve been an hour later and as it was already 2:30pm there wasn’t any room for error if I was to get to the dunes (20 minutes by bus), look around them before dusk and then visit the sand museum. If I had just missed the bus I would definitely have done the 60 minute walk to get there.
Just after 3pm the bus dropped us off at the souvenir shop and all I could see in the near distance was a chair lift descending to the sand dunes. Not wanting to part with unnecessary cash I walked back down the hill a bit (there were no signs for how to get down without using the money-making way) and found a path leading downwards to the main road. Across from there is the entry point for the sand dunes where the vastness of the place was way beyond what I imagined.
As I walked across the sand to get to the dunes, the 1999 Groove Armada single ‘At The River‘ was in my head due to it’s “If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air/Quaint little villages here and there” lyrics. It is perhaps more famous for it’s sampled blues-style trombone part though which is quite beautiful. The perfect soundtrack for such a place……if only the conditions were more desert-like! More on that later.
There was a roped off area around a crevice to protect a colony of the Elisa’s tiger beetle. Can’t say I’m aware of this particular species but I’m all for protecting such things.
Most people climbed to the top of the main dune from the more gentler side but there were a few ascending via the steepest method and I couldn’t resist giving that a go on my second trip to the summit. It was easier than I thought actually as the footprints were already there to help but the final few metres were a bit more challenging and hands were needed to reach the top. It would’ve been nice to have a sand-board for bombing it back down the steep slope!
With the ocean on one side and mountains in the distance on the other it really was a desert like no other in terms of my own personal experience.
The weather conditions were all a far cry from what one would normally associate with deserts! It was a bleak, cloudy and blustery day that looked like it could break into rain at any moment. It had been raining the night before which may be why a lake pool had formed at the foot of the dunes. It all added to the appeal of the place for me though.
When I’d arrived at the dunes earlier I saw that there were camel rides off to my right but I thought I’d investigate that later. A mistake as it turned out as they had disappeared for the day by the time I had finished one hour later. I was a little disappointed I couldn’t see them up close but I never had a plan to ride one anyway.
It was the end of my time at the dunes but there were still a couple of local specialities to taste and an incredible museum to see.
Click here to read ‘Beautiful Sand Sculptures & Eggs Cooked In The Desert’