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 Legend—and Truth—of Silverpilen, Stockholm's Spooky Ghost Train

iStock.com/Willowpix
iStock.com/Willowpix

Public transportation is a marvel of modern technology and a boon to city life. But if you’ve ever stood on a subway platform for a half an hour, you know there are caveats. For the people of Stockholm, you can add “haunted” and “will teleport you to another dimension” to the list of potential train complaints.

The Swedish legend of Silverpilen (or "Silver Arrow") goes back to the 1960s, when the Stockholm Metro purchased eight trains made out of aluminum. The material was standard enough for the time, but most Stockholm Metro cars were painted green. The transit authorities decided to leave these bare, which made them stand out from the rest of the cars. That wasn't the only thing that made the trains seem unusual: the interiors were laid out a little differently, and were missing the usual graffiti and advertisements. Soon, a legend was born: for Stockholm's commuters, any component of public infrastructure so pure—so unblemished—must have been a ghost.

An aluminum train said to be Stockholm's Silver Arrow
Stockholm's Silver Arrow
Maad Dogg 97, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Of course, any good ghost train needs a ghost train station. According to legend, the train’s destination was an equally unsettling, totally abandoned station known as Kymlinge. In Stockholm there’s a saying that loosely translates to: "Only the dead get off at Kymlinge." As the corresponding story goes, once you board the Silver Arrow, you never get off. Not because you get murdered, but because the train gets stuck in some kind of time loop and rides on for eternity.

In another version of the legend, the train does stop eventually, but only once a year. At that point, all the passengers have been on the train for so long that they appear to be among the undead, and are unleashed on the city in some kind of scenario out of The Walking Dead.

The truth of Silverpilen, and Kymlinge, is perhaps more interesting: The city of Stockholm was running the stripped-down train as a test. If the public didn't seem bothered by the bare-bones trains, the local transportation agency figured they would be free to construct a cheaper fleet.

But the people of Sweden thought the Silver Arrow—a nickname that seems to have popped up soon after the trains were introduced—looked derelict, and frankly downright dystopian. The creepiness factor was such that even if the train was running and relatively empty compared to a grimy, old, familiar green train, Stockholm locals avoided it. So while the metro used the trains as backups during rush hour for several decades, they were never very popular.

As for Kymlinge, construction on the station began just a few years after the so-called Silver Arrow started running. It was never finished, because the expected demand for the station, tied to a nearby redevelopment project, never arrived. The bare look of the station must have reminded people of Silverpilen—or people just figured if you come across an abandoned, half-finished subway station, and you already have a creepy ghost train, you’re going to pair them up.


View this post on Instagram

Ghost Station #kymlinge #blåalinjen

A post shared by Lennart Frykskog (@lennartfrykskog) on

What’s so wonderful about the story of Silverpilen is that, unlike many urban legends, all the major pieces are real: there really is a silver train and a never-finished abandoned subway station. In fact, the cars of the Silver Arrow train weren’t decommissioned until the 1990s. Despite the fact that the train hasn’t been seen on the tracks for generations, the legend has been passed down, and younger generations of Swedes still whisper about its ghostly presence.

And there's still at least one place the out-of-service cars can be seen: at the Stockholm Police Academy. They’re used to train rookie cops on how to deal with in-process crimes on metro trains—though we're guessing that training does not include ghostbusting.

A version of this piece originally appeared on the Let Me Google That podcast.

Google Translate Now Lets Your Smartphone's Camera Read 13 More Languages in Real Time

iStock.com/nazar_ab
iStock.com/nazar_ab

Your days of lugging around foreign-language dictionaries while traveling are behind you. As VentureBeat reports, Google Translate's in-app camera now recognizes 13 new languages, including Arabic, Hindi, and Vietnamese.

In 2015, the Google Translate app launched a feature that allows users to translate written text in real time. All you need to do to use it is to tap the app's camera icon and point your phone at the words you wish to decode, whether they're on a menu, billboard, or road sign. Almost immediately, the app replaces the text displayed on your camera with the translation in your preferred language.

The tool initially worked with 27 languages and Google has introduced more over the past few years. With the latest additions, Google Translate now recognizes about 50 languages.

Many of the new languages now compatible with Google Translate—including Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Thai—are widely spoken in South Asia. Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, and Punjabi are four of the 10 most common languages on Earth.

Google Translate users can download the new update now for iOS and Android phones.

[h/t VentureBeat]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER