A 'Sayonara Tax' Will Charge Anyone Who Wants to Leave Japan—Tourists and Citizens Alike

iStock
iStock

If you're leaving Japan, better take out your wallet. The Japanese Parliament, the Diet, has passed what Channel NewsAsia calls the "sayonara tax," a required fee to leave the country.

As Condé Nast Traveler reports, the tax will cost about $9 (¥1000), and will apply to any traveler leaving Japan by plane or ship—whether they're tourists leaving the country or Japanese residents going on vacation. Children under age 2 get a freebie, as does anyone who is just in Japan for a quick layover and is leaving the country within 24 hours of arrival.

The money—an estimated ¥43 billion a year—will go towards improving Japan's tourism infrastructure. That includes adding facial recognition gates at airports, paying for things like multilingual guides at national tourist sites, and promoting Japanese travel around the world. Singapore's Straits Times reports that part of the revenue will also go to expanding free public Wi-Fi and electronic payment systems on public transit.

Japan isn't the first country to impose a departure tax on people leaving the country, but it's often rolled into your airfare, so you might not notice. Many of them are a lot more expensive than Japan's, too. Australia charges around $46, while the UK's tax varies based on the type of plane, number of passengers, and distance flown—and can be from $18 to $670 for long flights.

Tokyo is hosting the Olympics in 2020, which could lead to a huge revenue increase when millions of tourists descend upon the city to watch the Games. Parliament specifically limited the use of the new tax to tourism-related projects, though, so the money can't be used elsewhere in the government budget—just to that sweet, sweet public-bus Wi-Fi.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

The Truth Behind Italy's Abandoned 'Ghost Mansion'

YouTube/Atlas Obscura
YouTube/Atlas Obscura

The forests east of Lake Como, Italy, are home to a foreboding ruin. Some call it the Casa Delle Streghe (House of Witches), or the Red House, after the patches of rust-colored paint that still coat parts of the exterior. Its most common nickname, however, is the Ghost Mansion.

Since its construction in the 1850s, the mansion—officially known as the Villa De Vecchi—has reportedly been the site of a string of tragedies, including the murder of the family of the Italian count who built it, as well as the count's suicide. It's also said that everyone's favorite occultist, Aleister Crowley, visited in the 1920s, leading to a succession of satanic rituals and orgies. By the 1960s, the mansion was abandoned, and since then both nature and vandals have helped the house fall into dangerous decay. The only permanent residents are said to be a small army of ghosts, who especially love to play the mansion's piano at night—even though it's long since been smashed to bits.

The intrepid explorers of Atlas Obscura recently visited the mansion and interviewed Giuseppe Negri, whose grandfather and great-grandfather were gardeners there. See what he thinks of the legends, and the reality behind the mansion, in the video below.

Europe's First Underwater Restaurant Is Now Taking Reservations

MIR, Snøhetta
MIR, Snøhetta

The choppy waters off Norway's coast may not seem like the most relaxing dining atmosphere, but thanks to the work of the architecture firm Snøhetta, the North Sea is now home to the region's hottest new restaurant. Under, Europe first underwater restaurant (and the world's largest), opens next year, as Forbes reports—and reservations are already filling up fast.

From the shore, Under looks like some sort of toppled ruin jutting out of the water. Guests enter at sea-level, then descend to the champagne bar and finally to the 100-person dining room, which is submerged 18 feet beneath the ocean's surface. From their seats, diners can gaze through the restaurant's 36-foot-by-13-foot panoramic window. Lighting installed both inside the room and along the seabed outside illuminates nearby marine life, providing a stunning underwater show any time of day or night.

A rendering of the top of Under jutting out of the ocean
MIR, Snøhetta

In addition to designing Under to be a breathtaking experience, Snøhetta built the restaurant to durable. The building's 3-foot thick walls protect guests and staff from water pressure and violent tides. The architects were so sure of the restaurant's safety that they intentionally built it in notoriously rough waters near the town of Båly off Norway's southern coast. According to Snøhetta's senior architect Rune Grasdal, a storm is the best time to dine if guests want a truly dramatic view.

A rendering of the exterior of the underwater restaurant
MIR, Snøhetta

The over-the-top atmosphere will be accompanied by a world-class meal. The seasonal menu comes from Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard and dishes are served over the course of three-and-a-half to four hours.

Under doesn't open to the public until April 2019, but the restaurant is already taking reservations. Adventurous diners can attempt to book a table here, or, for parties larger than eight, email the restaurant.

[h/t Forbes]

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