Talking about Tottori feels like recounting a dream. In it, Japan has sand dunes, a family welcomes you in a rainy garden and paper lasts a millennium. A trip to Tottori unlocks more tranquil experiences. There are temples and tea where you share the calm with ducks and turtles, as well as rolling rice fields and thundering waterfalls that make you stop and live in the moment. Japan’s least populated and slightly off-the-radar prefecture is, in fact, only an hour’s flight from Tokyo. And it’s a place that can change you softly and for the better. 

Sand, Water, Magic – The Stunning Nature of Tottori

Tottori Sand Dunes and Tottori Sand Museum

The naturally-occurring Tottori Sand Dunes have become a shorthand for the prefecture as they are its most-visited landmark. Neither a classic desert nor a beach, the dunes are a world of their own. They feel both small and limitless at once. The views change with the weather, every rolling cloud creating a slightly different impression that you can’t get enough of. Perhaps that’s why there is a myriad of activities on the dunes, from adrenaline-inducing paragliding and sandboarding to yoga sessions where you breathe in and out with the wind and the waves. In summer, you can also meditate and stargaze with organized group tours. 

Built directly on a sandbank, the Tottori Sand Museum takes the sand magic further by creating towering sand sculptures with only sand and water. Produced by Katsuhiko Chaen, the museum sculptures are built by artists from around the world. After a certain period, they are demolished and returned to the sandbank beneath until they rise again the next year in a different image. It’s the perfect juxtaposition of the ephemeral and the eternal. 

When in the area, take a coffee break in the Kengo Kuma-designed Takahama Café for a view of the dunes from the rooftop and to see how their aesthetic was translated into design. 

Uradome Coast

The Tottori Sand Dunes are just one part of the San’in Kaigan Geopark. Tottori’s coast is lined with beautiful beaches lapped by turquoise waters. One highlight is the Uradome coast. Hop on the Uradome sightseeing boat that weaves around triangular cliffs dramatically chiseled by Mother Nature and Father Time. There are several dozens of beautiful rock formations, some austerely beautiful, while others sprout pines or nanohana flowers in spring.

Amedaki Falls

Up in the hills near Tottori city, the Amedaki Falls crash majestically from 40 meters above, filling out the valley with mist. Amedaki (literally meaning “rain falls”) shares the valley with the smaller Nunobiki and Hakodaki falls. This is just the start of a hike dotted with scores of waterfalls. It’s a captivating place that makes you just breathe and listen. It’s no wonder these falls were worshiped in ancient times and appear in many legends and folktales. To this day, there are Shinto rituals at the Amedaki Falls, such as the annual Umbrella Dance in June.

Just like the other wonderful nature spots in Tottori, Amedaki too feels like a mystical, remote and serene spot. Yet it’s easily accessible, just two minutes away on foot from a parking lot.

Feel-good Food

Tofu Ryori Amedaki

Pure water makes a world of a difference in food and Tofu Ryori Amedaki has a holy waterfall practically in its backyard. Just sitting in the lodge-like restaurant with windows that open to the surrounding greenery feels like a treat. Then it gets even better as the angelic soft freshly made tofu reaches your table. Also, try the tofu chikuwa, which mixes tofu and ground fish meat, as well as the tofu doughnuts and desserts the restaurant is proud of.

Organic Vegetables in Ebako Gohan

Run by a lovely married couple in an old family house, it’s impossible not to feel at home at Ebako Gohan. The lady of the house will gladly share her recipes for the colorful dishes made with organic local vegetables, while her husband shows you the art their daughter makes. Having a meal here means you’re sampling the best the community farmers have to offer, from handpicked tea to ancient rice cultivars not grown industrially. Buy a naturally-dyed scarf or a homemade muffin for the road on your way out. 

Matcha in Kannon-in Temple

Kannon-in Temple is a heavenly place that is best known for its landscape garden. Open to the public year-round, it has its charms in all seasons, whether in the quiet rain or brilliant sun. The garden is best viewed with a cup of matcha in your hand, available to any visitor walking in for a small fee. Forgetting time is a bonus.

Art Therapy

Pottery Shopping in Inshu Nakai Kiln

Inshu Nakai Kiln is a family business spanning four generations. Building and expanding on folk crafts, the award-winning ceramics from this kiln are known for their three-tone designs. A visit here offers a peek into the history of ceramics. There’s also the current studio and gallery, where you can buy individual pieces. Inshu Nakai Kiln is so popular, it’s often full of orders for the whole year. 

Japanese Washi Paper Making at Aoya Washi Kobo

“Washi paper can last 1,000 years,” the employees at Aoya Washi Kobo say with pride about this ancient Japanese craft that’s sadly on the brink of extinction. The modern facility offers washi-making workshops, guiding you through multiple steps and utilizing fast-drying machines so you can take the finished product home. From sifting the washi pulp to designing patterns it’s a meditative and rewarding process. 

You can also shop for more washi in the gift shop. Please note that advance reservations are necessary. 

More Info

Tottori is serenely beautiful in all seasons. If you happen to travel there in winter, make sure you treat yourself to some Tottori snow crab. If you’re there in the summer, do not miss the traditional Shan-shan Festival. Featuring about 4,000 dancers, it’s Tottori’s biggest umbrella dance festival. 

To learn more about Tottori, visit the city’s official website.

Enter our Giveaway

TW is collaborating with Tottori City to gift 10 lucky readers gorgeous ceramic tableware from Inshu Nakai Kiln.

Terms and Conditions

  • Tableware items range from mugs to plates of various sizes and designs.
  • Giveaway is open to Japan residents only.
  • Winners will be randomly selected and will receive one item at random.

All you need to do is fill in this short survey to enter the giveaway. The survey is open until September 29, 2023.