In August I went with some friends to Tottori, the capital city of the Tottori prefecture and home of the Tottori Sand Dunes. I wasn’t interested at all until I heard that paragliding would be involved. There was no way I was going to pass up gliding through the air in a big metal framed glider! Oh… wait… that’s hang gliding… I didn’t realize the difference between hang gliding and paragliding until the week before my trip.
What I Thought I Was Doing…
What I Really Did…
Sure, paragliding looks like it would still be fun, but I’ve been parasailing and isn’t it the same thing? The only difference is that one is over water and one is over land – at least that’s what I thought at the time. I had not been impressed with parasailing, but I thought maybe paragliding would be different – it was – it was 100 times HARDER! We hiked up on the dunes, carrying a 40 lb pack with our equipment and it was 90+ degrees. After we paraglided, we had to hike back up the hill to jump off again. It was incredibly difficult. It was fun, but difficult – would I do it again? Probably not.
Now for the rest of Tottori… Tottori is a tiny little town on Japan’s San-in coast which translates to mean the ‘northern shady side of the mountains’. We took a train to Tottori from Himeji for 3,500 yen and took a bus back to Himeji for 2,000 yen. It was about an hour and a half by train and 2.5 hours by bus. The route is scenic and takes you through mountains. The town itself doesn’t have a whole lot to do – the main attractions are on the sand dunes, but there isn’t a whole lot to choose from. I found this great map on the dunes web site:
When we arrived in Tottori we took the bus through the city and up the hills to the dunes. It was the most affordable and easiest way to get to the dunes. It picked us up from the train station. On our way up the hill we passed the Sand Museum and immediately ruled it out. It didn’t look like something that we’d be interested in – it was full of sand castles and other structures made out of sand. When we got to the drop off point we learned that Tottori was known for pears and they sold everything Pear flavored you could think of! After walking through the information center we followed the path up the hill to the dunes. It was pretty amazing to see how the dunes seemed to go on forever.
All of us wanted to take a camel ride so we found our way over to them to check it out.
Several of my friends took rides but after I saw that the camels were guided by ropes attached to a piercing in their nose I opted not to go. I didn’t think it was fair to the camels. (Plus I rode a camel when I was 6 at the Columbus Zoo and I think that one camel ride in a lifetime is enough!)
After the camel ride, we began to hike across the dunes to the lookout point. I would guess that it was maybe a mile to a mile and a half of walking up and down dunes in 90 degree weather. Once I made it to the top I was worn out!
Some of my friends went down to the bottom of the dune but I opted to stay at the top. The view was beautiful!
After getting terribly hot and sunburn sitting at the top of the dune we decided to return to the information area. There was a place to wash your feed and legs to remove the sand which was extremely helpful. We boarded the next bus and headed back to our hotel the APA Hotel, an extremely affordable chain hotel I’ve stayed in several times since I’ve been in Japan.
Overall the trip was nice: I had good company, it didn’t rain and it was affordable. Would I go back? Probably not – there was very little to do and I felt like I had seen similar dunes in North Carolina on the Outter Banks, so I wasn’t to enthused about Tottori. I’m not so sure that I would recommend visiting the dunes unless you just happen to be in the area, but if ever you’re in the Tottori Prefecture it makes an inexpensive side trip!
***Side note: While we were on the dunes one of my friends had a heat stroke. If you do decide to go to Tottori please make sure you drink more than enough water, wear appropriate clothing, bring sunscreen and possibly cooling packs. Stay safe!
I thought I’d share since I have discovered recently that I am obsessed with Hello Kitty…