Looking to get the most out of your trip to the Tottori Sand Dunes? Here are two things that could make it unforgettable. Ever tried, or even heard of, sand boarding? It's exactly what it sounds like. Readers who are snowboarders, surfers and skateboarders should have no trouble picking it up.
Get in some summer sliding while enjoying the deep blue Sea of Japan, the yellow-white sand dunes, and the pine forests and mountains on 3 sides. There are also some small drops on the dune face for anyone feeling confident enough to take them. A warning to the snowboarders, the sand grips the edge of a sand board a lot more tightly than snow grips a snowboard's edge. Dig your edge in too deep and you are going down. Your weight will also need to be over your back foot. Get used to these two things and you're good to go.
To those with limited or no experience in any of the previously mentioned sports, don't worry, a fall onto the soft sand is unlikely to cause injury to anything other than your pride, but it will get the sand into places you didn't know existed. Bring sandals and a water bottle, wear a pair of socks and clothes that you aren't worried about getting dirty, the sand really does get into every nook and cranny whether it's exposed or not.
Be aware that while there is a ski lift at the dunes, it doesn't serve the sand boarding area so be ready to climb back up. A sand boarding course lasts 2 hours and costs ¥2500. The price includes board and helmet rental, and an instructor. The assembly point for sand boarding (and paragliding) is the Rakudaya Omiyage store across the street from the lift.
Sand boarding is a seasonal activity, it is offered from the 15th of April to the 30th of November. Reservations are necessary (make them at 0857-23-1749) and being able to speak Japanese will be of great help. My one regret is that the rules of the National Park only permit the sand boarding school to ride on one slope which is far from the biggest Tottori Sand Dunes have to offer. But bring your own board and you can go sand boarding anywhere.
Still feeling brave and adventurous after sand boarding? The soft sand makes the dunes the ideal place to try paragliding for the first time. A half-day course (4 hours) with Zero Paragliding School (0857 29 9098) is a very reasonable ¥7000. More exciting still, you won't be flying tandem, it's all you. Run down the slope from the top of Uma no Se (the biggest, tallest dune) toward the Sea of Japan until your feet part company with ground. If you've ever dreamed about paragliding, the only surprise you should have with the real thing is that it's real. Follow the instructions given to you by your megaphone wielding instructor and all will go smoothly. Touch down on the beach by the Sea of Japan, re-pack your canopy and then climb back up the dune for another go. In the 4 hour course with about 8 other people I managed to get in 5 flights. How many will you get? Happy travels!