Your typical gaijin-in-Japan checklist includes a few staples that rarely get done. There's the Kodo drum festival out on Sado Island. There's the snow festival up in Hokkaido. And there are the Tottori Sand Dunes.
Why doesn't this get checked, while climbing Mt. Fuji and clubbing in Roppongi are quickly accomplished?
It is super far from anything. And unless you have a car, the area is kind of dead. I've spent the night in Tottori, next to the station, 3 times now, and really only had time to get a cheap izakaya meal and a nights rest.
With your own transportation and some time, this area of Japan looks fantastic. I am a reader of the blog More Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, a detailed photo account of the area, and plan to someday tour along the coast by motorcycle. Someday. Tottori Prefecture is a long days ride from Tokyo.
But if you find yourself out here for work, with only a couple hours to spare, be sure to wake up early and catch a taxi out to the dunes. The morning sand will be relatively wind-swept and untouched.
$20 gets you there from the station. We asked the taxi driver where a good place to get a return taxi was, and he said he would just hang out, smoke cigarettes, and wait for us.
If you come with the sunrise, I'd give it an hour max. It was rather cold on December 1st, and 40 minutes of walking around was enough. If I wasn't still nursing a broken leg, I might have had some dune-y fun. Running and jumping and what not.
If you come during the day, the sand museum looks cool. Actually, I would like to see this place with hoards of tourists doing their thing. The dunes get over 2 million visitors a year. Crazy! They stretch quite far, something like 16km, but this small stretch is where all the buses come.
Yeah, illuminations. The parking lot is full of 'em. And illumination themed food.
Though pricey at about $80 each way, the limited express Hakuto is an epic train. It travels from Kyoto to Tottori in 3 hours, so you can kick it in their plush chairs, drink some sake, and enjoy the scenery. Get a seat as far to the front of the train as possible!
And this will be your view. Fantastic!
The sand dunes are NOT a desert! Please tell people this. I don't know why I get bent up about this, but hella people out here think that the sand dunes are part of some sort of mini Japanese desert. Maybe it is because I teach kids, and basic knowledge of the earth and her climate zones is something that kids learn early on.
In an effort to capitalize on tourist suckers, lots of attractions perpetrate the desert myth. You can ride a camel around a 10 minute track for about $30, Laurence of Arabia style.
Anywaaaaaaay . . . check!