Local authorities in Japan have drawn a line in the sand amid anger over a rise in graffiti by foreign tourists disfiguring its pristine coastal dunes.
Tottori Prefecture on the Japan Sea coast banned the defacement of its sand dunes — a major tourist attraction — a decade ago, but the local government said that there has been a dramatic rise in “sand graffiti” in the past few years as the area attracts more visitors from overseas.
The prefectural government said that it would erect more foreign-language signs urging visitors looking for the perfect Instagram memento not to vandalize the dunes, which cover a 16km stretch of coast.
More than 3,300 incidents of “sand graffiti” have occurred in the past decade — including more than 200 last year — the Mainichi Shimbun reported.
In January, a couple from overseas were ordered to erase a 25m-long message that read: “Happy Birthday Natalie,” the newspaper said.
Other graffiti have been erased by local officials and volunteers, the newspaper added.
The undulating dunes, which constantly change shape and reach heights of up to 50m, were formed over thousands of years by sand from a nearby river that was washed out into the sea and then deposited back along the coastline by ocean currents, japan-guide.com said.
In 2008, a spate of graffiti prompted the local government to pass an ordinance banning people from carving large letters into the sand, with offenders facing fines of up to ￥50,000 (US$454 at the current exchange rate).
However, the measure appears to have had little effect.
Local officials would increase the number of warning signs in English, Chinese and Korean, the newspaper said.
Irritation over the dunes’ defacement has added to the list of complaints directed at foreign visitors as Japan struggles to adapt to record numbers of tourists.
Last year, the number of visitors exceeded 30 million for the first time, with the government targeting 40 million next year, when Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympics, and 60 million a decade later.
Shop owners in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market have started displaying multilingual signs asking people not to eat while walking — often viewed as impolite in Japan — amid complaints about littering and concern over injuries caused by wooden skewers.
In the ancient capital of Kamakura, authorities have declared eating on the hoof a “public nuisance” following complaints from businesses along Komachi Street, which attracts as many as 60,000 visitors per day, Jiji Press reported.
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