Tottori Sand Dunes, Tottori Prefecture 鳥取砂丘 鳥取県 鳥取市

Tottori Sand Dunes (Tottori Sakyu) is Tottori’s most famous tourist sight, the undisputed symbol of Tottori. You haven’t visited Tottori until you see the sand dunes. The desert-like sand dunes fronts a big ocean, the Sea of Japan. It’s certainly a change of pace and scenery from your ordinary surroundings.

If it’s not too hot (like in summer), walk across the dunes to the ocean, taking only about 15–20 min. The sand is quite solid and not too soft like Waikiki Beach. Makes it easier to walk. People have fun climbing up the steep sandy slope (upper left photo) or try to sand surf it down. They even have camel rides. The sandscape has many hills and slopes to make it a very photogenic place for portraits and landscape photos.

The sand dunes were formed by ocean currents that deposited the sand on the coast for 100,000 years or so. Winds also blew the sand onto land. Unusual to see a beach being added with sand instead of eroding. However, the sand dunes are actually shrinking in area, so they are now trying to preserve it.

Across the street from the dunes is The Sand Museum (砂の美術館), another must-see if it’s open. The world’s first and only museum dedicated to sand sculptures. Large indoor space with lots of sand sculptures protected from the weather. The museum normally holds a sand sculpture exhibition from April to early January every year featuring a different country or region outside Japan.

When I went to see it in 2017, the theme was U.S.A. and it was awesome. Lots of larger-than-life sand sculptures of iconic Americans including movie stars and American presidents. Upper right photo is Marilyn Monroe in her “Seven Year Itch” dress (thankfully not blown upward, in case you’re wondering). She did visit Japan once with her husband Joe in 1954 and created a media frenzy. Nobody cared about her husband. (Baseball in Japan still hadn’t reached its peak popularity.) All the attention was on her. Too bad it was impractical for her to see much of Japan.

On the lower right is Theodore Roosevelt in sand. Another big sculpture. Notice the veins on his hand, such marvelous detail. At age 42 in 1901, he is still the youngest person to ever become US president. (JFK was 43.) (I won’t call him “Teddy” since he disliked it.) He never visited Japan, but was friendly toward Japan and even practiced a little judo while president. He negotiated peace to end the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, an undersea communications cable between Japan and America opened in 1906, and he negotiated the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907 for Japanese immigration to reduce tensions with Japan.

In Dec. 1907, he sent off the Great White Fleet (US Navy battleships painted white) to tour around the world, and Yokohama, Japan was a major stop in Oct. 1908. The fleet’s one-week visit was quite a celebration in Tokyo. (I have vintage postcards of it.) Too bad his sand sculpture didn’t include any Rough Rider horses, only the Panama Canal whose construction he took over in 1904. Many high schools in the US are named after this president. The one in Honolulu has been rated No. 1 in Hawaii, and the one in Los Angeles even has a Japanese garden. 🐫

👉Tottori Sand Dunes is a short bus ride from JR Tottori Station. In 2021, The Sand Museum’s exhibition theme is Czechia and Slovakia, until Jan. 3, 2022.
Sand Museum:

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