Tottori Travel Guide
Situated on the western end of Honshu Island, Tottori is best known for being home to the biggest sand dunes in the entire country.
In addition, its temples and museums make this place an excellent weekend trip destination for those living in Kyoto, Kobe or Osaka.
Come check out our Tottori travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Tottori, Japan.
While travelling through Western Honshu, make plans to stop in the Tottori area to see the Tottori Sand Dunes. Stretching for more than 16 kilometres along the coast of the Sea of Japan and standing 50 metres high at its loftiest point, it is the largest sand dune complex in Japan.
With panoramic views of the incoming surf in every direction, most choose to go for a stroll, but if you are up for something a touch more exciting, there are a few options you can pursue. Sandboarding is a favourite among the young and active, while camel riding will appeal to families and those who are less athletically inclined.
When you have had your fill of the outdoors, head indoors to the Sand Museum. Here, you’ll get to see the artworks created from the sand of the Tottori Sand Dunes. These are no garden-variety sand castles – they are exquisitely carved sculptures of a variety of figures.
From The Great Wall of China to depictions of cultures around the world, the statues within are constantly evolving. This is due to the impermanence of sand as a sculpting material – the elaborate nature of these works means that they could dissolve at any moment. As time goes by, the risk of an art piece crumbling increases, so don’t take this place for granted – check it out before its star creation of the moment crumbles forever.
Temple and shrine lovers will want to check out the Hakuto Shrine while on a trip to Tottori. Located within view of the seashore, this shrine of old timbers exudes amazing atmosphere. While those who aren’t much into religious points of interest may not think much of this place, it has a deep backstory that will resonate with those who are.
This shrine is home to the spirit of a rabbit known as the White Rabbit of Inaba. Once residing on an island 50 kilometres offshore, legend has it that he boasted to the sharks his rabbit clan outnumbered their clan (known as the Wani clan). This was a pretext to get them to line up between the island and the mainland, as he dreamed of moving there.
He ran across them to do a head count of them; near the end, he revealed the hoax, which angered the last shark. He snapped at the White Rabbit, catching his skin and ripping much of it off. As the rabbit writhed in pain on the beach, a member of a travelling party suggested he rinse in fresh water and wrap his body in sedge grass.
In gratitude for helping him, the rabbit revealed that he would be chosen by the princess of their realm to take her hand in marriage. This led to the White Rabbit being enshrined as the resident spirit of Hakuto Shrine, and for giving this place a reputation as a great place to visit for matchmaking inspiration.
Before leaving the Tottori area, be sure to take a tour of Jinpukaku, a Meiji Period mansion. Built in 1906 by local authorities as a local manor for the Emperor, it is a popular tourist attraction in the present day. It is best known locally for being the first structure in the Tottori area to be electrified, making it a symbol of how the Meiji Restoration was rapidly changing the nature of what once was a Middle Ages-style society as late as the mid 19th century.
As for the mansion itself, its opulent interior and its extravagant Japanese garden outside will allow you to see how the ruling family of Japan lived during the Meiji Period.
Behind Jinpukaku mansion lie the Tottori Castle Ruins. Dismantled after the Meiji Restoration mandated the destruction of the vestiges of Japan’s Edo Period, it continues to lie in a wrecked state in the present day.
Standing on the lowest slopes of Mount Kyusho, only a few walls and one wooden gate remain to this day. The cherry trees planted on its grounds still persist, however, making it a place that still attracts visitors every spring.
The freshest catches from the Sea of Japan are brought to Karoichi Market. It is here where restaurateurs and citizens of Tottori shop for everything from shellfish to tuna. Restaurants, where fresh seafood can be eaten, are located on site, and a crab museum suitable for children is adjacent to the market buildings.
If the weather isn’t cooperating while in Tottori, take your family to the Warabekan Toy Museum. Here, you’ll learn about the history of Japanese toys, plus you’ll get the chance to participate in a workshop where you’ll get to assemble your own.