Mt. Daisen is part of the Daisen-Oki National Park. While you’ll see regular towns and roads throughout the area, the designation means development is regulated and some wild plants and animals are protected. More information about Japan’s national parks can be found at http://www.env.go.jp/en/nature/nps/park/index.html.
Located just a few kilometers inland from the Japan Sea coast, Mt. Daisen rises dramatically from the lowlands, encompassing a wide range of coastal and mountain ecosystems. The pristine forests and fields offer a perfect place to escape urban Japan.
■Four seasons on the mountain
Ski season opens on the 24th of December, and from then through late
February the town is buried in up to two meters of snow. It’s a winter
wonder-land great for downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just sipping hot tea in a cozy inn. Although the snowpack usually begins to melt by March, spring doesn’t start in earnest till the Golden Week holidays in early May. As the new leaves turn the beech forests a dappled green, hikers arrive to make the most of the cool, pleasant weather.
The beginning of summer is traditionally marked on the first weekend of
June with a Shinto ceremony called Natsu Yama Biraki, in which participants climb to the summit of Daisen and perform a purification ceremony. Through September the town, at an elevation of about 750 meters, offers a respite from the heat and humidity down below (no air conditioners needed), and with the ski rush over, the mountain becomes peaceful and quiet. In fall the deciduous forests turn brilliant shades of red, yellow, and orange, and villagers head out to collect mushrooms and other wild mountain vegetables to serve at the local inns. Leaf season peaks between October 20 and November 5. Soon after, the hush of winter begins to fall over the mountain as the yearly cycle comes to a close once again.
■Local plants and animals
Daisen is famous for the pure groundwater that bubbles up in springs at the foot of the mountain – so famous, in fact, that both Coca Cola and Suntory have spring-water bottling plants in the area. But if you bring your own bottle, you can skip the store and join the locals in getting your water straight from the source instead. Ask at the Daisen Information Center for exact location details.
Shoji Ueda Photo Museum (0859-39-8000)
This museum displays works by well-known modernist photographer and long-time Yonago resident Shoji Ueda (1913-2001). The camera obscura in the exhibition room uses the world’s largest lens to reflect an upside-down image of Mt. Daisen on the wall. Open from 9-5 (last entry at 4:30). Closed Tuesdays and between exhibitions; call to check the schedule. Admission is 800 yen for adults, 500 yen for high school students, 300 yen for junior high and elementary students, and free for kids under 6. About 20 minutes by car from Daisen Temple.
Adachi Art Museum (0854-28-7111)
This museum features a large collection of paintings by Yokoyama Taikan (1868-1958) and other modern Japanese artists. The museum’s exquisitely-manicured gardens stretch over 4.3 hectares and include moss and pond gardens. Ranked number one on the Journal of Japanese Garden’s list of the country’s best gardens eight years in a row. The journal’s website calls it “quite possibly the world’s top garden,” with “an intensive grooming program that involves every single member of the museum’s staff on a daily basis.” Open every day from 9-5:30 (9-5 from October to March). Admission is 2,200 for adults, 1,700 yen for university students, 900 yen for high school students, and 400 junior high and elementary students (free for those below university age on Saturdays).
Mizuki Shigeru Road
Japan’s beloved manga artist Mizuki Shigeru (1922- ) spent much of his life in the town of Sakaiminato, near the Yonago Airport, where he created the wildly-imaginative GeGeGe no Kitaro series. Today bronze statues of the Rat Man, Sand-Throwing Hag, walking Plaster Wall, and other famous characters line the streets of Sakaiminato. There’s also a Mizuki Shigeru memorial museum and an abundance of gift-shops selling every imaginable variation on the GeGeGe theme. Call the Sakaiminato City Tourism Office (0859-47-0121) for details.
Tottori Hana Kairo (Flower Galleria) (0859-48-3030)
10,000 square meters of poppies, salvia, lilies, and more. There are numerous theme-gardens (smelling, mist, and floating, to name a few) along with a “Flower Train,” restaurant, ice cream shop, and more. Open year-round from 9-4:30; closed on Tuesdays from December to March. Admission is 1,000 yen for adults and 500 yen for kids under 15, with reduced fees in winter. About thirty minutes from Daisen Temple by car.