Tourists vandalise ancient Japanese sand dunes

Cathy Adams

Tourists are defacing ancient sand dunes in Japan with graffiti messages.

The Tottori Sand Dunes, a major attraction in southern Japan, has introduced signs in Chinese, English and Korean at the five entrances in a bid to stop the “sand graffiti”.

The 100,000-year-old sand dunes are considered a “natural park”, which means vandalism of the landscape is forbidden.

In the last decade, there were more than 3,000 incidents of vandalism in the park. Some 228 cases were recorded in 2018 alone, up from 200 the year before.

There have been several high-profile examples of vandalism.

This January, a 5 metre-high, 25 metre-wide message reading “Happy Birthday Natalie” was left scrawled across a dune, while in April the name “Sebastian” was found alongside the drawing of a face, according to local media.

Both pieces of graffiti were removed by local government.

Tottori prefecture received more than 3 million overnight visitors last year, an increase of 30 per cent since 2009. Foreign visitors make up half of that number, officials estimate.

Local official Tomihisa Ikeuchi told Mainichi Shimbun: “We are concerned about whether the rules are fully understood, but we want to continue to protect views of the beautiful sand dunes.”