When you think of Tottori Prefecture, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the "Tottori Sand Dunes". The spectacular view of the Tottori Sand Dunes is certainly a must-visit tourist destination, but Tottori Sand Dunes is not just about 'sand'. Near the sand dunes are "The Sand Museum", which exhibits some of the world's finest sand sculptures, and the "TAKAHAMA CAFE", a new landmark designed by Kengo Kuma, one of Japan's leading architects. Both are recommended sightseeing spots in Tottori Prefecture. So, this time, I would like to introduce the Tottori Sand Dunes, how to enjoy the surroundings, and some photo shooting spots!
Are the "Tottori Sand Dunes" actually a desert? Learn about the Tottori Sand Dunes from their formation causes and geographic environment!
Many people might mistake the "Tottori Sand Dunes" for a desert just by looking at the pictures. But deserts and sand dunes are completely different concepts. Deserts are dry areas with very little rainfall. Sand dunes, on the other hand, are formed when sand is carried by the wind.
The Tottori Sand Dunes were formed over a period spanning over 100,000 years. First, the rocks of the Chugoku Mountains were weathered and turned into sand. The sand was then brought by the Sendai River in the prefecture to the Sea of Japan, deposited on the seabed, and washed ashore by waves. At last, it was carried by the northwest monsoon, and accumulated inland and became the sand dunes we see today.
The Tottori Sand Dunes are located on the coast along the Sea of Japan in Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture. It stretches 16 km from east to west and 2.4 km from north to south, and is part of the San'inkaigan National Park. Admittedly, the Tottori Sand Dunes are not the largest sand dunes in Japan (the largest in Japan is the Sarugamori Sand Dunes in Aomori prefecture), but it is indeed the largest sand dunes in Japan that you can visit for sightseeing. In addition to being designated as a national Natural Monument, it is also one of Japan's Top 100 geological features. Therefore, when you come to Tottori prefecture, it is a must-see scenic spot.
The charm of the Tottori Sand Dunes varies depending on the season, time of day, and viewing angle. Depending on the strength and direction of the wind, the appearance of the dunes changes instantly, and natural phenomena such as sand columns, sand curtains, and wind ripples appear. When you stand on a small hill called Umanose (馬の背 - horse's back), you can see the sand dunes and the Sea of Japan at the same time. In addition, the Tottori Sand Dunes is also a great place for stargazing, as it is less affected by light pollution.
If you have time, camel rides, sand slides, and paragliding are also must-do experiences. The Tottori Sand Dunes are full of amusements, so you won't get bored even if you spend the whole day there!
The Sand Museum: Co-starring the skills of a sand sculptor and the power of nature
After seeing the works of art created by the power of nature at the Tottori Sand Dunes, let's appreciate the works of sculptors at the "The Sand Museum"! The Sand Museum is the only indoor museum in the world that exhibits sand sculptures. The museum showcases various sand sculptures created with passion by the hands of sculptors.
Based on the concept of "Travel around the World in Sand", the exhibitions are held with the theme changed regularly. The annual exhibition is held from April to early January of the following year, and has been held with the theme of regions such as the United Kingdom, Southeast Asia, the United States, and Northern Europe. Since the period from 2022 to 2023 is the important milestone of the 100th anniversary of Egypt's independence, the museum has selected "Egypt" as the theme for the 14th exhibition.
*You can check the annual exhibition theme on the official website.
Famous sculptors invited from overseas will use the sand of the Tottori Sand Dunes to create sand sculptures based on the culture, art, history, and myths of each country. Spots and buildings that exist in each country, for example, "New York Skyscrapers" in America, "Terracotta Army" in Asia, "Pyramids" and "Nile River" in Egypt, etc. have been beautifully reproduced.
The most notable feature is that no glue is used for sand sculpture. Only sand, water, and the sculptor's excellent technique have been used to create a splendid work. After the exhibition ends, all the works will be destroyed and returned to their original from - sand. In the next exhibition, the sand will be used again to create innovative works. If you want to feel the charm of sand sculptures, or if you want to travel around the world using your sight from within the museum, please pay a visit!
- Spot name: The Sand Museum (砂の美術館)
- Address: 2083-17 Yuyama, Fukube-cho, Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture
- Opening hours: 9:00-17:00 (until 18:00 on Saturdays)
*The exhibition period varies every year, so please see the official website for details.
*The museum will be closed outside the exhibition period for sand sculpture production and opening preparations.
- Access: Take the "Sakyu Line" from Tottori Station Bus Terminal No. 0, get off at "Suna-no-Bijutsukan-mae" and walk for about 1 minute.
- Official site: http://www.sand-museum.jp/en/
"TAKAHAMA CAFE": New landmark designed by Kengo Kuma
If you a fan of coffee and architecture, or if you are looking for an Instagrammable spot, head straight for "TAKAHAMA CAFE"! “TAKAHAMA CAFE” was designed by Kengo Kuma, a representative Japanese architect, is close to the Tottori Sand Dunes and was opened on August 20, 2022. Since its opening, it has become a new tourist attraction in Tottori Prefecture.
Before entering the store, let's first appreciate the exterior designed with sand dunes as a motif! When seen from the side, it looks like a branch of a tree sticking into the earth. When seen from behind, it creates an atmosphere of a straw-roofed hut. This building, which was built with timber from Tottori Prefecture, has a design that makes use of the beautiful natural wood grain. The inside of the store has a wonderful interior that looks like the ripples of the sand dunes.
The cafe particulars about not only the building but also the menu. Both drinks and food use ingredients from Tottori Prefecture. For example, "shaved ice" and "shake" are made with "20th Century Asian Pears" (二十世紀梨 / Nijsseiki Nashi), a specialty of Tottori prefecture. With a crunchy texture and just the right amount of sweetness, they are perfect for summer! We also recommend two types of hamburgers that will fill you up - one using Daisen bacon from Tottori Prefecture, and another Tottori Wagyu beef yakiniku. On sunny days, you can enjoy delicious food, blue skies, and cool breezes on the third-floor terrace while enjoying the spectacular view of the Tottori Sand Dunes in front of you.
- Spot name: Takahama Cafe (タカハマカフェ)
- Address: 2164 Yuyama, Fukube-cho, Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture
- Business hours: 11:00-16:00
- Access: Take the "Sakyu Line" or "Iwami/Iwai Line" from Tottori Station Bus Terminal No. 0, get off at "Sakyu Kaikan" or "Sakyu Higashi-guchi" and walk about 10 minutes.
- Official site: https://takahama-cafe.com/
The charm of the Tottori Sand Dunes actually far exceeds everyone's imagination. Whether you have ever been to the Tottori Sand Dunes or not, your perspective on the Tottori Sand Dunes will probably change after reading this article! How about a trip to the Tottori Sand Dunes and its surroundings on your next vacation?