"Ecomoney," Japan's version of the Local Exchange and Trading System that started on Vancouver Island, Canada, in 1983, is increasingly being promoted to allow participants to offer or receive services in welfare, education and the environment in their communities.

Toshiharu Kato, an advocate of the concept of ecomoney and an official of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, said volunteer work in the past was usually a "one-way street," adding that one advantage of the system is that it allows the goodwill of the residents to circulate.

The Japanese system is not as advanced as the original LETS program, which allows participants -- in their local areas -- to engage in financial and service transactions using the currency.