The Seishun-18 (say shoon joo hachi kip-pu), is a great way for 5 friends to travel for a day or for a single person to travel for 5 days or for two people to travel for 2 days. The ticket costs 11500 yen (about US$115) and are only valid between different times during the year. Spring (March 1 to April 10), Summer (July 20-September 10), Winter (December 10-January 20). The validity usually avoids peak travel periods.
The day you use the ticket, you will get stamped and can use the ticket until midnight of the date that is stamped, getting an early start is a great way to make the most of the ticket. You can also get on and off the train, so it is a great way to explore many areas. The only downside to this ticket is that you cannot ride the Shinkansen nor can you ride a train car with reserved seats.
The Japan Rail Pass is still the best buy for foreigners travelling in Japan because you can ride the Shinkansen and any JR train or JR bus for 7 or 14 days, depending on which pass you buy.
Satoshi and I used this ticket to go to Tottori this past weekend. Tottori is located on the San-in coast of the Japan Sea. It took us about 6 hours to get from Osaka to Tottori riding various trains. It was definitely a long ride, but we were able to enjoy the scenery and take several naps.
The most famous attraction is the sand dunes. It was amazing, all that sand! Higher than some buildings. The dunes were located about a 20 minute bus ride (360 yen (about US$3.60 per person)) from the JR Tottori station.
Coming from Hawaii, it was a weird feeling, seeing all that sand and seeing all the people bundled up in warm jackets.
We stayed at the Hotel Tottori Sakyu Center. (Sakyu means dunes) This is located right next to the lift to the dunes. 8400 yen per person with dinner and breakfast (about US$84).
We rode the lift to the dunes and wandered to the highest point and back. (There were actually other courses mapped out, but just going to the highest point and back was enough for us.) Boy, does it work your legs out! I really wanted to go barefoot, but that would mean having to take off my socks and maybe freezing...
Next to the Sakyu Center, there was a Sand Museum. For 300 yen (about US$3) a person, you could go in to see awesome sand sculptures. This was the 2nd year for them to hold this event and the theme was Asian world heritage sites.
We went once during the day and then again at night to see the sculptures lit up. It was amazing and we couldn't believe that they were only built from sand.
From the sand museum, near the dunes, the town had an illumination area for Christmas. It was nice to see all those lights.
Dinner was CRAB! The area is famous for different types of crab. We figured that our dinner had about 1.5 whole crabs (bodies, legs, pinchers)... they had crab on the grill, crab in a hot pot, boiled crab....and on top of that there was sashimi, simmered fish, noodles, and fruit. Usually Satoshi helps me eat what I can't finish, but he was too stuffed!
Breakfast the next day, was modest but still filling.
Besides crab, Tottori is also known for tofu chikuwa, this is fish based like kamaboko but is made on a cylinder and this version had tofu added to it. 250 yen (about US$2.50). They are also known for rakkyo (pickled shallots), I'll post about them when we open our package.
On our way back to the station, we spotted a wagashi (Japanese confection) shop called Amamiya and bought some sweets. Choco mochi (soft rice cake filled with chocolate ganache) 80 yen each (about US$.80), ichigo daifuku (soft rice cake with a strawberry and some white bean paste wrapped around the strawberry) 100 yen each (about US$1) and a chocolate manju (a white bean paste manju covered with milk chocolate) 60 yen each (about US$.60)...everything was delicious and gone within minutes.
It was a great weekend trip, a little long with the ride, but definitely a nice time to talk and relax.
Tottori Sakyu Center
From the JR Tottori station, ride the bus from #0 bus area to the dunes, get off at the Sakyu Center stop.
128 Suehiro Onsen-cho
Open: 10:00-17:00, days closed are not regular
(Check to see if they are open before going)