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Everyone knows Japan for its scenic natural landscapes, historical shrines, onsens, and delicious cuisine. Allow us to let you in on a hidden secret nestled along the coast of the Tottori Prefecture. Japan’s largest sand dunes, the Tottori Sand Dunes, is Japan’s answer to a sprawling desert-scape. Stretching 16 kilometers from east to west, with peaks reaching over 50 meters high, the Tottori Sand Dunes are a must-visit when you are in Tottori Prefecture.
The Tottori Sand Dunes were formed over 100,000 years out of sediment deposits from the nearby Chugoku Mountain that flowed down the Sendai River into the Sea of Japan. Presently, the dunes constantly shift and change the landscape due to the winds and change in tides, creating an otherworldly scene taken straight out of a movie.
When you arrive at the sand dunes, head to the main sightseeing area, a tall peaked dune between the Sea of Japan and the Tottori Sand Dunes Visitor Center. Be rewarded with an all-encompassing panoramic view of blue skies, golden sands, and the boundless Sea of Japan. Depending on the season, you may even be able to see camels trotting over the dunes or adventurous paragliders soaring across the sky.
How to get there:
Five daily flights are available from Tokyo (Haneda Airport) to Tottori Airport.
From Tokyo: Travel from Tokyo to Himeji on the Nozomi train. Switch to the Super Hakuto train and arrive at the JR Tottori Station.
From Nagoya: Travel from Nagoya to Himeji on the Nozomi train. Switch to the Super Hakuto train and arrive at the JR Tottori Station.
From Osaka: Take the Super Hakuto train from Osaka to the JR Tottori Station.
Express buses from Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima to Tottori Station via the Chugoku Expressway are available.
Best time to visit
The Tottori Sand Dunes transform with every season. From colorful blooms in spring to blankets of snow in winter, when you choose to visit really depends on what you want to see and do!
Witness the coming of spring as flowers, like the purple beach morning, bloom across this vast expanse. Spring is the ideal time for outdoor activities, though some might find it slightly chilly in the morning or evening.
While the Sahara Desert may be boiling over the summer, the Tottori Sand Dunes promises a light and cool breeze when you visit during the summer. Many take advantage of this crisp weather to paraglide over the dunes.
See graceful wind-blown patterns etched across the sand during these breezy autumn months. Most people visit the dunes during this season as the dune is still covered with remnants of summer’s flowers coupled with a fall breeze.
Tottori is known for its heavy snowfall during the winter months. In winter, the sand dunes turn into a breathtaking snowscape that looks absolutely magical. Gone are the golden sands as the landscape is transformed into boundless white peaks.
Things to do
Discover the sand dunes like a true desert explorer! Strike a pose with adorable camels as you tackle the rolling sand dunes together. This activity is also child-friendly, allowing your kids to fulfill their intrepid explorer dreams.
Visit Tottori Sand Dunes Rakudaya for more information.
Get ready for thrills and spills as you sandboard down Tottori Sand Dunes. This is the only place in Japan where you can take sandboarding lessons to achieve rapid speeds on slopes of up to 30 degrees.
Visit Tottori Sakyu Sand Board School for more information.
Enjoy a different view of Tottori Sand Dunes from up above. Take to the skies with an exhilarating paragliding experience. The experience is guided by the watchful eye of an instructor and is welcome to beginners and children.
Visit ZERO Paraglider School for more information.
Places to visit
Sakyu Center Observation Deck
Take a five-minute chairlift journey up to the Sakyu Center Observation Deck for panoramic views of the Sea of Japan and the Tottori Sand Dunes. Sakyu Center also houses a restaurant, a souvenir shop, and a lounge area to rest after exploring the dunes.
Address: 2083 Fukubecho Yuyama, Tottori, 689-0105, Japan
How to get there: The Sakyu Center is a seven-minute walk from Tottori Sand Dunes.
Tottori Sand Museum
The Tottori Sand Museum is the world’s only indoor sand museum that exhibits handcrafted sand sculptures. With the intricate craftsmanship of sand sculptors from all over the world, the museum exhibits a different country every year based on their exhibition concept: travel around the world in sand.
Address: 2083-17 Fukubecho Yuyama, Tottori, 689-0105, Japan
How to get there: The Tottori Sand Museum is a one-minute walk from Tottori Sand Dunes.
Tottori Sakyu Kodomonokuni
Tottori Sakyu Kodomonokuni is an exciting and engaging children’s theme park that features various attractions. Splash in the water playground and get creative at the various studios located across the park.
Address: 1157-1 Hamasaka, Tottori, 680-0001, Japan
How to get there: Tottori Sakyu Kodomonokuni is a five-minute walk from Tottori Sand Dunes.
Know of any hidden destinations in Japan? Let us know!