The operator of a popular food stand near Osaka Castle serving takoyaki -- balls of batter containing diced octopus -- admitted Wednesday to evading taxes totaling 130 million yen ($1.15 million) over a three-year period from 2014.
At the first court hearing for 72-year-old Tatsuko Utsunomiya at the Osaka District Court, prosecutors said she was well aware that sales at her food stand had been expanding on the back of a growing number of foreign visitors and wanted to keep the revenue without paying tax.
Utsunomiya earned some 330 million during the three years through 2016 at the food stand, located in the grounds of a shrine inside Osaka Castle Park and just a three-minute walk from the castle tower, but failed to report the money as taxable income, court documents showed.
A set of eight takoyaki balls were sold for 600 yen and an ice cream for 400 yen, among other items.
(The location of the takoyaki stand before, top, and after suspention)
Foreign visitors accounted for 80 to 90 percent of the stand's overall customers as inbound tourism continues to gain momentum in Japan, helping the castle attract a record 2.75 million visitors in fiscal 2017.
With the increasing number of foreign customers, the food stand business, which started several decades ago and had been raising just enough to support the Utsunomiya family, turned into a cash cow, with daily revenue sometimes topping 1 million yen, according to prosecutors and people familiar with the business.
The food stand has suspended operation since last month in the wake of Utsunomiya's indictment in July.