Tottori Sand Dunes 鳥取砂丘
The Tottori Sand Dunes (Tottori Sakyu) are an area of undulating golden sand very near Tottori City, on the Japan Sea coast. They are the biggest dune system in Japan, and form a special area of the San'in Coastal National Park. Together with Mt. Daisen, the dunes are the best known feature of Tottori Prefecture and an easy-to-access must-visit for every tourist to Tottori.
The dunes can be climbed and enjoyed for the dramatic scenery they create. There are also facilities such as a chair lift, the Sakyu Center at the top for sweeping views, an excellent Sand Museum, and activities such as camel riding, horse-and-cart rides, sand boarding, fat bike riding, and paragliding to further enhance enjoyment of this natural spectacle.
The Tottori Sand Dunes stretch about 2km east from the Sendai River. (Most guides say "16km," but the dunes have greatly shrunk in recent years.) The dunes are constantly shifting and changing form, and at their highest can reach about 90 meters. The Sendai River is the source of the sand: weathered granite from the Chugoku Mountain Range far inland, which began forming dunes thousands of years ago.
No special footwear is required to traverse the Tottori Sand Dunes, but softer soled shoes like sneakers are recommended.
The Sand Museum 砂の美術館
The Sand Museum offers the unique spectacle of dozens of larger-than-life sand sculptures, both indoor and out. For all their boldness, they are rendered in intricate detail and appear every bit as solid as rock. That these evocative masterpieces are of limited life only adds to their appeal. Globally famous sand sculptors are brought in every season to create a new, long-running exhibition. The current exhibition is "The United States of America," finishing on January 3, 2018, and features archetypal American scenes and characters rendered in sand.
The Sand Museum, 2083-17 Yuyama, Fukube-cho, Tottori City, Tottori, 689-0105.
600 yen for adults, 300 yen for children, free for pre-school.
9am-6pm, but until 8pm on Saturdays. Last entry is 30 minutes before closing time.
Sakyu Center 砂丘センター
The Sakyu Center ("Sand Dunes Center") is a large facility mainly given over to souvenirs, but has refreshment facilities and offers great views over the dunes. It and the Sand Museum nearby can be reached by chairlift. Sakyu Center hours: 8am-5pm, 365 days a year.
Tottori Dunes Chairlift
The Tottori Dunes Chairlift is a 5-minute ride at a low altitude from the dunes to the Sakyu Center and, nearby the Center, the Sand Museum. Hours: 8.30am-5pm. 200 yen one-way, 300 yen return, for adults; 150 yen one-way, 200 yen return for children; 4 y.o. and under, free.
Sand Dunes "Illusion" Event 鳥取砂丘イリュージョン
The Tottori Sakyu Illusion is a December-only event, from the second Saturday of December to the Sunday nearest Christmas, where the dunes are spectacularly and decoratively lit up every evening from 5.30pm to 9pm. Free entry.
Tanega-ike Pond 多鯰ケ池
About 1km inland, just beyond the edge of the dunes, is a large pond with very clear, deep water, Tanega-ike, surrounded by persimmon orchards which, for a fee, offer a picking experience from July to November.
The Tottori Sand Dunes are very near the center of Tottori City, and are most easily accessed by car. There is cheap parking at the Sakyu Center. However, they are also easily accessed by bus. The following assumes a visit starting with the Sand Museum and Sakyu Center, and taking the chair lift down to the dunes.
On weekends, national holidays, and July 20-August 31
Take the Loop Kirinjishi Bus from Platform 0 ("Zero") of Tottori Station Bus Terminal and get off after about 20 minutes at "Sakyu Kita Guchi" bus stop. The Sand Museum is about a 1-minute walk from there. 300 yen for a single ride, or 600 yen for an all-you-can-ride 1-day pass purchased at the bus terminal counter.
On weekdaysTake an Iwami/Iwai Line bus from Tottori Station Bus Terminal (ask about the platform, as it changes) and get off after about 20 minutes at "Sakyu Higashi Guchi" bus stop. The Sand Museum is about 3 minutes' walk from there. 300 yen for an all-you-can-ride 1-day pass.
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