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The JR-WEST Sanyo-San’in Area Pass is an affordable seven-day pass for unlimited travel in some of the most beautiful areas in western Japan. We introduce amazing places to visit in Okayama, Tottori, and Shimane using this pass, as well as how to use it safely in the times of COVID-19.
Picture courtesy of JR-WEST
A source of worry for many international visitors to Japan is expenses. However, you can save on travel expenses and shorten travel time by utilizing day passes issued by regional railway companies! This makes it possible to enjoy your trip without worrying about the costs.
The Sanyo-San'in Area Pass is perfect for those who want to travel around western Japan. This seven-day pass is valid over a wide range of areas, as shown in the map above. It can also be used for reserved seats on the Sanyo Shinkansen and limited express trains in the available area.
Additionally, the pass can be used as soon as you land at Kansai International Airport in Osaka. More than anything, it's a great deal averaging under 2,900 yen per day for seven days at just 20,000 yen (plus tax, *overseas sales price).
Okayama, Tottori, and Shimane in western Japan are garnering attention from international visitors.
The Discover Another Japan Pass is an affordable attraction pass that can be used for entry and fares at sightseeing spots in the area. If you are visiting these three prefectures with the Sanyo-San'in Area Pass, then snag an even better deal by using it along with the Discover Another Japan Pass.
The Adachi Museum of Art in Shimane and Ohara Museum of Art in Okayama are must-see facilities. You also can't leave out taking a sightseeing boat to Tottori's beautiful Uradome Coast.
Enjoy a feast of "beauty" via the fine arts and Japanese gardens while saving money.
*In this article, we've introduced two day travel passes—the Sanyo-San'in Area Pass and Discover Another Japan Pass—for international visitors. The Sanyo-San'in Area Pass can be purchased on the Discover Another Japan Pass app after downloading it to your phone. Japanese nationals cannot use these passes.
Okayama Prefecture is known as the Land of Sunshine for its warm climate, thanks to the land facing the Seto Inland Sea. The prefecture is famous for Okayama Korakuen garden, one of Japan's three best gardens, and the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, an area boasting a gorgeous townscape. We also recommend Kibitsujinja Shrine and the Mt. Washuzan Observation Deck.
Kibitsujinja Shrine in Kita Ward, Okayama City is an ancient shrine famous as a spiritual spot. The main deity enshrined here is Ohkibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto, a figure that once governed this land. It's also the model for Momotaro, a hero from Japanese folklore.
Take a step into the shrine grounds and you’ll see a main shrine with an unusually shaped roof. This architectural style for shrines is called hiyoku irimoya-zukuri (or kibitsu-zukuri). Additionally, the main shrine is a designated National Treasure of Japan.
The cloister, built parallel to the terrain, is another highlight. Stand there to enter an illusory space that appears as if the corridor is endless.
The shrine has a historical ambiance. No wonder it's often used as a filming location for historical movies. Many movie fans visit the shrine to see the setting of their favorite scenes in real life.
Access: 18 minutes from JR Okayama Station to JR Kibitsu Station. 10 minutes on foot from JR Kibitsu Station.
The Setonaikai National Park, centered around the Seto Inland Sea, was Japan’s first national park. Mt. Washuzan, a distinct designated area of the park, has gorgeous scenery that has been drawing the attention of visitors in recent years. The observation deck, where you can gaze out at this picturesque view, is especially popular.
The summit is on the lower side at 133 meters in height. However, you can still enjoy the views of the Great Seto Bridge connecting Okayama to Shikoku on the opposite shore. Visitors can also spot small islands in the sea. The evening view, selected as one of Japan's one hundred best sunsets, is also a must-see view.
Access: 20 minutes from JR Okayama Station to JR Kojima Station. Afterward, take the route bus for 30 minutes.
Tottori Prefecture, located on the Sea of Japan side of the mainland, is easily accessible from Okayama or Osaka by train. The places we’ll be introducing are the Tottori Sand Dunes, Uradome Coast, and Kurayoshi’s Shirakabe Storehouses (White Wall District)—all famous sightseeing spots.
Tottori Sand Dunes. Photo by Pixta
Tottori Sand Dunes—the most famous dunes in Japan—is where picturesque sights await along with exciting experiences and activities! At the Sand Dunes, you can try camel rides, sand dunes yoga, sand painting workshops, and much more.
If you're someone that loves being physically active, then we recommend fat bike riding, paragliding, or the Segway tour at the Sand Dunes.
Additionally, a visit to The Sand Museum is a must. It's the only museum in the world that exclusively exhibits sand sculptures. The Discover Another Japan Pass can be used for admission.
Access: 20 minutes by route bus from JR Tottori Station.
Uradome Coast Photo by Pixta
Uradome Coast—around 20 minutes by car from the Tottori Sand Dunes—is a place of natural scenic beauty formed by erosion from the Sea of Japan on the coastline. The entire area is a part of San'in Kaigan Geopark.
The sight of the terrain on this 15-meter-long coastline almost feels like a natural geological museum composed of sea caves (a cave formed by erosion from waves on a sea cliff), caverns, and white sandy beaches.
Try going on the Uradome Coast Island Pleasure Boat here. Experience the attractions of Tottori from the water and gaze at the strangely shaped rocks on the coast and in the pristine waters of the Sea of Japan. The Discover Another Japan Pass can be used for the pleasure boat.
Access: 25 minutes from JR Tottori Station to JR Iwami Station. 15 minutes by route bus from JR Iwami Station.
Kurayoshi’s Shirakabe Storehouses (White Wall District). Photo by Pixta
The photo above will give you a sense of history. Doesn’t it feel as if we’ve traveled back in time to the Edo Period (1603-1868)? The Kurayoshi’s Shirakabe Storehouses (White Wall District), located in Kurayoshi in central Tottori, is a beautiful scenic spot that was nationally designated as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings.
You can take your time strolling the streets while clad in Kurayoshi-kasuri (a local style kimono) or a yukata. Or experience the traditional craft of painting faces onto Hakota dolls. Immerse yourself in the town's ambiance while spending time your own way.
Access: 10 minutes by route bus from JR Kurayoshi Station.
Shimane Prefecture is known as the Land of Myths due to the many places featured in Japan's creation myths found throughout the prefecture. There are several spots that bring luck in love and are visited by people across Japan seeking a fated match. It's also home to historical structures and townscapes.
We recommend Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine and Matsue Castle.
Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine. Photo by Pixta
This setting commonly appears in Japanese mythology. Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine is one of the most famous places in Shimane. According to mythology, the gods would gather at Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine every year on the tenth month of the lunar calendar and discuss marriage and relationships among the people. In particular, the shrine is often visited by those looking for luck in love.
Do note that this shrine has a different praying etiquette than other shrines. You bow twice, clap four times, then bow once more.
Access: 25 minutes by route bus from JR Izumoshi Station.
Matsue Castle Keep. Photo by Pixta
There are 12 castle keeps in Japan that have existed since the Edo Period (1603-1868). The keep of Matsue Castle, located in the capital city of Shimane, is one of them and is also a national treasure of Japan. If you visit Matsue Castle in spring, the cherry blossoms interwoven with the keep make for a gorgeous picture.
Horikawa Sightseeing Boat. Photo by Pixta
Take a sightseeing boat in the canal and experience romantic cherry blossoms alongside the elegant castle. The Discover Another Japan Pass can be used for the sightseeing boat.
Access: 10 minutes by route bus from JR Matsue Station.
Picture courtesy of West Japan Railway Company
Take the Ametuchi sightseeing train to travel from Tottori to Shimane. The name “Ametuchi” is derived from the opening passage of the “Kojiki,” which contains a record of myths that take place in the San’in region.
The Ametuchi only operates on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays between Tottori Station and Izumoshi Station. The train cars are decorated with traditional crafts such as local wood from Chizu cedar and Oki black pine, Inushu washi paper, and Sekishu-gawara (Sekishu Roof Tiles).
The entire train is classified as a Green Car (first-class cars). You can board the train with the Sanyo-San'in Area Pass, but you must also obtain a Green Pass separately.
Please check the official website for details.
Official Ametuchi Sightseeing Train Website: https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/train/ametuchi/
Pass holders previously exchanged their vouchers for the Sanyo-San'in Area Pass at a ticket office in the station. Now, passes can be collected from an automatic ticket machine.
Search for green ticket machines like the one pictured above at any station operated by JR-WEST. Automatic ticket machines are also available in English, Chinese, and Korean.
The sequence is top left→ top right→ bottom left→ bottom right
How to Collect Your Pass:
1. Switch to your preferred language and select "receive reserved ticket(s)."
2. Insert the credit card you registered when making your reservation. If paying at the station, press the "QR Code or Reservation Number" button and scan the QR code or input the reservation number issued when making your reservation.
4. Place your passport over the scanner on the ticket machine to scan.
5. Collect the ticket issued from the ticket machine.
Check JR-WEST’s official website for details on how to collect your pass. If you find it difficult to use the ticket machine, then collect your ticket from the ticket office instead.
The way the pass is used has also changed. You previously had to go through ticket gates with help from a station employee when boarding or alighting a train. However, now you can pass through the automatic gates like any other ticket.
Isn't it great that it's become easier to travel?
JR-WEST thoroughly enforces masks on all employees along with disinfecting and ventilating inside the trains to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections. Please check the official website for details on JR-WEST’s COVID-19 infection prevention measures.
Additionally, you can gain access to Travel Support by JR-WEST by purchasing a JR-WEST pass. This app provides support during travel emergencies, including medical consultations and disaster evacuation information in various languages.
If anything happens, please remember to use this service!
In addition to the places we introduced in Okayama, Tottori, and Shimane, there are many other wonderful sights and delicious local food that await you. Even better, you can travel around affordably with the Sanyo-San'in Area Pass!
There are many other unlimited railway passes to choose from, so use one that matches your travel itinerary!
Main image by Pixta
Written by Jacky Chen
Sponsored by Chugoku Regional Tourism Promotion Association