travel: getting from Tokyo to Tottori by train

Tottori is the capital of Tottori Prefecture, Japan, on the western (northern) coast. It’s a little out of the way for most travelers, but I wanted to check it out. There’s a few notable attractions, like the sand dunes, and a museum full of sets of samurai armor.

Getting there is a bit of a pain, though. First, you have to take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to either Osaka or Kyoto Station, where you then change to the Super Hakuto limited express train. Unlike most trains tourists take, it’s not fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass. Part of the journey is covered, but in the middle, the train is technically run by a private operator, not the Japan Rail company. So you have to pay a small fee, on top of having the pass, to take the train.

This is where it got complicated. Nowhere is it really explained how you pay that fee. The self-service ticket machine wouldn’t let me book a ticket, and the JR station attendant was pretty confused, too. After a lot of waiting in line, then waiting at the counter, she explained to me that you just pay the fee on board the train to the conductor. She then booked me reserved seats on the JR portions of the trip.

In the end, it was all pointless: it turns out that if you just sit quietly in the reserved car, the conductor won’t ever notice you or ask for the fee. So basically, I spent a few extra hours in Osaka station for nothing. Oh well!