Monday, January 25, 2016

Japan Solo // Tottori: The Woman in the Dunes

After visiting Inujima I started reading up on Japanese author Yukio Mishima, which led me down the Wikipedia rabbit hole and ended with a Japanese novel by Kobo Abe titled The Woman in the Dunes. This inspired me to visit Tottori, the central place in the novel.
I'm pretty worried that my experience will be ruined due to bad weather. It's pretty rough as I sit on the bus, but I see a patch of blue sky and hold onto hope.
And just my luck, as I get off the bus the skies clear up more and the rain is starting to fade. I'm at the sand dunes! 
It's not a big patch so don't expect anything crazy. Technically it's not a desert either since the area gets plenty of rainfall yearly (I can attest...the rain was falling hard that day!). On clear peak tourist days they have camels, hang gliding, the like, that you can do. I don't know...I've seen sand on beaches before and the seashore, but I was still super excited to see this. 
And of course, as I head out to the sand dunes the weather turns on a dime. The wind and rain gets quite strong. Thank god I was smart enough to wear my North Face jacket. The way the weather changes in an instant brings back memories of Fuji.
Wish I could've spent more time enjoying the sand and the waves, but the wind was about to blow me over. I ran into a pack of girls wearing tall leather boots and short miniskirts trying to walk against the wind to the top of the sand dune. That was an amusing sight. Also, tourist tip: drop by the souvenir shop centers before heading out to the dunes. They have rubber boots you can borrow so you don't ruin your shoes in the sand.
Next stop was the Sand Museum! I didn't have high expectations for this place but ended up really enjoying it. The sand sculptures were mind blowing because they were so realistic!
This year's theme was Germany. Artists from around the world use sand to tell a story related to Germany. Below are a couple of shots of my favorite pieces. See if you can guess the topic!

Subjects of the sculptures, in order from the top: "The Pied Piper of Hamelin", "Hohenzollern Castle", and "Sigmaringen Castle and a medieval fortress"

But the sand dunes aren't all that Tottori has to offer. The bus ride back passes through other tourist sites. Tourist tip: Get off any bus that leaves from the sand dunes at Nishi-machi and follow the signs to tourist attractions. They're actually all on the same street so it's easy to visit everything. I started first with the Tottori Prefectual Museum, which is free for students.
I was surprised by how modern the architecture of the building was. In a small place like Tottori I was expecting a more traditional brick building. It's a small museum in Japanese only and most of the items are replicas, but I came across this:
Anyone fancy that for dinner? It definitely killed all my cravings for squid. Shiver.
Walking further down the street I see this European style mansion, Jinpukaku Mansion. I feel like I've seen an exact replica of this building in the Rurouni Kenshin animes. If you keep going further you'll hit the edge of a mountain. I decided to explore it a bit because there are castle remains there. At the top I was greeted with this lovely view of Tottori.
There's not much left of any castle remains at the top, but this plaque explains its former glory. The city planted many cherry blossom trees at the top, so it's probably worth checking out if you visit during the cherry blossom season.
Coming down I saw this sign. Was pretty disappointed I didn't see any of this, though it's probably a good thing because I don't think I can outrun either and I didn't meet anyone on the way.
Another Buddhist temple, Kannonin Temple. I thought it would be a large temple, but it was tiny. It's very tiny but offers a nice garden view and tea. And that wraps up my trip to Tottori. Heading back into the tourist crowds for my next destination. It's famous for a white castle. Can you guess where?

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