Translated by Greg
JR-WEST RAIL PASS: Visit Amazing Destinations in Tottori and Shimane
Written by MATCHA-PR
If you plan to travel to Tottori or Shimane, use economical transit passes such as Kansai WIDE Area Pass or San'in-Okayama Area Pass offered by JR-WEST. We introduce a recommended three-day itinerary featuring famous destinations such as the Tottori Sand Dunes and Izumo Taisha Shrine!
See the San'in Area's Top Spots With a Handy JR Pass!
Picture courtesy of Chizu Express
If you're traveling through Kansai International Airport or Osaka, you can use the convenient Kansai WIDE Area Pass to explore amazing destinations across western Japan. Board a limited express train for Tottori, or get on the Shinkansen headed for Okayama. From Okayama, you can get to Tottori and Shimane by using the San'in-Okayama Area Pass.
The convenient transit passes mentioned above are just two of the several budget passes offered by JR-West under the name of JR-WEST RAIL PASS. Use them to travel and see major destinations in Tottori and Shimane easily and economically!
Kansai WIDE Area Pass
The Kansai WIDE Area Pass is a part of the JR-WEST RAIL PASS, JR-West's unlimited use passes.
This transit pass is very convenient for getting to the major cities in the Kansai Region. It also allows you to go farther and explore places like Amanohashidate (Kyoto Prefecture), Kinosaki Onsen (Hyogo Prefecture), Wakayama, Tottori, and Okayama.
- These transit passes are valid on Shinkansen trains (including Nozomi and Mizuho) in the designated area, limited express trains, express trains, local trains, JR buses, and more.
- Validity Period: 5 days
- Seating: Reserved seating (up to 6 times) and unreserved seating. Avoid the crowds and enjoy your trip by reserving your seat ahead of time!
- Price: Adults 10,000 yen and up; children 5,000 yen and up (*1).
*1... Prices can differ slightly depending on where you purchase your ticket. For details, please see the official website of the Kansai WIDE Area Pass.
San'in-Okayama Area Pass
The San'in-Okayama Area Pass is also part of the JR-WEST RAIL PASS. This pass can be used on limited express trains to get from Okayama to the San'in area (Tottori, Shimane, Hagi, etc.), and also for city tour buses in Tottori and Matsue city.
- These passes are valid on limited express trains in the designated area, express trains, local trains, the Loop Kirinjishi bus, Matsue Lakeline bus, and more.
- Validity Period: 4 days.
- Seating: Unreserved seating (reserved seating available for an additional charge).
- Price: Adults 4,580 yen; children 2,290 yen and up.
*Prices can differ slightly depending on where you purchase your ticket. For details please see the official website of the San'in-Okayama Area Pass.
For visitors who would like to travel as far as Okayama, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi, we recommend using the San'yo-San'in Area Pass, in addition to the passes introduced above.
For those who have purchased a JR-West product, including the JR-WEST RAIL PASS, we highly recommend Travel Support by JR-WEST.
This useful service supports travelers in times of need including illness, as well as allergy and dietary restrictions, and more. It's a convenient web app that doesn't require a download to access.
Now, let's take a look at some of the best destinations to visit using these convenient passes!
Day One: Wonderful Places to Visit in Tottori
Tottori, a prefecture facing the Sea of Japan, is blessed with delicious seafood and breathtaking natural scenery. It's also the home of two manga artists who created popular manga series like "GeGeGe no Kitaro" and "Detective Conan."
So, first thing in the morning, let's hop on the limited express Super Hakuto in Osaka and head for Tottori!
Tottori Sand Dunes
The Tottori Sand Dunes is probably the most famous scenic spot in Tottori. The sand dunes are like a mystery-filled desert!
The stunning scenery of the Tottori Sand Dunes changes with each season. At night you can enjoy the sight of star-filled skies and there are many excellent places for taking photos.
Picture courtesy of Tottori Prefecture©
There are various sightseeing plans to help visitors to enjoy the Tottori Sand Dunes.
You can ride a camel, explore the dunes by rental bicycle or fat bike, and even go paragliding! These are all activities that are hard to experience anywhere else in Japan.
Access to the Tottori Sand Dunes: 20 minutes by city bus from JR Tottori Station.
The Sand Museum
The Sand Museum is an amazing place to visit just a five-minute walk from the Tottori Sand Dunes. The facility holds exhibitions of beautiful sand sculptures.
Every year, the museum's displays change, but the core concept of the facilityー"Travel Around the World in Sand"ーremains the same. The people, architecture, and folklore of various countries serve as motifs for these stunning sand sculptures.
Just looking at the many sand sculptures, you'll feel like you've been on a round-the-world trip!
All the pieces are created by world-class sculptors. While dealing with the constant risk of sand collapse, these artists examine the challenge of using light and shadow to make their artwork look three-dimensional.
The sculptures are made using finely powdered sand from the Tottori Sand Dunes, mixed with equal parts water.
Knowing what goes into the making of these sand sculptures, you'll appreciate them even more—from the detailed artwork to their beautiful appearance and the dynamic, uplifting feeling they inspire.
For visitors who would like to see the Tottori Sand Dunes and The Sand Museum, we recommend taking a sightseeing taxi (half-day) departing from JR Tottori Station. If you use this taxi, admission to The Sand Museum is included. For details on sightseeing taxis in Tottori, please contact Nippon Travel Agency (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Kurayoshi Shirakabe Warehouses
Photo by Pixta
The Kurayoshi Shirakabe Warehouses, or Kurayoshi White Wall Warehouses, are a sight that evokes a traditional atmosphere. Faithfully preserved since the Edo Period, this district is a collection of unique buildings.
If you want to fully enjoy the historic flavor of these streetscapes and buildings, we recommend putting on a yukata and going for a leisurely stroll, taking some memorable photos, or joining a hands-on traditional crafts workshop.
Access to Kurayoshi Shirakabe Warehouses: 30 minutes from JR Tottori Station by limited express train (one hour by local train).
Accommodation in Misasa Onsen
Photo by Pixta
After your first day, we suggest spending the night at Misasa Onsen—a hot spring town near Kurayoshi.
At Misasa Onsen, you'll find one of the world's leading mineral hot springs.
Containing a high concentration of minerals, these hot spring waters are said to improve one's metabolism and strengthen the immune system.
Photo by Pixta
Mitoku River runs through Misasa Onsen. There are a number of hot springs located along the riverbank, along with foot baths. It's an ideal place to go for a relaxing walk.
If you have some time, try out the mist sauna (*reservations required) where visitors inhale the healthful properties of vaporized minerals. Joining a star-gazing tour is also a memorable experience!
Access to Misasa Onsen: 20 minutes from JR Kurayoshi Station by city bus (some hotels offer a complimentary shuttle bus).
Day Two: Explore Shimane, the Land of Ancient Myths!
Shimane is a prefecture immersed in history. Many Japanese creation myths are set in Shimane, that is why the whole region is also known as "the land of myths."
Picture courtesy of Shimane Prefecture
If you're traveling on a Friday or weekend, we recommend reserving a seat on the Ame Tsuchi sightseeing train (*reserved seating requires an additional charge) that is headed for Matsue and Izumo.
If it's a weekday, use the limited express train Super Oki instead. An unreserved seat on this train doesn't require any extra charges.
From the train window, passengers are treated to panoramic views of the Sea of Japan!
Picture courtesy of Shimane Prefecture©
Matsue Castle, designated a Japanese national treasure, is one of 12 castles in Japan that have preserved their original castle towers. It was built in 1611.
In addition to 400-year-old columns and beams, you can see the castle's original gun ports and water wells; stepping inside the castle gives visitors an insight into what the samurais felt as they prepared for battle.
From the castle keep's top floor, you can enjoy an impressive 360-degree view of the area that includes all of Matsue City and Lake Shinji.
Matsue Castle is also famous for its beautiful cherry blossoms, and in the springtime, the area is bustling with visitors enjoying the blossom-viewing festivities.
Access to Matsue Castle: 10 minutes from JR Matsue Station by the Matsue Lakeline bus.
Horikawa Sightseeing Boat
Photo by Pixta
The Horikawa Sightseeing Boat, which travels along the waters of the castle moat, is also popular with visitors.
Passengers can enjoy a unique view of the historic buildings and streetscapes surrounding the castle, as well as scenery that changes with each season.
While gliding along in this small boat, be sure to listen to the boatman's interesting commentary on Matsue's history (*audio guides are available in several languages).
Kamedayama Tea Room
Kounkaku is a historic mansion located on the grounds of Matsue Castle.
In contrast to the stirring and heroic Matsue Castle, Kounkaku has an elegant and refined atmosphere.
It features western-style architecture, highlighted by a pale green exterior. The building's interior is decorated with beautiful ornaments.
Alongside Kyoto and Kanazawa, Matsue is a town that flourished due to its strong tea culture.
Kamedayama Tea Room is located on Kounkaku's first floor. Here, you can really feel the influence of this distinctive tea culture, not to mention enjoying it yourself!
Our recommendation is the Koicha Affogato (*1). This delicious treat consists of vanilla ice cream covered with a generous amount of locally produced matcha green tea, along with a cute, turtle-shaped cookie!
This dish really brings out the aroma of the green tea and is a refreshing dessert with just the right level of sweetness.
*1: On holidays and when the shop is crowded, there are instances when Koicha Affogato is not available.
Accommodation in Tamatsukuri Onsen
Tamatsukuri Onsen is Shimane's oldest onsen town, and the hot spring water is famous for its skin beautifying properties.
There are many ryokan inns with excellent hot springs in Tamatsukuri Onsen. Moreover, the town has three foot bath areas with free admission.
Tamatsukuri Onsen is also known as a matchmaking spot!
In the picture above you can see a bridge with red-colored railing, sitting in front of Tamatsukuriyu Shrine. Here, many visitors pray for luck in marriage, and then take a photo to commemorate their visit.
Near the bridge is the Yuaka well. Here, you can purchase food for the carp swimming in the nearby waters.
In the Japanese language, "koi" refers to the word "carp" and also the word "love." Visitors throw carp food into the water, then wait. It's said that if a carp swims over to eat it, then love will come your way too!
You can also purchase a small bottle to fill up with spring water from Tamatsukuri Onsen and take it home with you. This all-natural skin toner makes an ideal souvenir!
Access to Tamatsukuri Onsen: 10 minutes from JR Matsue Station by local train. 5 minutes from JR Tamatsukuri Onsen Station by city bus (*some hotels and ryokan offer a complimentary shuttle bus).
Day Three: Visit a Famous Shrine for Good Fortune!
Izumo Taisha Shrine
Picture courtesy of Shimane Prefecture©
Izumo Taisha Shrine is dedicated to the deity Okuninushi no Mikoto.
The shrine has many highlights, including one of the country's largest sacred straw rope decorations (shimenawa), weighing 5.2 tons, and the tallest shrine building in Japan.
According to Japan's traditional lunar calendar, the month of October is referred to as "the month without gods." But only at Izumo Taisha, October is paradoxically called "the month with gods."
This is because during the month of October, the gods from all the shrines in Japan converge and meet at Izumo Taisha, and are therefore absent from their own personal shrines.
The many deities gather at Izumo Taisha for a meeting to discuss issues like the year's upcoming marriages.
It's been said that this has become a popular spot for single people looking for a marriage partner, and for others hoping to improve their interpersonal relationships.
Photo by Pixta
In Japanese mythology, there's a legend in which the deity of Izumo Taisha Shrine saves the life of a rabbit. Because of this tale, there are adorable rabbit statues all throughout the grounds of the shrine!
To get to Izumo Taisha Shrine, we recommend taking a sightseeing taxi from JR Izumoshi Station or from the various hotels in Izumo City. For details on sightseeing taxis in Shimane, please contact Nippon Travel Agency (email@example.com).
Access to Izumo Taisha Shrine: 20 minutes from JR Tamatsukuri-Onsen Station by limited express train, or about 30 minutes by local train. About 30 minutes from JR Izumoshi Station by city bus.
JR-WEST RAIL PASS - The Most Economical Way to See Tottori and Shimane!
On your next visit to Japan, consider using the Kansai WIDE Area Pass and the San'in-Okayama Area Pass to enjoy the sights in Tottori and Shimane!
If you're not rushed for time, check out some of the other sightseeing spots featured in this article.
Finally, for information on how JR-West is handling the COVID-19 situation, please refer to their official website.
Written by Chien
Sponsored by Tottori Prefecture, Shimane Prefecture, and JR-West
Main image courtesy of Tottori Prefecture©