Japanese tax desks lure tourists to localities
The Japenese economy ministry is trying to help shopping streets in local cities open onestop “tax- free” counters to stimulate their business by attracting shopping- minded foreign tourists to their stores.
The one- stop counter system started in April to simplify taxfree procedures to deal with a sharp increase of foreign tourists to Japan, but only two cities in the country — Asahikawa, Hokkaido, and the prefectural capital of Okayama — so far have opened them.
The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry is currently making a manual based on their cases and others to expand tax- free shopping streets in local cities.
Since it is difficult for stores in local cities to do tax exemption procedures by themselves, the opening of a one- stop taxfree counter where receptionists fluent in foreign languages handle the procedures is said to increase the number of tax- free stores.
Such a one- stop counter was opened at the Omotecho and Romantic Shotengai shopping streets in Okayama for the first time in the nation in late May. On June 1, Asahikawa Heiwadori Kaimono- koen ( Asahikawa peace street shopping park) launched a tax- free counter, too. Both counters are located inside major department stores.
In Asahikawa, however, only 10 percent of 110 establishments in the shopping district showed the intention to become tax- free shops.
However, Hisatomo Yabe, who runs a stationery shop in the Omotecho shopping street, felt there was a good response after displaying a “tax- free” sign.
“Foreign tourists visited us almost every day,” he said.
Shinsaibashi- suji Shopping Center in Osaka is also making preparations to open a one- stop tax- free counter.
According to the economy ministry, about 10 shopping districts across the nation are considering opening tax- free counters.
There were 18,779 tax- free shops in the nation as of April, almost double the number in October 2014, according to the Tourism Agency. However, about 30 percent of them are located in Tokyo, and most are concentrated in large cities. As a record 18 million foreign tourists are expected to visit the nation in 2015, it is becoming increasingly important to encourage them to spend their money in local cities.