Duty-free stores for international visitors increase rapidly outside central Tokyo

TOKYO - International travelers can now find more stores to purchase goods free of consumption tax. The number of shops offering tax-free sales is rising more rapidly outside of the capital.

Duty-free shops were previously most common in areas with department stores or consumer electronics retailers, such as Tokyo's Ginza and Akihabara districts. However, since food, cosmetics and other products were added to the tax-exemption list for overseas travelers, tax-free shops have become more widely spread. The tax-free logo that identifies such stores can now be seen in previously unexpected locations.

Spending on Japanese specialties

In Kappabashi, Japan's largest kitchen utensil shopping district, located in eastern Tokyo, the street is lined with stores selling everything related to cooking and restaurants. Here, one store called Iida has begun tax-free services. "Customers from abroad buy multiple items at our store because we offer goods free of consumption tax," said Yuta Iida, a manager of the store. The store is also benefiting from the increased global interest in cooking Japanese food since washoku, traditional Japanese cuisine, was designated a Unesco intangible cultural heritage.

The store's best-sellers include sashimi knives, bamboo mats used to make sushi rolls and plastic moulds for shaping sushi easily. It might be a little surprising but frying pans are also popular with international shoppers. "Japan produces the most frying pan sizes in the world," said Iida. He revealed that other stores in the neighborhood are also thinking about starting tax-free services.

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