When you think of Japanese landscapes, you might think of mountains, lush green forests, or even the sprawling urban centers of places like Tokyo and Osaka, where the city seems to go on and on. What you may not know though, is that a part of Japan has a landscape that almost looks like a desert, with sand dunes stretching as far as the eye can see. Their natural beauty is well worth a visit.

Camel riding & sandboarding

There are a number of different ways you can experience the sand dunes in all their splendor for yourself. You’re able to just walk around at your leisure and soak up their beauty, or you could choose one of the more unique options – such as a ride on camelback! For a small fee, one of several camels will traverse up and down the dunes with you aboard, and you’d be forgiven at that point if you forgot that you were in Japan!

If you’re more of an extreme sports kind of traveler, you could always opt for a more intense initiation to the dunes – through the Tottori Sakyu Sand Board School. For 3,500 yen, you’re able to shred the sandy hills on a board, just like you would on a ski slope! Training, board rental gear and insurance are all covered in the fee, and it’s sure to get the adrenalin pumping. Do bear in mind that the school here runs seasonally, from March through to December, and prior reservations are required. Boarding also can be cancelled if the weather conditions are bad.

Impressive sand sculptures at the Sand Museum

Once you’ve explored the dunes, whether on foot, by board, or on camelback, you might be looking for a place to relax for a while – and the Tottori Sand Museum is a fantastic spot to explore out of the sun’s glare. The museum here has been in operation since 2006, and each year, artists gather together to build sand sculptures which fit a different global region. For instance, the year I visited the Sand Museum the theme was Russia, and there were various works depicting famous Russian buildings, inventors, astronauts, and more. Other annual events have included Africa, the United States of America, South America, and Great Britain. The intricacy and precision of these works is definitely something to behold, and makes a humble sandcastle at the beach look literally like child’s play!

If you’re looking for a more off the beaten path travel destination with attractions you can’t find elsewhere in the country, a trip to the Tottori Sand Dunes and Sand Museum may be just the solution.


Getting to Tottori

  • ANA flies from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Tottori daily, with a flight time lasting just over an hour.
  • The Tottori Sand Dunes are approximately a 15-minute drive from the airport itself.
  • Both the Sand Museum and the Tottori Sakyu Sand Board School are located in close proximity to the “main” entrance to the sand dunes themselves.

Tottori Sakyu Sand Board School

Sand Museum


I'm Kim, and I've lived in Japan for the last five years. I've traveled to 38 of 47 prefectures during that time, and I love sharing my travel adventures with others!
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