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  • Times London on “Peter Rabbit Tax”: Optional 5GBP surcharge for Japanese tourists in England derided as “discriminatory”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on May 8th, 2010

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    Hi Blog.  Another example of sauce for the goose.  When we see Japanese overseas being subjected to a unequal treatment (in this case, an optional tourist surcharge), we get news coverage and complaints (in this case, from a Japanese bystander — either ignorant or not wanting to acknowledge that the Home Team doesn’t in fact treat foreigners equally — who richly claims that “everyone is equal in Japan”).  Shoe sure does pinch on the other foot.

    For the record, I think this (optional) surcharge is okay as long as it’s optional and not applied to only one ethnic group (if there’s an issue of taxpayer subsidies of a place, then fine; allow for refunds of VAT for non-residents at the border to offset).  However, according to the article below, it looks like this very surcharge was encouraged by the Japanese tourist board!  Wheels within wheels.  At least they get a badge.  Anyway, something to chuckle over on a rainy Saturday.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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    The tale of Peter Rabbit and a £5 ‘tax’ on his Japanese friends
    The Times (London)
    May 6, 2010, courtesy Ben Shearon

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article7117473.ece
    Also visible at Japan Probe with commentary

    Peter Rabbit, who has appeared on everything from tea towels to crockery, has now inspired a tax. A party of Japanese tourists posing for photographs yesterday at the Cumbrian cottage made famous by Beatrix Potter’s stories became the first to be asked to make a £5 donation for the preservation of the local landscape.

    The group was following a trail from Bowness to Hawkshead taken by 80,000 of their countrymen each summer. They come to see Hill Top, the cottage where Peter Rabbit, a character as central to a Japanese child’s upbringing as Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse, was invented.

    Now Japanese visitors will be invited by tour operators to contribute £5, a charge already nicknamed the “Peter Rabbit tax”.

    Atsuhito Oikawa, 35, an academic in medical research, said that £5 would not be prohibitive to most Japanese but they should not be the only ones to pay. “Everyone is equal in Japan,” he said. “If you distinguish between Japanese and others, you run the risk of appearing discriminatory.”

    The initiative, believed to be the first of its kind, was born when Japanese Travel Trade, effectively the Japanese tourist board, approached Japan Forum, run by Lakeland businesses.

    Keira Holt, a marketing executive with Nurture Lakeland, which supports conservation in the Lakes, said that the Japanese were keen to promote ecotourism. She emphasised that the donation was voluntary and that Japanese people were not being discriminated against. They were, she said, simply leading the way. “Ecotourism is huge in Japan,” she said. “We are incredibly appreciative that their concern for the environment extends to our own country.

    “The money will go towards anything to do with conservation, restoring worn footpaths and promoting biodiversity such as projects to protect species like the red squirrel.”

    So far 3,200 visitors have signed up to the scheme. They will be rewarded with a badge bearing the legend “Help look after the landscape that inspired Peter Rabbit” and a certificate.

    The initiative was launched at Wray Castle, near Ambleside, where Potter stayed as a 16-year-old in 1882 and fell in love with the Lakes.

    She acquired Hill Top, a farm cottage near Sawrey, in 1905. The setting inspired The Tales of Peter Rabbit and characters such as Jemima Puddleduck, Tom Kitten and Samuel Whiskers. The author died in 1943, leaving the property to the National Trust. The curators maintain it as it was when she lived there.

    The popularity of the books has been boosted by the release of the 2007 film Miss Potter, starring Renée Zellweger.

    Yesterday the Japanese visitors, who make up about one in four of all visitors, stepped through the modest porch into the dark interior or enjoyed a pot of tea with spectacular views over Esthwaite. Junko Ishiwata, a tour guide for Mountain Goat, said: “In Japan Peter Rabbit is a very popular character like Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse. In the books there is the beatiful Lakeland scenery. Many people want to see it for themselves.

    “I think the donation scheme is great for the Lakes. Five pounds is not very big for the Japanese people, espcially if they receive the Peter Rabbit badges. But, at the same time, they have already paid a lot of money to come here. It really depends on each individual person. After they see the beautiful scenery, they may wish to contribute something.”

    John Moffat, general manager of the National Trust’s Beatrix Potter properties, said: “The Japanese are very important to us at Hill Top. It is a key place they want to visit when they come to the UK.”
    ENDS

    23 Responses to “Times London on “Peter Rabbit Tax”: Optional 5GBP surcharge for Japanese tourists in England derided as “discriminatory””

    1. Alex Says:

      “Everyone is equal in Japan”

      I stopped reading there.

    2. betty boop Says:

      it is not a rainy saturday afternoon here but i was feeling a bit down – 5-gatsu byo and all – this just made me laugh – the “everyone is equal in japan” bit and “run the risk of appearing discriminatory.” what is really funny is that the whole thing was apparently “thunked up” the japan tour board or whatever. thanks for the chuckle.

      – It’s definitely chuckle-worthy!

    3. Hans Says:

      Indeed, it is a Japanese initiative and all tourists are asked for a contribution; from the Guardian: “Under the scheme, organised by the Lake District Japan Forum and led by Nurture Lakeland, a charity representing more than 200 local businesses, tour operators in Japan will encourage customers to give the voluntary donation and receive a Peter Rabbit pin badge and certificate as a thank-you.

      Visitor payback schemes have been running in the Lakes for 18 years, with hotels and other businesses asking for a contribution to conservation.”

      Japanese Beatrix Potter fans urged to pay extra for visiting Lake District
      ‘Visitor payback’ scheme targets 70,000 visitors to fund sustainable tourism with £5 voluntary contribution
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2010/may/02/lake-district-beatrix-potter-japan
      Japanese tourists are being asked to donate £5 for visiting the Lake District this summer, it was revealed today.

      Every year more than 70,000 visitors from Japan flock to the Lakes, many because of its links with Beatrix Potter, creator of The Tales Of Peter Rabbit, which are enormously popular in the far east.

      From this year, in a scheme believed to be the first of its kind to target a single nationality, Japanese tourists are being asked to contribute to a “visitor payback” scheme to help fund sustainable tourism in the Lakes.

      John Moffat, general manager for the National Trust’s Beatrix Potter properties, said: “It’s funny how things can follow a cycle. Beatrix Potter created a little rabbit called Peter that, along with his friends, enabled her to buy acres of land and property in the Lake District, which she then left to the National Trust to look after for future generations.

      “Today, that same little rabbit is helping to raise money from our overseas visitors to look after those special places and support our ongoing conservation work. I think that Beatrix would be very proud.”

      Organisers said the response in Japan had been positive, with 3,200 visitors agreeing to support the project when booking holidays to the Lakes.

      Huge interest in Potter, the natural world, cartoon characters and the stunning countryside are a magnet for visitors from Japan, who are generally believed to spend more than tourists from other countries.

      Many Japanese visitors head for Potter’s former properties, Hill Top Farm and Yew Tree Farm in Coniston, where many of her books were set.

      Under the scheme, organised by the Lake District Japan Forum and led by Nurture Lakeland, a charity representing more than 200 local businesses, tour operators in Japan will encourage customers to give the voluntary donation and receive a Peter Rabbit pin badge and certificate as a thank-you.

      Visitor payback schemes have been running in the Lakes for 18 years, with hotels and other businesses asking for a contribution to conservation.

      Each year 18.7 million tourists visit the Lakes – a number that takes its toll on the environment.

      Some projects, such as Fix the Fells, focus on repairing and maintaining footpaths and preserving traditional skills, such as dry stone walling, while others help conserve threatened species such as red squirrels and osprey.

    4. Chuckie Says:

      It’s only one guy. Looks like they managed to track down one academic – and not of the social scientist / Arts type – to say something vaguely controversial. I’d’ve expected a bit better from the Times. No doubt the Japanese media will love it. Hope not.

    5. snowman Says:

      Thanks Debito for posting this story! Made me laugh!

    6. CNevinT Says:

      What do they use the money for (at 3200 visitors, that’s L16k, or $30k)? Why do they target Japanese visitors? Is it because they’re easy marks?

      >Five pounds is not very big for the Japanese people

      Oh, yes, they’re just rolling in dough.

    7. Andi Says:

      “Everyone is equal in Japan”

      Did he really manage to keep a straight face when saying that? Because I certainly creased up laughing when I read it.

      I know that the Murdoch media aren’t above creating a storm in a teacup, but does anyone know if this has appeared in the Japanese media? I wouldn’t be surprised if this filters through in a couple of weeks and becomes the latest manifestation of the Japanese victim complex.

    8. redballoon Says:

      Yes, it really is poor journalism to use a comment by one pleb talking off the top of his head and using the old “皆は平等です” that the Japanese love to spout and then translate out of context. They mean it as far as Americans mean it when talking about democracy and “a government of the people” and “all men are created equal.” Unfortunately, I think the majority of Japanese (or anyone for that matter) take it further and actually think about how equal people are but that is another story. This guy was just another of those who got a microphone pushed in front of him no doubt and thought he had to say something intelligent for a change. Naturally, when you’re not used to saying intelligent things, it’s hard to come up with something.

      The article does say the money is a donation and voluntary so it cannot be called a tax in the first place. Five pounds, or ¥700, for a Japanese traveler who had the time, money and inclination to travel to visit Peter Rabbit’s “home” is pocket change at worst. They would probably pay ¥2,000 to have a photo of themselves taken before the cottage and signed with a paw print by Peter Rabbit himself.

      It seems that this writer was just trying to make a story out of something that isn’t really a story. To be talking about “ecotourism” when you’re talking about Peter Rabbit and to be saying it’s huge in Japan makes it all the more obvious that someone simply has learned how to flatter the Japanese and make some money off them. Nothing wrong with that, but that should be the story, not this further propagation of one bullshit comment after another.

    9. James Says:

      Got some questions here:

      1. Have all the Peter Rabbit goods that have appeared in Japan been properly licensed? Have royalties been paid? I think not! Perhaps if royalties on Peter Rabbit goods were properly paid there would be no need for contributions to ‘maintain and care for the Lake Country”

    10. Dajo Says:

      Not all Japanese are asked for the donation as the Nurture Lakeland website makes clear:

      http://www.nurturelakeland.org/current-news/japanese-visitors-praised-for-voluntary-green-contribution.html

      Not every Japanese visitor to the Lake District will be given the opportunity to donate in this way, only those booking on one of the eco-tours offered by just six participating Japanese tour operators.

      Visitors can either choose one of the special eco-tours, with the added £5 donation and souvenir Peter Rabbit pin badge, or choose the same tour but without the donation.

      Seems to me like a total non-story and sloppy journalism by The Times and The Guardian which makes it seem as though all Japanese are targeted.

    11. The Shark Says:

      I must say it really is surprising that the Japanese Tourist board seems to encourage this surcharge. This would have been the right time to be a bit more patriotic by saying “Surcharge OK, but for everyone, not for Japanese only”

      What I suspect is that the average Japanese traveller might not even be aware of the fact that only Japanese are being targeted here. I suppose most travellers simply believe that what tour operators do is all fine and correct.

    12. Steve Says:

      About Atsuhito Oikawa’s claim that, “Everyone is equal in Japan.”

      It started with a cottage in England named Hill Top which would like to ask visitors to pay a new fee, and the cottage stupidly added a racist qualifier.

      Of the tourists who visit there each year, probably 70,000 to 80,000 (probably 90%) happen to be Japanese, since it seems that realistically most non-Japanese currently are not so interested in visiting some cottage which Beatrix Potter happened to buy after she wrote Peter Rabbit.

      The 1st stupidity: the FIRST person who originally thought up this Peter Rabbit tourist fee, ironically a Japanese person it seems, stupidly rounded 90% up to 100%, and stupidly pitched this fee idea as “just for Japanese.”

      The 2nd stupidity: the NEXT people who heard this fee idea should have simply cut that racist qualifier off and said, “There’s a new fee which all tourists which visit this place will be asked to pay” but instead THEY stupidly allowed the racist “just for Japanese” qualifier to continue.

      The 3rd stupidity: the NEXT wave of people who heard about this fee idea should have simply called whoever is in charge and said, “Even though 90% of the tourists happen to be Japanese, the fact is: you want to ask ALL tourists who visit that place to pay this new fee, correct?’” but instead THEY stupidly allowed the racist “just for Japanese” qualifier to continue further.

      And then, the final stupidity: when asked by a journalist for a comment, Atsuhito Oikawa began by correctly pointed out that the Japanese should not be the only ones to pay, and logically he should have finished his comment right there, but then HE stupidly LIED to himself and the world with his bold claim that “Everyone is equal in Japan” and thus HE became the king of stupidity.

      Yes Atsuhito, you said everyone is equal in Japan, but you forgot a few people:

      - The “Japanese Minority” people are NOT equal in Japan
      (The Ainu people, The Ryukyuan people, The Burakumin people)

      - The “Special Permanent Resident” people are NOT equal in Japan
      (The Korean people who have lived in Japan for multiple generations)

      - The “Nationalized Japanese” people are NOT equal in Japan
      (The “Foreigner” people who “merely gained Japanese citizenship”)

      - The “Permanent Resident” people are NOT equal in Japan
      (The “Foreigner” people who “merely were granted long-term visas”)

      - The “Partially Japanese” people are NOT equal in Japan
      (The “Half-Japanese” and “Quarter-Japanese” people born in Japan)

      - All “Foreigner Non-Citizen” people are NOT equal in Japan
      (All “Foreigner Non-Citizen” people must pay all taxes yet can’t vote)

      - In short, all “Non-pure-blooded” people are NOT equal in Japan
      (In Japan, anyone born without 100% Japanese DNA is seen as sub-equal.)
      (In Japan, “Non-pure-blooded” people can legally be barred entry to places.)
      (In Japan, even becoming a citizen does not garner one equal human rights.)

      Hello, Atsuhito Oikawa, I hope you read this next time you google your name.
      Your bold lie about equality in Japan has ironically helped the truth be known.

    13. jon Says:

      It is quite common for tourists to be charged extra in Britain; the Roman Baths Museum at Bath for instance is 7 pounds to get in but free for residents.

      Like Hans says, it is a Japanese initiative so if Japanese tourists-specifically Oikawa-feel hard done by then he can take it up with the Japanese tour operators.

      All Japanese are in fact equal, and the situation is the same for all Japanese.

      – Equal where? Don’t understand the last point.

    14. DR Says:

      I wonder, if this Japanese tourist was charged the “Gaijin Tax” that NJ have to pay to get back into the country, how “equal” he’d feel then?

    15. Joe Says:

      All people in Japan are equal. But some are more equal than others.

      – Thanks George.

    16. Daja Says:

      Hello Steve
      What ‘racist qualifier’?
      Please look at the web site.This applies ONLY to certain eco tour groups and NOT all Japanese and moreover as the web site says:

      http://www.nurturelakeland.org/current-news/japanese-visitors-praised-for-voluntary-green-contribution.html

      Japanese tour operators were invited to join the exisiting fundraising scheme, which has been running in the Lake District for the last 18 years. This scheme invites all visitors, of any nationality, to make a donation through accommodation providers who are members of Nurture Lakeland.

      If anybody, whatever their nationality, decided to join that eco tour group you would be asked for the donation

      – Then the Times and Guardian really DIDN’T do their research.

    17. Allen Says:

      Joe, you took the words right out of my mouth.

      In the end though, it would appear that this article jumped the gun on the issue.

    18. Daja Says:

      What would be interesting though is if a NJ applied to join the tour group and was told it was ‘Japanese only’.

    19. EK Says:

      Atsuhito Oikawa, 35, an ACADEMIC in medical research, said that “Everyone is equal in Japan,”

      waahhaahahaaaahaaa, roll around wet my mawashi there…

      explains why most of my doctors here have been so bad, but it does raise a dark specter, if an allegedly educated academic is so naive to the inherent racism in the japanese state, what hope in hell is there for this country.

    20. Wolf Says:

      Hi Daja,

      I work in the travel industry and I can certify that this “donation scheme” has been requested to all Japanese main tour operators. It is not about eco tours at all.

    21. cris coons Says:

      Interesting. Does the site mention that aussies pay 100 pounds instead of 5 just to leave the country?
      The US does the same for all nationalities why single out the british. Companies such as JTB and HIS have been using variable rates for ever. 5 pounds wow.

    22. debito Says:

      Japan Times publishes an even sillier article from Kyodo on the Peter Rabbit Tax:

      Wednesday, May 19, 2010
      Japanese ‘tourist tax’ in Lake District criticized
      By WILLIAM HOLLINGWORTH
      Kyodo News

      Excerpt:
      But Andrew Dobson, who runs Lakes Lodge bed and breakfast and Lakes Supertours in Windermere, said: “The Japanese already pay a lot to come here. They pay money in the hotels, restaurants, tours and entrance fees and, for the privilege of doing that, we are going to hang them for another £5! They might just bypass us. Most people I have spoken to think that it’s an outrage.

      “Why are we asking the Japanese to pay back? Have they taken a loan out? The maintenance of the Lake District has got nothing to do with them. If I went to Japan I would not expect to have to pay for the pavements.

      “They may think the Japanese are a soft touch. But they have overstepped the mark. Where the money is going is anyone’s guess.”
      Rest at
      http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100519f2.html

    23. Benstoobs Says:

      Hollingsworth’s Kyodo article, did, however, include a very important point that wasn’t included in any other articles:

      “The “visitor payback” scheme, administered by Nurture Lakeland, has been operating for the last 18 years. Around 200 hotels, businesses and attractions that subscribe to the scheme give visitors the option of paying up to £10 for conservation. Visitors have to tick a box if they want to make a donation when booking.

      ***Because most Japanese visit the Lakes as part of package tours, they do not usually book accommodations independently and therefore do not pay the contribution.***

      According to the Japan Forum, a group of Lake District businesses that benefit from Japanese tourism, the Japanese Travel Trade group of tour operators wanted to participate in the scheme and include the charge when Japanese book their holiday packages.
      ENDS

      So this move basically brings Japanese tourists in line with other tourists that arrive independently rather than on package tours.

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