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Visitors to Japan are being offered the ultimate chance to travel light: pack underwear and a toothbrush but rent all your clothes on arrival and turn up with an environmentally friendly empty suitcase.
Under a year-long experiment that began on Wednesday, passengers travelling with Japan Airlines (JAL) can rent outfits by season, size, formality and colour scheme.
Under the scheme, a prospective visitor to Japan can reserve their clothes up to a month in advance to use for two weeks. Travellers can specify the purpose of their visit to make sure they have the appropriate apparel.
According to JAL, the scheme is designed for travellers hoping to make a “sustainable choice”.
The rental clothes — a combination of excess stock from retailers and second-hand garments collected by a partner company — will be delivered to a hotel or Airbnb accommodation ahead of arrival and collected at the end of the visit to be washed and recycled.
Under the current pricing structure, a woman travelling on a business trip in the scorching heat of the Japanese summer could pay ¥5,000 ($35) for a selection of five tops and three bottoms that includes linen shirts, trousers and an ankle-length skirt.
A man travelling on a more casual trip in winter could rent a wardrobe that includes fashionably faded jeans, a hoodie and a cosy down jacket for ¥7,000.
The trial scheme, known as “Any Wear, Anywhere”, led by JAL and the trading house Sumitomo, has been pitched as an attempt to promote sustainable tourism.
Over the course of the 13-month experiment, JAL will collect data on whether the scheme is causing an overall reduction in the weight of passengers’ bags.
The site handling the clothing rental system claims that a 10kg reduction in a flight passenger’s luggage results in an estimated 7.5kg reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. A 7.5kg reduction in CO₂ emissions, it adds for reference, is the equivalent of forgoing using a hairdryer for 78 days (based on an average use of 10 mins per drying session).
The scheme has been launched during a period of explosive post-pandemic growth in visitors to Japan. After strictly limiting visitor arrivals between March 2020 and October 2022, Japan has reopened its doors.
According to the government’s Japan Tourism Agency, visitors in the first three months of 2023 spent an average of ¥50,496 on shopping alone.
In May, almost 1.9mn people visited Japan — an increase of 1,191 per cent compared with the same month a year earlier, according to data from the Japan National Tourism Organization.
The sharp resurgence in visitor numbers, which are still about 30 per cent lower than they were in 2019, has come despite significantly fewer visitors from mainland China, which is still limiting the number of exit visas for tourists.