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What?! Tottori Prefecture Ranked #1 Destination to Visit in 2019?

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Is 2019 Tottori’s time to shine?

When most people think of visiting Japan, they probably think of neon-lit, bustling cities like Tokyo and Osaka, or the old capital city of Kyoto. However, it was Japan’s most rural area—Tottori Prefecture—that was named the number one Japan place to visit in Japan  in 2019 by GajinPot Travel.

GajinPot Travel is a popular English-language Japanese website that has been reporting on travel to Japan since the early 2000s. Every year, its rankings for the best places to visit in Japan are closely watched by would-be visitors to the country, and tourism providers.

This year, it was Tottori, on Japan’s south west coast, that took out the number one place. To claim the top spot, Tottori Prefecture beat out others including Fukuoaka City (#2) and the Daikanya ma neighborhood in Tokyo (#3).

GajinPot explained it had been a good year for Tottori, with the prefecture making an appearance on the American late-night talk show Conan, and then making further headlines by offering a $17,000 crab dish. However, it’s not the expensive crab, but the landscapes, that really make it a stand-out destination.

Conan O’Brien announces his trip to Hokuei, a.k.a. “Conan Town,” in Tottori Prefecture

Tottori Prefecture is bordered by Shimane, Hyogo, Okayama and Hiroshima Prefectures, and has the fewest people of any prefecture in Japan. More than 14% of Tottori Prefecture is designated as a part of a national park—so it is an amazing haven for nature lovers and those who enjoy adventure activities.

Tottori’s landscape is best known for its expansive and beautiful sand dunes (Tottori Sakyū) which make up part of the San’in Coastal National Park. The dunes span roughly 16 kilometers (10 mi) of coastline, can be up to 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) wide and reach heights of up to 50 meters (164 ft). Not only are the dunes themselves very beautiful, but they enjoy a gorgeous setting on the coast of the Japan Sea.

The sand dunes are easily accessed from Tottori City by either bus or car. Many visitors love the challenge of climbing the dunes on foot, however, there’s also a cable car ride to get to a great viewpoint at the Sakyū (Sand Dunes) Center. Here, there is also a gift shop and coffee shop.

Also accessible by cable car is the Sand Museum, which features many amazing and realistic sand sculptures. There are permanent works as well as temporary exhibits, such as a popular ‘America’ exhibition which featured a sand version of the famous Mount Rushmore faces!

Tottori’s famous sand dunes

One of the main reasons that GajinPot Travel named Tottori Prefecture the number one destination to visit in Japan was its many adrenaline activities. Those who love to get a thrill on holiday will be spoiled for choice in the prefecture! At the sand dunes alone, visitors can enjoy horse rides, camel rides, sandboarding and paragliding.

Another of the famous adventure destination in Tottori Prefecture is Mount Daisen. Although Mount Daisen is not the largest mountain in Japan (Mount Fuji’s got that one covered), it is thought to be the most difficult. In fact, it is one of the preferred spots for practicing to conquer Mount Everest!

Mount Daisen, “The Fuji of the West”

So, visitors wanting to get some serious bragging rights might like to try to conquer Mount Daisen either by hiking, or perhaps on a snowboard in winter. Another option is to take a more laidback tour with an expert guide—cycling is one fun way to conquer at least some of the mountain.

While at Mount Daisen visitors may also want to keep an eye out for some of the more unusually decorated sites in the area, including Hoto Shrine, a shrine dedicated to hoto (hoto is an archaic term used to refer to female genitalia).

Kannon-in Temple in Tottori

There are also plenty of other more traditional sights in the area, including the 400-year-old Kannon-in Temple and the Kotoku-ji Temple, which has long been associated with sumo wrestling.

Another beautiful spot to enjoy a peaceful respite from the adventure activities is in the Encho-en Garden, one of Japan’s few genuine Chinese gardens.

A more unusual choice for a relaxed afternoon is a visit to the Nagashibina Doll Museum, which houses a collection of more than 1,000 dolls. It’s an interesting, if slightly odd, sight. Then there’s also the Gosho Aoyama Museum in Hokuei Town for fans of the popular and long-running Detective Conan manga and anime series.

History buffs will also enjoy visiting the ruins of Tottori Castle, which was built in 1540, and then captured in 1580. The inhabitants originally barricaded themselves in to escape the invading forces, with rumors that after more than 200 days locked inside, they even resorted to cannibalism. Although it is today in ruins, it is still an interesting and eerie place to visit.

Visitors who find themselves with aching legs or feet after all their exploring and adventuring may like to finish off their stay with a trip to one of the onsen (hot springs) in the area. There are many great places to just sit back and soak within the prefecture, such as the hot spring town of Misasa (which is also a renowned cultural destination), and several locations in the heart of Tottori City, including the aptly named Tottori Onsen.

The Takara Onsen of Tottori Onsen in Tottori, Tottori prefecture

Those who already know and love Tottori Prefecture might want to book their holidays in early—as we’re definitely expecting to see a rise in travel thanks to the GajinPot crown!

Here’s a video of Tottori’s beautiful sand dunes

Source: GaijinPot Travel
Featured image: Tottori Sand Dunes (Getty Images)
Othehr images: Wikipedia Commons

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