By Andrea Romano
May 23, 2019
Tottori Sand Dunes in Japan
Credit: Yagi-Studio/Getty Images

When traveling abroad, it’s important to not seem like an obnoxious tourist wherever you go.

After all, you wouldn’t want to give other tourists a bad rep. This means you have to play by the local rules. But sometimes, some people just don’t get the memo.

Much like Florence, Italy banning tourists from snacking in the street, or Rome arresting people for swimming in the Trevi fountain, authorities near the Tottori dunes in Japan are asking tourists to stop writing in the sand or face a fine.

Tottori Sand Dunes in Japan
Credit: Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images

According to Lonely Planet, local authorities in Japan are doubling down on their efforts to stop anyone from writing messages “and other annoying acts” along the Tottori coastline. The famous dunes found in San-in Coast National park gets millions of visitors every year. According to the Mainichi Shimbun, the number of visitors staying overnight in Tottori topped 3.29 million in 2018. It’s not clear whether all visitors visited the sand dunes.

Unfortunately, so many visitors can also cause problems for the environment. Back in 2008, the government was already aware of the “sand graffiti” problem and issued an ordinance that says anyone caught writing sand messages larger than 10 square meters (107 square feet) would face a fine of ¥50,000 (about $456 USD), Lonely Planet reported.

Apparently, this has not deterred sand vandals.

According to The Guardian, there have been more than 3,300 incidents of “sand graffiti” in the last decade. There were over 200 in 2018 alone. One particular instance last January involved someone writing “Happy Birthday, Natalie” in a space that was about 25 meters (82 feet) long, The Guardian reported. The couple was ordered to erase it themselves, but most of the time, graffiti is erased by volunteers and government workers.

To try and curb the continuing graffiti problem, officials are increasing the number of warning signs in different languages, including English, Chinese, and Korean to deter visitors from sand writing.

Sure, writing in the sand isn’t exactly permanent, but locals consider it a big nuisance and an eyesore to the natural beauty of the area. According to The Guardian, it’s one of the many complaints locals have against foreign tourists. It remains to be seen what extra warning signs will do to the physical beauty of the landscape, though.

Tottori Sand Dunes in Japan
Credit: Getty Images

If anything, being aware of the $400+ fine should probably be enough for most people.