Sazae-san statues face the tax man

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

A merchant group in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward may have to pay some ¥9.8 million in taxes over the next 45 years for bronze statues of characters from the beloved comic strip “Sazae-san” that they installed to promote their district.

The Sakurashinmachi Shotengai Shinko Kumiai shop owners’ association received notification from tax authorities last week asking it to pay a roughly ¥580,000 fixed property tax for the current fiscal year for the 12 bronze statues of the characters the group erected in March 2012 in front of Sakurashinmachi Station on the Tokyu Denentoshi Line.

According to the group, which is made up of about 200 local shop owners, some ¥9.8 million in fixed property tax is expected to be imposed on the statues over the next 45 years.

The fixed property tax is imposed on land, homes and other properties used for businesses, including signs. The statues were taxed because they are considered “properties used for promoting” businesses, according to the Setagaya Tax Office.

“We were surprised. We didn’t know such a tax would be imposed on the statues,” Kenichi Sakaguchi, head of the local business group, told The Japan Times on Wednesday.

The Sakurashinmachi merchants erected the statues of the characters of the young mother and her family in 2012 to promote the area as “Sazae-san’s town,” spending about ¥40 million, including subsidies from Setagaya Ward and from the metro government.

Sakurashinmachi is the town where Sazae-san creator Machiko Hasegawa (1920-1992) spent her final years.

Erecting statues of comic characters is a popular way used by many shopping district associations to promote their areas.

But as most statues are owned and managed by municipalities, they are usually not taxed. For example, no tax is levied on bronze statues of Ryo-san, a main character from a popular manga series, that stands near JR Kameari Station in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward.

“We know if we transfer (the statues’ ownership) to Setagaya Ward, there won’t be any tax to pay. But it’s too sad to do this,” Sakaguchi said. “We’ve worked together (to erect) the bronze statues, and we hope to maintain them ourselves. But if members of our association want to pass them to the ward, then we may consider the option.”

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