One of our most spontaneous trips ever – Tottori Sand Dunes – which went like
“Is this place far? Nope – Ok, let’s go there next weekend.”
Thanks to Mileage our flight was for free and comfy, early though. [It’s a 6h Shinkansen/Train choice or 1h flight] There’s a shuttle bus from the airport directly to the dunes, so if you are not interested in an old city and some nice lakes then it is even a possible 1-day trip without staying at a hotel. On the other hand I totally recommend staying at least 1 night if you are even a little into Geology/Nature – especially lakes.
The dunes are quite spectacular especially when you come from bustling Tokyo and suddenly stand on sand-hills with salty sea-wind blowing. (Unfortunately it was a rainy day and thus no -dune- feeling, but more like walking in a -huge sandbox-) There is not much left around to see (some souvenir shops and a sand museum), but we recommend a short walk downhill to Tanega Ike¹ and then take the bus to Tottori Station from there.
Taneka Ike is a small pond with a hidden temple. Right out of an anime so to speak – you’ll just have to follow the gates – and definitely read the Pond’s Legend about a beautiful lady and a snake, to make your visit even more mysterious.
On the way to Tottori mainstation you get a nice overview of the city (salty-winds gave everything an old, rusty touch) But don’t let a run-down looking shop stop you from entering it. We had one of the best Sushi ever right here: https://www.tottori-daizen.com/
The main road with shops and cafes (mostly dedicated to a generation 50+) is interesting as well. And will lead you within 30min to your next goal Jinpukaku². We encountered a hidden LP/Record shop (and got hands on gems for really low money) saw creepy hospital ruins, funny statues and nice gardens on our way.
Jinpukaku is a western-style Mansion with beautiful european & japanese garden at the premises of the remaining Tottori castle grounds ( which they actually try to re-build until 2030 ?) – regarding the wonderful trees a visit during cherry blossom or autumn season is recommended. From there you can take the 100-yen-loop bus (green line) which takes you back to the station [our hotel was located there].
»Somehow it made me travel back in time, feeling like one of the women in “Tales of Little Women” ( 愛の物語) or Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained“. «
For day 2, we got up early to go to Koyamaike³ – the largest lake in Japan. A picturesque scenery where you could go by local train; but on Sunday schedule starts at 9.30am which was way too late for us. So we took another bus… – by train it’s the “Daigaku mae” (University) station you should get off. By bus definitely get off at the “temple” station (marked with a bus on my google map) and walk along the lake until the next option to cross the rails. From there keep straight and you’re at the airport within 20min walk.
Last but not least, order a cup of the “Sunaba Cafe” Coffee – which is said to be brewed with or on sand? Anyway it has a very mild not sour taste, decent even for non-coffee drinker. And take a shot of the Detective Conan figures, Tottori is the birthplace of its creator (Anime series)
Sidenote: I tried to book through western hotel-booking sites, which had the hotels all on “no room left” — but japanese booking sites had plenty of rooms. Another option is to call the hotel directly or use their website.
P.s. Bring enough coins/cash as most of the places, vending machines (and busses) don’t accept IC Cards.
Sand Dunes^– [鳥取砂丘] Desert within Japan more info
¹Tanegaike^ – [多鯰ケ池] small lake with a temple and nice legend
²Jinpukaku^–[仁風閣], Mansion built in 1906
³Koyamaike^–[湖山池], largest lake in Japan