Seeing the Tottori Sand Dunes is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They are unique to Japan’s topography and right now, their "fumon" wave-patterned vistas are turning them into an Instagrammer's dream travel location. But, the increase in foreign visitors to the dunes as brought something else: an increase in graffiti and defacing of the site, reports Japanese newspaper the Mainichi Shimbun.
The Tottori Sand Dunes are located on the coast of the Sea of Japan and attract about 2 million visitors a year, according to Japan’s tourism board. They have existed for more than 100,000 years and are shaped by strong winds that continually move and reshape the dunes. They’re in a relatively obscure part of the country, far from the bustling tourism of major cities.
According to a Japan Tourism Agency survey, foreign visitors to the site have increased from 20% a decade ago to about 50% now. With tourists has come an increase in graffiti, with about 228 incidents reported in 2018. Following a 2007 incident involving university students that caused outrage, a local ordinance was passed that prohibits littering, setting off fireworks, and graffiti. Offenders face a fine of up to 50,000 yen.
In one January 2019 incident, a foreign man and woman who wrote “happy birthday Natalie” in large script across one of the dunes were ordered to clean up the area.
In order to help foreign tourists understand the rules at the dunes, additional signs in English, Chinese, and Korean have been set up at five entrances. "We are concerned about whether the rules are fully understood, but we want to continue to protect views of the beautiful sand dunes,” Tomihisa Ikeuchi, of the prefectural government's natural green resources division, told the Mainichi Shimbun.