Dollar bills and coins for tip or gratuity
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Leaving Japan to Become More Expensive in January of 2019

Saying sayonara to Japan will become more expensive.

As I first reported in this article on Sunday, April 15, 2018, if you leave Japan via airplane or ship — whether or not you are a citizen — you will be required to pay a departure tax of ¥1,000 effective as of Monday, January 7, 2019 as a result of a bill which is designed to increase investment in tourism infrastructure and promote travel destinations in rural Japan, as well as fund campaigns for global tourism.

Leaving Japan to Become More Expensive in January of 2019

“The nation attracted a record 28.69 million tourists in 2017, up 19.3 percent from the previous year and reflecting the sixth consecutive yearly increase”, according to this article written by Alex Martin for The Japan Times. “The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to increase that figure to 40 million by 2020, when Tokyo will be hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and to 60 million by 2030.”

The bill was enacted by the National Diet — which is comprised of two separate assemblies of the legislature of Japan — on Tuesday, April 10, 2018 as the government is seeking to capitalize on the record number of foreign visitors, which has reportedly surged to an all-time high.

Exemptions from paying the departure tax include children who are younger than two years of age and transit passengers who depart within 24 hours of arrival.

According to the aforementioned article, “Japan saw around 45.2 million depart its shores in 2017, according to a Japan Times calculation based on data compiled by the Justice Ministry. That means the new tax could generate around ¥45 billion annually, but some critics fear the extra fee could dampen the travel appetites of budget tourists.”


Tourism is reportedly one of the few growth sectors in Japan; but is the attempt to capitalize on it by the government a good idea?

According to the aforementioned article, “Similar levies have been adopted in other countries. Australia charges a 60 Australian dollar (¥5,000) departure tax, while the United States slaps a fee of $14 (¥1,500) on international travelers from countries in its visa waiver program. South Korea imposes a 10,000 won (¥1,000) departure fee on air travelers.”

That, of course, does not mean that the imposition of those fees by other governments justifies Japan from joining them…

…but some people would argue that $9.21 — which is roughly equivalent to ¥1,000 — is really no big deal and that the departure tax should not have much of an impact on the number of people who leave Japan.

Despite the technicality of the fee being a departure tax and not a visa fee, Japan is bucking the trend of other countries which have either reduced or eliminated fees — such as BrazilArgentinaChile and Belarus. I give reasons as to why other countries should follow their leads in this article; and those reasons are relevant to why instead of charging a departure tax — which technically adds no value for the traveler — the National Diet of Japan should consider other ways to increase revenue while adding value for visitors and citizens alike…

…unless one of the reasons is also to decrease tourism, which an increasing number of locations around the world are doing to protect their ecosystems and national treasures.

At least plenty of time was given with the advance notice of what has been colloquially called the sayonara tax

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.