Sun, sand and ski
From camel-riding to skiing and manga to melons; Tottori is a prefecture that’s full of surprises.
The majestic sand dunes are Tottori’s surprising emblem but they make up just one piece of the puzzle of natural wonders within the prefecture.
You’ll need to head to Tottori City to see the sakyu, which stretch cinematically 16 km along the San-in coastline. Hiking around the dunes and taking in the spectacularly majestic views is rewarding enough, but there’s also paragliding and sand boarding for a different perspective. Taking up residence here are a group of haughty camels, offering up a Lawrence of Japanarabia experience – when they feel like it.
For beaches, boat cruises and water sports, make your way to the rugged Uradome coast just next door, where hot spring baths merge with the ocean at serene spots like Kaike onsen. Cliffs, caverns and rocks can be explored by boat cruise or kayak, and there’s snorkelling around the azure shores of Iwami.
Manga fans might also recognise Tottori as the hometown for several famous artists, including Mizuki Shigeru of wonderfully-weird Gegege no Kitaro fame, and Gosho Aoyama, the creator behind the hugely successful Detective Conan, or Case Closed as it’s known abroad.
Take the “Manga Kingdom” tour along the coast from Sakaiminato to Kurayoshi and discover a whimsical world of supernatural characters and detective heroes. The Mizuki Shigeru Road outside JR Sakaiminato station is lined with more than 150 bronze statues of yokai (spirits or demons) that emerged from the artist’s peculiar psyche. In nearby Houkei, the Gosho Aoyama Manga Factory features original drawings and replicas of tricks and inventions from the popular world of Conan.
In the west of the prefecture, sacred Mount Daisen carries summer hikers and winter skiers straight from the ocean up into the clouds. The highest mountain in the Chugoku region, it’s still a relatively easy hike to the summit.
Three hours up will take you Misen peak for beautiful views of the Sea of Japan, and you can explore the holy sites of Daisen-ji and Ogamiyama shrine on your way.
Once a flourishing center of Shugendo or mountain worship, Daisen is the former training ground of more than 3000 warrior monks and continues to play host to a number of religious rituals throughout the year.
The climbing season opens over the first weekend of June and is marked with an extraordinary medieval-style torchlight parade at night – anybody is welcome to take part; torches are handed out on a first-come-first-served basis. In the winter, the slopes transform into the popular Oku-Daisen Ski Resort
Between Daisen and Tottori city, Mount Mitoku is slightly more off-the-beaten-track. Built more than 1300 years ago, Nageiredo Hall juts out impossibly from a hollow in the cliff side – architects are still unable to work out how the temple was built. Hiking the trails of Mitoku is a real adventure; some sections are near vertical with chains attached to help climbers scale the rocks.