Who would have thought there is a desert in Japan, a country that is usually very humid and surrounded by the sea? Well, it is not quite a desert, but a huge sand dune that looks like a desert for many. The Tottori Sand Dunes are the biggest and most famous among many sand dunes existing in Japan. Many visitors come here to enjoy their majestic view. Although the dunes stretch along the coast, their hills are quite steep, reaching high points of 90 meters from the bottom of the dunes. These sand dunes have a severe climate; during the summer, the surface temperature reaches around 60 to 70 degrees Celsius, but the winter is cold and snow often covers them.
Sakyu-Rakkyo (Japanese sand dune scallions) are produced on the dunes in Fukube cho, Tottori. Rakkyo looks like a small piece of garlic, but is in fact its own species of Japanese scallion, belonging to the Amaryllis family. Its taste is quite similar to echalote.
The history of Rakkyo began with “Sankin-kotai” — a ritual where each lord of the provincial castles was periodically summoned in Edo (Tokyo) during the Edo era (1603-1868). The lord’s traveling was done in a lavish fashion, with a long parade of samurai-warriors and servants who carried many gifts and goods. Rakkyo were a souvenir that the local lord brought back from the Koishikawa herbal garden in Tokyo. Rakkyo were originally sought as medicine, and the sand dunes were found to be suited for its farming. Later on, the introduction of sprinkler systems enabled farmers to dramatically increase their Rakkyo production. There are approximately 100 farms in the area today.
Sakyu-Rakkyo is more white and harder than its competitors, and has a nice bite to it. Seeds are planted during the hot season – late July to August, and harvested in May or June. The more severe the winter is, the better they taste, is what the farmers say.
Rakkyo are often seen pickled. They can also be cooked with salt or soy sauce. A few pieces of pickled Rakkyo are commonly served with Japanese curry. Rakkyo has herbal medicine properties; it promotes healthy digestion and helps the body absorb Vitamin B1.
Tottori Bussan International Tourism Center Machipal Totori
160 Suehironsencho Tottori-shi Tottori-ken
2164 Fukubechoyuyama Tottori-shi Tottori-ken