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What's the New Tourist Tax in Japan?

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Starting 07 January 2019, international visitors to Japan will remit a small tax on departure. The amount has been set at 1,000 Yen, a rough equivalent of $9 or $12 in USD or CAD respectively (exchange rate at the time of writing).

However, if you didn't read about it here or in a newly updated brochure, you might not even notice as the fee should be directly applied to the cost of your ticket if departing by air or by (cruise) ship.

Mt Fuji, Japan seen through cherry blossoms
Mt Fuji through cherry blossoms, Japan

How will the tax be used?

Japan has seen an incredible increase in visitor numbers during the last 5-10 years. While not an unbearable strain on their robust infrastructure, the intent of the new fee is to develop tourist specific resources, make that information more available, and to "create a more comfortable, stress-free tourist environment" - according to the Japan National Tourism Organisation.

Why add the tax now?

I suspect it truly does have something to do with engaging the wider world and helping visitors more readily access Japan and to explore beyond Tokyo.

As a nation famed for its efficiency, even if you no longer look for a made in Japan mark on your electronic goods, one ride on the Shinkansen bullet train and you'll instantly understand. Even the public are efficient in waiting for the train to arrive and for others to exit!

I spent a few weeks traversing Japan in 2010, my visit was truly remarkable in that communicating with local people is somewhat of a paradox. The Japanese language has three "official" alphabets, including Romaji, which is a regimented system of Romanized characters used to transliterate Japanese; that means they use the 26 letters we know to make the rough sounds that make their language intelligible.

signs on the streets of Tokyo, Japan
Familar English street signs? Think again. Streets of Tokyo, Japan

So, while you might see street signs and advertisements with some familiar lettering, you might not have the same conversations with local service staff that you'd come to know and love in places such as Thailand.

I feel that unlike some other popular Asian destinations, Japan's economy doesn't rely so heavily upon inbound tourism and there is a vast collection of home grown entertainment - everyone has seen at least one anime, right? Have you heard of the Disney of the East, Studio Ghibli?

Are there any other rules?

While other new rules accompanying the new fees haven't yet come to my attention, there are a few exemptions proposed.

Children under the age of two (2) and passengers departing after 07 January 2019 but who were issued their tickets prior to that date, for example.


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