Nakatajima Sand Dunes
Move over Tottori — Nakatajima has baby turtles & kite battles.
If you’ve been in Japan long enough, you’ve probably heard of the Tottori sand dunes but how about the Nakatajima sand dunes in Shizuoka Prefecture? What makes Nakatajima sand dunes unique is that if you come at the right time, you can witness hundreds of sea turtles hatching.
Located in Hamamatsu, the sandy oasis is one of the three largest sand dunes in Japan, including the Tottori sand dunes and Kujukurihama in Chiba. The dunes run four kilometers east to west and just over a half kilometer north to south along the churning Pacific Ocean. Although smaller in scale than the others, Nakatajima has something for nature lovers, matsuri (festival) diehards and photogs.
Go turtle watching
What makes Nakatajima sand dunes unique is that endangered loggerhead turtles lay their eggs there every May to August. Sanctuary Nature Center, a local non-profit, protects many of these eggs until they hatch and then release the babies back into the wild.
The eggs hatch between late August and October. See the youngsters in action on “Open Release Day” every weekend and national holiday from mid-August to the beginning of October (apply in advance to participate).
Because the turtle nesting area is protected, don’t drive, light fireworks, or litter there. Too much noise, bright lights, and trash can prevent the turtles from coming ashore to lay their eggs and stop the babies from getting to the ocean quickly. Also, if you dare to drive on the beach, you may squash the newborns!
Go fly a kite
During Golden Week in May, Nakatajima sand dunes hosts one of the best kite flying festivals in Japan. Hamamatsu Festival dates back more than 400 years when the locals flew kites to celebrate the birth of the first son of one of Hamamatsu’s rulers.
Which castle is nearby?
Even if you can’t make the festival, you can still see many kites and other exhibits at the Hamamatsu Festival Pavilion in nearby Enshunada Seaside Park. Here, you can also learn to make and fly your own kite (advance reservations necessary).
Locals adore the location for hatsuhinode (first sunrise of the New Year) and dreamy sunsets. Photographers also love Nakatajima for its trademark sand ripples. If you want to see them at their best, visit during winter.