Famous for its sand dunes – which are apparently the only desert in Japan – Tottori is often overlooked by a lot of foreign travellers.
To be honest, I’d never even heard of the place until there was an earthquake here last year and I subsequently did some research about the place. It was never really on my list of places to visit before I leave Japan but seeing as I was in the area it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Tottori Sakyu Sand Dunes
I arrived at my hostel mid-afternoon and despite planning to visit the sand dunes the next day, the rainy forecast for the next 24 hours meant I actually just dropped my bags off and headed straight out.
With the next bus not due for just under an hour, I booted up Google Maps and decided to walk the 5 kilometres between the city and the dunes. Seeing as I had the new Kasabian album for company, I was more than happy to just wander along in my own little world!
The hour-long walk took me through the back streets of Tottori and I probably arrived just before the bus would have got me there, so that was a nice bonus. This trip has made me really realise just how good the public transport in Tokyo is. I promise never to complain about it again. Well, only a little bit.
As is the case at almost every famous spot during Golden Week, the dunes were fairly busy although not quite as crowded as I expected. There were plenty of selfie sticks and tripods to dodge, but also more than enough room to hang about at the top of the dunes and take it all in without being disturbed. At this point I realised how big a mistake it was to not pack any shorts or flip flops. Two days later I was still shaking sand out of my Vans!
Despite the walk there not being too bad, I didn’t fancy doing another 5 kilometres on the return journey. Sadly the last bus was at 6.30pm which was about half an hour before sunset. Ah well, you win some.
Just like in Izumo, I maybe stayed in Tottori a day too long and didn’t really have any plans for the overcast second day there. After a few nihonshus with my new friends from the hostel, I could have spent the day lounging around but inevitably I’d have been bored by midday.
A few people recommended the nearby town of Kurayoshi, which was about an hour’s train ride out of the city. I didn’t have the first clue about the place so upon arrival I used my minimal Japanese in the tourist information centre to establish that I should visit Shirakabe Dozogun – a part of town lined with old shops, houses and warehouses from the Edo and Meiji periods. I promise it was better than I make it sound.
Like the previous day I opted to walk for an hour to get there instead of taking a bus. I always do this in the hope of stumbling upon something interesting on the way but on both occasions here I came up short.
Once I reached my destination I had a wander round, took some pictures and had some lunch in a local shop. I opted for a chicken salad sandwich with wasabi mayonnaise – how very daring!
The streets were interesting; I’m not exactly an expert when it comes to either Japanese history or architecture in general but it was nice to walk around what was essentially a quieter version of Kawagoe near Tokyo! After about an hour (being generous) I was done though and headed to a local park for a stroll before jumping back on the train to Tottori.
When I got back to Tottori I realised my Japanese bank account was empty and I needed to get some cash from my English account to make up for it. Now in Tokyo it’s incredibly easy to just go to the nearest convenience store and use your MasterCard/Visa, so I assumed the FamilyMarts in Tottori would be the same.
I found myself on a wild goose chase going through the city trying every convenience store I could find with absolutely no luck. I must have tried close to 10 different ATMs before realising I’d come full circle and found myself back at the train station. Having walked about 2 kilometres and still being cashless I couldn’t believe what I saw right next to the station – a huge post office with about five international ATMs. Typical!
By this point it was getting dark and my legs were about to give way, so I headed back to the hostel to reward myself with a beer and an early night before a trip to Himeji the next morning.