Tottori Sand Dunes
A sand desert along the Sea of Japan
The Tottori Sand Dunes are a small desert in Tottori prefecture in Japan's Chugoku region. Located at the edge of Tottori city along the Sea of Japan, the dunes spread over 16 kilometers from east to west and 2 kilometers from north to south. Their higher point is 47 meters above sea level. Part of San’in Kaigan Geopark, the dunes are a must-see destination for tourists.
The Tottori Sand Dunes are an unusual natural phenomenon created out of sediments that the Sendai River brought from the mountains of Chugoku to the Sea of Japan. Thousands of years old, the dunes are still unknown outside Japan. They haven’t expanded thanks to a reforestation policy implemented at the end of WWII. Nowadays, a concrete wall prevents big waves and tsunamis from carrying away the sediments. Moreover, the city of Tottori is in charge of maintaining the coast with sand supplementation to compensate for the shrinking of the dunes, partially due to the massive number of tourists who visit them (about 2 million per year).
The main attraction of the site spans about 500 meters between the Visitors Center and the sea. The most beautiful views of the coast can be seen there. It is, of course, possible to explore the dunes for several kilometers in any direction. Be careful in summer as the sand is extremely hot (don’t walk barefoot!); on the other hand, closed shoes can also be very uncomfortable when the sand slips in.
Tourists in Tottori will also find various attractions around the dunes. For example, they could take a ride on horseback or camelback. Sporty visitors can also choose to paraglide or go sandboarding down the dunes: the same sensations as skiing but without being cold! The Sakyu Center features an observation deck where tourists can enjoy the view beyond the dunes; it is even accessible by chairlift.
A stone’s throw away from the dunes stands the Sand Museum: It is the only exhibition in the world displaying huge sand sculptures made by international artists. The artworks used to be displayed under temporary structures, but in 2012, the museum added a new building. The exhibition’s themes vary each year and often focus on a country or region.