The Japanese economy has been struggling for several decades now. It has been facing deflation and slow growth. In order to survive, the consumption tax on commodities and goods has been increased. Additionally, there are other kinds of taxes being paid by the citizens to the government such as income tax, enterprise tax, property tax, vehicle-related taxes, and so on.
However, a kind of tax called “Furusato Nouzei” is considered different from the rest as it is not mandatory. Payments given by the residents through this voluntary tax system are used as revenue to help the cities people choose to donate to.
This 2016, the Seki(関) City (known as the City of Blades) of Gifu (岐阜) Prefecture made a campaign wherein anyone who offers at least 1 million yen to 5 million yen as Furusato donation is to be given a Seki dagger or sword which has been specially crafted. Find out more about it below!
Japan is probably one of the best places to live in around the world owing to the convenience of life it offers to people. However, living in the country would also mean paying the corresponding tax to the government. The taxation system in Japan is basically dependent on one’s national income tax and residential tax (based on one’s area of residence).
One of the relevant taxes paid by the Japanese is the income tax. It is annually paid based on income earned during the year and is also known as “resident tax.” Paying income tax in Japan is based on a self-assessment system which is combined with the withholding tax system. Due to this, Japanese citizens do not need to file a tax return unless they leave Japan before the end of the tax year, their employer does not withhold taxes, they have more than one employer, their annual income is more than 20,000,000 yen, or they have a side income of more than 200,000 yen.
Meanwhile, enterprise tax is annually paid by self-employed individuals who own a business. Those who own depreciable assets, such as houses and lots, have to pay property tax.
When you purchase goods, you have to pay an 8 percent consumption tax in Japan. Acquiring and owning a vehicle such as cars, trucks, buses, and the like means that you have to pay vehicle-related tax. When you purchase an alcoholic beverage, you also have to pay national liquor tax.
The Furusato Nouzei is known as a “hometown tax donation” system. It is also regarded as a charitable activity that has proven itself as a hit in Japan for the past few years. It may appear as a tax but it is actually a means for people to make donations to municipalities and prefectures of their choice.
The Furusato Nouzei program was originally proposed in 2007 and was officially launched in 2008 as a means to revitalize the economy of each region. In response to the payment, many of the municipalities repay the donors with original gifts in hopes of enticing other people to contribute. It has a steady rise in popularity due to the reciprocal regional goodies received by the donors.
Gifu Prefecture is located in the center of Japan. It has long played an important role in history serving as the crossroads in the country which connected the east to the west. One of the beautiful cities in this prefecture is Seki City, a small town known for its cutlery and knives.
Seki City’s cutlery industry dates back to the 13th century when a master swordsmith, Motoshige, began producing his swords in the area. His swords were of good quality made from the city’s rich natural resources such as iron sand, charcoal, and water. The superior quality of the swords made Seki City quickly recognized all throughout Japan. It then gained a solid reputation as a sword-making town with several swordsmiths.
The ancient techniques and skills of making swords were passed down from generation to generation and are still alive in today’s modern cutlery industry. The Seki Cutlery Festival, or Seki no Hamono Matsuri (刃物祭), is held every October in the city wherein you can see swordsmiths giving actual demonstrations on how they make swords. It is an exciting event which is very informative and is participated by locals and tourists every year.
This 2016, Seki City has proposed to give away 20 handmade Japanese swords in exchange for the Furusato tax. It is said that a legendary sword which the area has been producing for 700 years is part of the goodies to be given. For every 1 million yen Furusato donation, a handmade Seki dagger measuring 24 cm will be given as a thank you. Those who will be donating 5 million yen will be receiving a 72-cm sword which has been crafted by Mitsutoshi Ogawa, a genius Japanese swordsmith who is popular for his artistry and unique techniques.
If 5 million yen is a little too much, you can donate 3 million yen and receive a sword made by up-and-coming middle-aged swordsmiths affiliated with the Sekiden Japanese Sword Training and Technology Preservation Society. All donors will be given the chance to meet the swordsmiths and have their swords engraved according to personal preferences. It is an opportunity for you to ask the maker some questions you’d like to address.
Every sword comes with a sheath and a cleaning kit. This reward is a chance for residents to own a sword in Japan during these modern times. Although they won’t be used as weapons or tools of war, they can be considered as pieces of cultural heritage which can be displayed at home.
So if you’re wanting these kinds of handcrafted swords, better make a donation to Seki City. Apart from the swords, there are other blades available for the amount of donation you make in the area such as a nail clipper set worth a 10,000-yen donation.
If you’d like to inquire about it, you may send a message through firstname.lastname@example.org which is the Seki City Planning Department Citizen Collaboration Section. Donating money as Furusato tax will not only help build cities but will also allow the donors to receive a break from their own residence tax.