Mountainous and magical.
Picture yourself perched upon an ancient temple. It’s built into the side of a giant rock formation overlooking a village with towering cedars and a rushing river with a bright red bridge. Would you travel to experience this? In Tottori Prefecture, a tiny mountain town with ancient roots can make this scene a reality. The town of Wakasa has this and a lot more for travelers who want an authentic yet accessible Japan experience.
A lively history
The area’s earliest records date back to the Heian period (794 – 1185). Most of the population (present-day about 3,300 people) lives in small mountain villages along the Hatto River, the area’s lifeblood. Back when this former castle town’s main industry was lumber, the people could drink directly from the river. Nowadays, townsfolk are still said to wash their dishes in it — a sign of the purity of water that no doubt affects the quality of local food.
Whether you take the train to Wakasa or not, your journey should include a quick stop at Wakasa Station, officially recognized for its historical significance. Just on the other side of the tracks, visitors can walk over to the antique 1930s steam locomotive engine on display. While it’s no longer running on the short-but-sweet Wakasa Rail Line, train enthusiasts flock here for this and the uniquely decorated one-car trains that chug through Wakasa. Still, it’s just as enchanting to the average traveler.
…for travelers who want an authentic yet accessible Japan experience.
A few notable mountains provide the area with rustic hiking and winter sports for tourists, including Mount Hyōno (1,509 meters) and Mount Mimuro (1,358 meters).
While in town, have a stroll on Kariya Dori Street with its architecturally old-fashioned wooden buildings and cute shops. If you’re looking for a delicious but reasonably priced meal, try Arata. One of its signature dishes is a thick-and-juicy roast pork cutlet meal visitors can enjoy while sitting on a traditional tatami mat floor.
After a rest and meal, there’s more to do and see. About a 20-minute drive from Wakasa train station is Fudoin Iwayado Temple, mentioned above. It is a historic wooden temple on stilts that was built in 806 AD. Climbing up to it requires a rope but takes just a few moments. The view of the temple embedded into a natural cave is spiritual and picture perfect.
For more on-the-spot information, be sure to visit Wakasa Tourism Center just outside the train station. The friendly staff are happy to help foreign visitors, as well as help with finding bus times for general sightseeing.
Travel around Tottori
The Tottori bus pass costs ¥1,800 and lasts for three days. It is called the 3-Day Wooden Bus Ticket (Tottori-Han Noriai Bus Norihodai Tegata). You can ride most buses around Tottori with this pass, excluding th express bus. In some cases, the ticket includes discounts for some sightseeing spots.