[From September Issue 2010]
Tottori Prefecture is located in western Japan, facing the Sea of Japan. Abundant in myths, ruins, and nature, this prefecture is known for its Tottori Sand Dunes. From spring through autumn, the weather is mostly fine, but it does snow during the winter. Many Japanese people admit that they don’t know where Tottori Prefecture is, and as a result, souvenir T-shirts saying “Tottori is located to the right of Shimane!” have been sold.
Tottori Prefecture has produced two famous manga artists. In Hokuei-cho, where the creator of Detective Conan (Case Closed), AOYAMA Gosho, comes from, you will find the Gosho Aoyama Manga Factory, a testament to his work. His manga is about a high school detective who solves difficult cases, but whose body has been transformed by poison into that of a small boy. Both the manga and anime movie versions are very popular. And, in the museum, you can attempt for yourself the same, locked-room murder trick that is depicted in his Detective Conan manga.
Sakaiminato City is known as the home to manga GeGeGe-no-Kitaro creator MIZUKI Shigeru, and as the city of youkai (Japanese monsters). His manga features storylines in which the main character, Kitaro, fights against evil alongside his fellow youkai Medama Oyaji (Eyeball Father) and Nezumi Otoko (Rat Man), in pursuit of a world where humans and youkai can live together peacefully. Mizuki Shigeru Road, located just outside JR Sakaiminato Station, is lined with 139 bronze youkai statues depicting characters from his manga.
Along the same road is the Mizuki Shigeru Museum where his work and activities as a writer are simply explained, making it an enjoyable time for people of all ages. Exhibits such as “The Workplace of Mizuki Shigeru” and “The Youkai Apartment,” where Kitaro lives, invite visitors into the world of youkai. The museum’s most popular attraction, “The Youkai Cave,” is a must-see. It showcases 40 different youkai all with differently-timed lighting and sound effects. There is also an audio guide service available for more detailed exhibit explanations, in Japanese, Korean, Russian, Chinese and English.
Heading from Mizuki Shigeru Road towards Sakai Port about thirty minutes away, you will come to Sakai Daiba Park. Here, in spring, about 350 cherry trees blossom throughout the park, which are then illuminated nightly by a lighthouse. Next to the park is Sea and Life Museum. It’s an aquarium exhibiting 4,000 stuffed specimens and samples of 700 kinds of fish, crabs and sea shells. The specimens of a huge, 2.8-meter long headfish, and a 4.2-meter long great white shark (carcharodon carcharias) are both very powerful to look at.
In Yonago City, located just next to Sakaiminato City, you will find the Yonago Waterbird Sanctuary, a protected wetland registered during the 2008 Ramsar Convention. With an area of about 28 hectares, the park is rich in nature, with a maximum of 10,000 wild birds of over 100 species landing there yearly from autumn through winter. From mid-October to mid-March, Bewick’s swans arriving from Russia can also be observed. At the park’s Nature Center, there is an observation hall with a huge, glass picture window, through which visitors can enjoy bird-watching to their heart’s content.
For its citizens, Mt. Daisen is the symbol of Tottori. Standing 1,709 meters high, the mountain is home to beech trees, mizu-nara (quercus crispula) and hornbeams, and is inhabited by such rare, wild animals as golden eagles, hawk eagles and yamane (Japanese door mice). Near its summit is a cluster of Daisen kyaraboku (Daisen yew trees), which is designated as a Special Natural Treasure of Japan. There are also a number of camp sites and ski resorts in the mountain’s vicinity.
The Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography, which commands a clear view of Mt. Daisen, exhibits works by world famous photographer SHOJI Ueda. In France, the birthplace of photography, the photographs he created are introduced as Udeda-cho (Ueda style), as they originally were in Japanese. The Picture Exhibit Room is the main attraction, where you can experience the feeling of actually being inside a camera. The museum also has one of the world’s largest camera lenses focused directly on Daisen National Park.
One of Totottri Prefecture’s signature products is the Nijisseiki Pear. At the Nashikkokan (Tottori Nijisseiki Pear Museum) in Kurayoshi City, 11 exhibits, including pear trees with trunks 3 meters in diameter, explain the Nijisseiki Pear. At the Pear Kitchen Gallery, you can try pear samples and pear-flavored teas.
Just next to Kurayoshi City is Yurihama-cho, you’ll find the Encho-en Chinese garden, Japan’s largest, and famous as the host venue for the Chinese Cosplay Convention, and other grand events. This Chinese garden was designed and built in Hebei province, China, then reconstructed here under the direction of Chinese engineers. With a total area of 10,000 square meters, this vast garden was used as a location for the TV drama “Saiyuki,” which was broadcast in 2006. Chinese acrobatics and martial arts, including juujutsu, are performed in this garden on a daily basis.
The highlights of this tour are the Tottori Sand Dunes in Tottori City. As one of Japan’s three great sand dunes, they stretch 16 kilometers from east to west and 2 kilometers from north to south, with a difference in height of up to 90 meters from their highest to lowest points. The dunes were created by seasonal winds blowing sand from the Chugoku Mountains. They were magnificently formed over a long period of time and are now a major tourist attraction, one designated in 1955 as a national natural treasure. Located along the Sea of Japan, the sand dunes also overlook the ocean.
On the Tottori Sand Dunes, you can see camels leisurely walking about and horses pulling carriages. On the dune slopes, also called “the horse’s back,” you can further enjoy sandboarding, a sport similar to snowboarding and surfing, where you slide down (the sand-covered hills) on a flat board. You can also fly over the dunes with a paraglider.
OKANO Teiichi, who wrote “Furusato” (hometown), a song that most Japanese would have sung as a child, is from Tottori City. And because many other artists who have greatly contributed to Japanese music are also from this city, the Warabekan was established in 1995. Within the building’s retro-styling, you can listen to nostalgic Japanese songs and look at many toys.
From Haneda Airport (Tokyo), it takes about one hour and 10 minutes to fly to Tottori Airport, and 1 hour and 15 minutes to Yonago Kitaro Airport. From Tokyo Station, it takes about 5 hours and 20 minutes to get to Tottori Station using Nozomi Shinkansen and Super Hakuto, and about 5 hours and 20 minutes to Yonago Station using Nozomi Shinkansen and Super Yakumo.
Text: KAKUTANI Risa