An Affordable, But Spectacular, Winter In Tottori | CoolJapan

Mandy TayThe author in awe of the serene beauty of Tottori's winter

It was only my second time to experience snowfall. We got lucky the day we arrived in Tottori, the capital city of Tottori Prefecture in the Chugoku region, this January. The whole city was blanketed with infinite sheets of white snow.  I think Tottori likes me. 

Ski liftsSki lifts in in one of the many ski resorts in Mt. Daisen

Despite my desperate pleas, I was strapped onto a snowboard and shoved down the seemingly endless slopes of white powder.  In the end, the instructor had to waltz all the way down with me because there is not an ounce of balance in my body anywhere. I think after he put me on the ski lift, he quit his job for good.

Tottori's snowy landscapeLike a shot out of a movie, we chanced upon a perfectly composed winter scene

In happier news, all the slopes of Tottori face the coast, so in clear weather, you get majestic views of the Sea of Japan.  With a good range of slopes, here, about 30 per cent is rated advanced, while another 30 per cent is for intermediate skiers. The bulk of it, 40 per cent, is for beginners and the hopeless (me).

A snow picnicThe tour guide's full kitchen set from his backpack

Before my trainwreck disguised as a first snowboarding attempt, we had lunch right in the middle of a fluffy white field. Our gallant guide set up a makeshift Masterchef-worthy kitchen right in the snow and started cooking the best instant noodles I have ever had in my life. We sculpted our individual frozen thrones and huddled around the fire. Earlier we had our pick from an array of professional ski clothes before we dashed into the snow. I had deliberately chosen a beanie labelled “LUCK” although it failed to work its magic, snowboarding-wise. But what followed our workout was a snowstorm which gave me an excuse to dash back into the cosy ski lodge where another toasty fire was waiting with us. 

Roasting a marshmallowToasted marshmallows that melt in your mouth

As we roasted marshmallow after marshmallow, I marvelled at what a simple and magnificent day it had been. The most surprising part was how, at the height of ski season, we were the only ones there. 

Besides charging only one-third of what popular resorts like those in Hokkaido and Niseko would bill you, Tottori offers excellent quality of powder snow and generous space for skiing due to the lack of tourists.

On a more recent trip to Tottori, I actually bumped into my snowboarding instructor. He now takes people on cycling trips.  I can’t cycle, so he is still safe from me. But that is another story for another day.

Tottori in winterIncredible snowscapes without any tourists Instagramming must be the biggest luxury Tottori has to offer

Snowboard and ski in the rolling white hills of fresh powder can be found at Morinokuni Forest Kingdom, 634 Akamatsu, Daisen Town, Saihaku-gun, Tottori Prefecture. For more information, guests can visit

What else you can do in Tottori? 

Traditional Japanese umbrellaIntricately woven traditional umbrella for weddings

You can learn how to create a traditional wax paper Japanese umbrella for your fairy-tale snowfall in winter. It costs about JPY6,300 (~USD57) at Wagasa Denshokan, 796 Yodoe, Yodoe-cho, Yonago City. Admission is free.

Soba and soba-making instructorSoba and the soba-making instructor

Stay soba by channeling your inner chef and making your own soba at Shikano Soba Dojo, 2448-9 Shikanocho Shikano, Tottori, Tottori Prefecture. Admission costs JPY108 (~USD1) per person.

Indigo-dyeing instructorThe kind instructor of our indigo dyeing experience, donning all indigo dyed garments, assured us we would leave with all 10 fingers intact

Give the gift of frozen fingers and indigo-dyed handkerchiefs for the festive season. Go to Chizu Blue, 584-1 Chizu, Chizu Town, Yazu-gun. Admission costs JPY1,000 (~USD9) and includes entrance to Ishitani Residence, a traditional family house.

Where to stay

Sennentei (4-62 Hawai Onsen, Yunashihama-cho, Tohaku-gun, Tottori Prefecture) features outdoor baths with panoramic views of Lake Togo. Prices range from 10,000 to 30,000 yen (SGD120 to SGD365) a night. 

Sennentei public bathThe unworldly outdoor public bath in Sennentei

Misasa Onsen hot springs are in a quaint town reminiscent of Jiufen in Taiwan, sans the tourist hordes. Prices range from JPY10,000 to 40,000 (~USD91 to 365). In the evening, you can wander in traditional Japanese garments and play games like shateki (shooting a gun with pellets to win toys) before heading back for a dip in the onsen that contains one of the highest levels of radium in the world. Radium is said to have healing powers.

Getting there from Singapore

Fly to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. ANA operates several flights daily between Haneda and Tottori Airport. Alternatively, fly to Osaka and take a three-hour bus or train ride to JR Tottori station. 

For more information, visit