Japan's government, with an aim of pushing spending by foreign tourists in Japan to new records, has made it easier for them to shop tax-free and avoid an 8% general consumption tax.
Starting July 1st, shoppers at tax-free stores will be eligible if their total purchases hit 5,000 yen, or about $45. Previously, the 5,000 yen had to be in either food and alcohol or in non-consumables; now a total of 5,000 overall will be enough.
Last year, foreign visitors spent the equivalent of about $38 billion in Japan, and the government is hoping to push the total to about $72 million by next year. The tax changes are intended to help meet that goal, especially since there's been a dropoff in what has been called "explosive shopping" by Chinese visitors. The average visitor to Japan spent about $1,400 in 2017, down a bit.
In addition to the change in tax rules, the government is encouraging opening of more tax-free stores for visitors; at present there are about 45,000 such shops, with 17,000 outside the three big metropolitan regions of Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.