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Japan's tourism boom lifts economy, but brings headaches

35 Comments
By ELAINE KURTENBACH

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35 Comments
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Well, they could do what we do in Italy...employing Chinese people in shops, hotels, etc. ;)

17 ( +20 / -3 )

And in the vicinity of those shopping tourists it's very noisy and many of those visitors bring with them the bad manners of their homelands.

0 ( +15 / -14 )

Exactly. employ more foreign people.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Tourists everywhere in the world get lost, are unfamiliar with local customs, have communication problems, etc. Think local people in other countries don't complain? If Japan wants to have thriving tourist economy the Japanese must learn to be less sensitive and more accommodating. It's for the good of the whole country.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Yeah but Japanese frown at this idea. In future decades, they'll be forced to deal with more foreigners in the workforce as the japanese population continues decline.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

It’s not just buying a Louis Vuitton bag but how you bought it and how you did something cool.

These self-obsessed people really need to get in touch with what really matters. Capitalism is certainly doing what it does best here in Asia.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

You want tourists you had better be prepared to deal with different cultures. Yes, I agree about employing more foreign nationals especially in the tourism realm. Maybe Japan would like them to just send the money. If it is your way or the highway, people may start taking the highway.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

"the reluctance of many hotels and other businesses to accept payment by foreign credit cards"

I have yet to encounter a hotel or restaurant in Japan that didn't take AMEX, MC or VISA. With the exception of one time in Sapporo, every Taxi I've taken in Japan took credit cards.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Japan should have its "resources" for foreign tourists translated by a native professional.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Other headaches include a lack of ATMs that will take foreign bank cards and the reluctance of many hotels and other businesses to accept payment by foreign credit cards.

was this written by someone who actually lives in japan? just go to 7/11 for the atms. the only problem is the maximum withdrawal limit, but that has more to do with the limit set by the bank in the home country. but every major credit card is accepted in japan, and most tourist shops accept chinese credit cards. AP i expect more from you. this is quite shoddy journalism.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I don't know how you've missed this, but there are tons of Chinese employed at convenience stores and electronics stores and the Ginza louis vuitton store has several Chinese floor staff, likely because only Chinese buy the brand nowadays.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

“The new status symbol in China is buying things and having experiences,” said Rein. “It’s not just buying a Louis Vuitton bag but how you bought it and how you did something cool.”

And the world turns on such mindless, rapacious consumer culture. The Chinese might be a little less elegant about their pillaging and display but the natives sure match them bling for bling. Japanese packaging alone brings us a step closer to collapse on a daily basis.

"Other headaches include a lack of ATMs that will take foreign bank cards and the reluctance of many hotels and other businesses to accept payment by foreign credit cards."

Agree with Nakanoguy, but my thing is moving towards a debit card/cashless society. Japan is so 20th century in this regard. Why do I have to go to the bank or have cash in my wallet, like ever. Just spent two weeks in the US and didn't carry a cent the entire time.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

was this written by someone who actually lives in japan? just go to 7/11 for the atms

I've definitely been to konbini's that didn't take my US VISA cards. I usually have to get money at a Japan Post (closes @8pm) or Aeon (closes @ 10pm). Japan is the only country I've visited other than Russia's Siberia region where I couldn't pull out party money at 2am at an ATM on a street corner. Banking here is woefully antiquated for such a "developed" nation.

1 ( +4 / -4 )

"We want to increase foreign tourism without having any foreigners actually coming here".

11 ( +13 / -2 )

I have yet to encounter a hotel or restaurant in Japan that didn't take AMEX, MC or VISA. With the exception of one time in Sapporo, every Taxi I've taken in Japan took credit cards.

They're probably referring specifically to Chinese cards. Union Pay, etc.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Marilita Fabie-Fujisawa

Exactly. employ more foreign people.

I'm sure most if not all on here agree with you. The problem is, jobs in tourism & hospitality here pay dreadfully. The govt. wants to overhaul the immigration system to allow for a more 'international' workforce, yet fails to realise that no one will relocate for amounts to a pittance. That's before we even get to the ridiculous socialist taxation system here...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"We want to increase foreign tourism without having any foreigners actually coming here".

Spot on.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

"Other headaches include a lack of ATMs that will take foreign bank cards and the reluctance of many hotels and other businesses to accept payment by foreign credit cards."

Boom! Been saying this for more than a decade, and before that ATMs barely even took Japanese bank cards! The only ones I know that accept foreign bank cards are the 7-11 ATMs, as none other will. Hopefully with the Olympics coming this situation will improve, as I know a number of foreigners who have run out of money with Japan being so expensive if you go out and what not, and could not get access to their accounts at home here and had to use credit card cash advances or get someone to forward them money when in every other country you go to you can use your foreign card to withdraw money from the account of the country you live in.

OssanAmerica: "I have yet to encounter a hotel or restaurant in Japan that didn't take AMEX, MC or VISA. With the exception of one time in Sapporo, every Taxi I've taken in Japan took credit cards."

You must not go out very much, or must avoid using a credit card at anything but major hotel chains. While the situation has improved, there are MANY restaurants that do not accept the cards you mention or otherwise, and there are many that DO accept 'Visa', but only THEIR company's Visa cards. Nowadays online they will accept pretty much any card for reservations and payment, if they have the services, but there are still many shops that won't take anything but specified credit cards, and ATMs that will only accept Japanese credit cards despite boasting that they take Visa or what have you.

"“One thing that may help us rediscover the value of these locations is foreigners’ experiences of them,” he said."

Although Takahashi's reasons are strictly about money, he has a very good point; nothing can help you appreciate and/or rediscover what you've got than by seeing it through another's eyes. It doesn't matter who you are or where, when you live someone for a long period of time you can take for granted the things and people around you. Whenever a relative or friend comes to visit and is awestruck by the littlest of things I find that I become so as well, or at least remember when I was, too. I think that this shouldn't be the target or the attitude towards places off the beaten track to attract tourism, but should be the attitude in general even if you live in and are in the big cities every day.

Finally, there are STILL a lot of people complaining about there being "too many Chinese" in places where they normally shop or want to go, and that attitude has GOT to change. Tourism is HELPING the economy and therefore the nation, so don't poop where you eat!

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Never used credit cards in the 25 years I have lived here. Cash only or bank transfers.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

zichi: The problem is more for tourists to Japan, who are probably not comfortable carrying cash-only on them for an entire trip. I doubt when you leave the house you do so with hundreds of thousands of yen on you, nor would you want to when traveling. Likewise money transfers aren't going to help a person traveling from abroad as there are few places they could collect them, and even then would incur major costs in doing so. They couldn't transfer them to themselves from overseas without a bank account here, or Western Union type place.

Good on you for not needing or using cards, though.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I try to just use cash here. Much easier knowing where my money goes, plus none of my favorite Izakaya take them, nor many of the other mom and pop restaurants I go to.

Poor tourists are missing out on the real Japan if they are only going to places that take credit cards, as most of the better restaurants do not take any.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

One think that keeps being mentioned is the cheap yen now compared to the 80 yen per dollar a couple of years back.

But the main reason for the big uptick in tourists is the relaxation of visa requirements for the people of other Asian countries.

Remember, throughout the 90s and 2000s the exchange rate fluctuated from 148 yen to about 110 yen but there was still a dearth of tourists here back then.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Is it necessary to give tourists all of their shopping tax free? Big ticket items I can understand, but groceries? Apparently spending 5000 yen on them is enough to qualify. It doesn't in other countries. Isn't the whole point of tourism to actually make some money to pay for things like a rapidly aging population? Half the time, all you hear about is government initiatives to increase tourist numbers, i.e., spending Japan residents' money, without any mention about the actual benefit that can be directly linked to such spending. Tourists are being given free wifi. Wouldn't most of them who want the Net happily pay for that like they do in other countries?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

smithinjapan

zichi: I doubt when you leave the house you do so with hundreds of thousands of yen on you, nor would you want to when traveling.

Normally I don't have large amounts of cash, most times about ¥50,000 or so. You need to think about what happens with money when a major disaster happens. When travelling overseas usually I carry about 50% in cash, and 50% in travellers checks. I also check with my bank about transferring money to another country in the event I have an emergency.

People/travellers need to ensure they have the international versions of credit cards and which ones are accepted in the country they are visiting. All this kind of info in now on the internet.

Good on you for not needing or using cards, though.

Best avoided and really not needed for people living here. I do all my internet shopping like from Amazon with COD or money transfer from a ATM at the store/bank.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

@smithinjapan

Boom! Been saying this for more than a decade, and before that ATMs barely even took Japanese bank cards! The only ones I know that accept foreign bank cards are the 7-11 ATMs, as none other will.

Ouch! Been here for over a decade and you didn't know that all of the postal service ATMs take foreign bank cards? That may not be on the tourist brochures but still... yeesh!

Well, there you go. You're welcome.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

sourpuss: "Ouch! Been here for over a decade and you didn't know that all of the postal service ATMs take foreign bank cards? That may not be on the tourist brochures but still... yeesh!"

Actually, they don't. The postal ATM across the street from one place I used to work USED to accept foreign credit cards for cash advances, but never my cash card from overseas, and now it no longer accepts even the foreign credit card (since Yuucho ginko?). The cash card, whenever I put it in to try, would be sucked in, I could push "English" as the only button available on the menu, then it would spit my card out and kindly say, "We're sorry, this card cannot be used" or something like that.

Besides, sourpuss, do tell us what hours the post office ATMs are open, if you would be so kind. What's that? Business hours only? Ah, that's right! So tourists on holiday, when it could quite possibly be holiday here as well, have to abide by business hours to boot if they want to use a postal ATM. Been here a lot longer than a decade, by the way.

zichi: Again, your missing the point. While I have added the lack of options for people even LIVING in Japan for emphasis on how far behind the ATM system is here in general (better than they were when I arrived, that's for sure -- there barely were any outside of bank entrances, which closed soon after the banks did), this is about the 'headache' of more tourists coming to Japan, and difficulties they face. There is no question there is a lack of availability, plain and simple, and while you and I don't necessarily carry a lot of cash on us (and actually thinking 50,000 yen isn't much is a fair testament that you are accustomed to things here), and definitely not when we travel (using traveler's cheques), tourists most CERTAINLY do not, but with costs in Japan will need access to more money if they are staying for any extended period of time.

"People/travellers need to ensure they have the international versions of credit cards and which ones are accepted in the country they are visiting."

Any VISA and Mastercard should be pretty much universal, but shops themselves, or companies, require you to use THEIR visa and theirs alone, which is one reason I stopped using credit cards here altogether save for the occasional online order or for reserving a hotel online. It's either that, or be like a lot of Japanese people I know and own 10 - 12 separate visa cards for different shops. My friend has 10 visa cards, literally, because he needed one for HIS travel, one for Izumiya (before they gave up and accepted other visa cards), and other individual ones, and yet NONE of these shops advertised that they ONLY accepted their visa -- they just had signs that said Visa accepted, same as the ATMs.

If people just want to try it out, try it! 7-11 ATMs will accept both foreign credit cards and cash cards. Then try using a Lawson ATM and see your card spit out the moment you put it in. Granted, most people in Japan are Japanese and living here, but if the goal is to increase tourism, and most people from other nations don't carry cash like most Japanese people do, you have to find a way to cater to the people you want to come over, plain and simple, if you want them to stay and spend more money (and possibly avoid embarrassing situations).

"Best avoided and really not needed for people living here. I do all my internet shopping like from Amazon with COD or money transfer from a ATM at the store/bank."

For COD you have to live here, and it costs extra. Actually, so do the wire transfers and internet payment at convenience stores, so there is no difference. I usually pay using the latter, but then I have to get up, go over to the convenience store, and pay for something I order from home. Convenient if I'm going there anyway, but still. You're basically penalized if you DON'T pay by credit card, and none of those other means could be paid by a visitor, and they're not likely to order from Amazon here regardless.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Finally, there are STILL a lot of people complaining about there being "too many Chinese" in places where they normally shop or want to go, and that attitude has GOT to change. Tourism is HELPING the economy and therefore the nation, so don't poop where you eat!

Exactly. Whine, whine. It goes something like this: "Oh you're off to see Mt Aso. There might be many Chinese and Korean tourists when you're there". So what, they have a right to visit as well. So yes, the mentality towards tourists has to change

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Five observations in reading this story.

First, this story is really a recycled story. I recall a story 4 or 5 months back about the large influx in foreign tourists and the issues that some retailers had with them. The source may have been different, but still largely the same themes. And I would imagine that as long as the FX rate remains where it is, the visitors will continue to come and there will continue to be the occasional story published covering the very same topics.

Which leads me to my second observation. Given that this topic has been covered before and will likely continue to be covered, it would be more meaningful if a journalist or a news organisation like the AP actually devoted some time and effort to getting below the surface and provided more useful and specific insights rather than some general points with one or two anecdotal comments. So, for example, when one talks about issues with ATM cards, is this something specific to, say, UnionPay cards held by Chinese visitors? When one talks about issues with credit cards, is it because some places accept AMEX, Visa, MC and the like, but only if they are issued by domestic card companies? Etc etc.

Third, on a more substantive note, it is clear to me that the Japanese government, if it truly wants to be supportive of foreign tourists coming to Japan, could do a few things. The JNTO has a pretty good website, but my guess is that most foreigners, particularly those booking through travel agencies, don't ever take a look. It would seem to me that putting together a simple Guide To Japan with the practical tidbits (including etiquette and key phrases) that could be downloaded and printed out by travel agencies, travellers, etc. would be handy. Equally, printed versions would be made available free to all hotels in Japan to share with foreign guests. In addition, it would seem that they should put some resources into organising seminars around the country for operators of hotels/ryokans and anyone else (shopkeepers, transport operators, etc.) to train them on how to deal with foreign guests. Beyond that, creating a national hotline staffed by operators fluent in key languages that could be accessed by hospitality related operators to deal with any issues, including those where the foreigner is having trouble communicating, could be beneficial and relatively inexpensive. Etc. Etc.

Fourth, the issues that continue to challenge foreign visitors to Japan has created and will continue to create opportunities for entrepreneurs and savvy operators to take advantage and provide services to the market to fill these gaps.

Finally, on the credit card and ATM card issue. It remains an issue. It is better than it was but remains an issue. It seems to me that if the government is serious about the foreign tourism business, they should set up a task force to deal with the issues that exist as part of the run up to the 2020 Olympics. I would make one comment, which goes to the parochial nature of the Japanese financial industry. I don't know of any of the major "city/national" banks in Japan that currently issue ATM cards that allow accountholders to access their accounts to withdraw cash overseas. Maybe I am wrong and if so, happy to be corrected. Which means if they don't have to plug into the major international ATM networks (Plus, etc.) for their Japanese customers, there is very little reason for them to enable their systems to allow foreign visitors to use their ATMs to withdraw cash. No doubt it is all rather "muzukashii" for them.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

As a visa-holder here, do I qualify for tax-free shopping? Can I get away with it like I do getting the JR pass activated easily?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Many shop owners have been given the "golden torch"...now get off your lazy #$%#es and learn a foreign language like so many other hard work shop owners do around the word...man.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

welcome to Japan spend as much money as possible during your stay....... then get the F out!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Exactly

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I love the cash transactions. Reminds of of the good old days of no bank fees. Communicating - Language: I am a foreigner, I do not expect Japan's services industries to accommodate my lack of Japanese. However, I bought the book "Japanese for Dummies", started learning "survival" Japanese, and kept on learning from additional sources, and still do. It will not hurt if non-Japanese speakers visiting to do even a little of the same. Lack of ATMs to accomodate Credit Cards - I have a separate Visa-Debit Card. Works both as a credit and saving account. From Aomori to Saga, I've yet to encounter an issue with withdrawing cash from ATMs, Family Marts, AEON or Airports.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I agree people should try to learn the language of countries they are visiting. Having said that, these shopkeepers and others need to make the same effort (especially if they b!%#h about the lack of business). I have see people in Korea (RoK), Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, and many other countries make and effort to do so to get more customers or make a sale.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

As a visa-holder here, do I qualify for tax-free shopping only if the final destination of those products is outside of Japan, which means youll need to exit the country with those items. or unless youve sold them to another person outside of Japan and exported it from Japan

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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