• Kyodo

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Aiming to attract more tourism, officials in the town of Kamishihoro in Hokkaido have started a hot-air balloon service that allows donors from across the nation to fly for free if they add to the government’s coffers using the “hometown tax system.”

“We would like to express our gratitude by providing them with our own local services,” a town official said.

Donors will be able to book rides from pickup points of their choice. The offer is valid for those who donate at least ¥500,000 or ¥1 million, depending on whether the pick-up and drop-off points are in the prefecture.

The balloons can carry four people per journey who will be taken as high as 30 meters on the two-hour flights.

The hometown tax payment system debuted in 2008 to attract donations and boost tourism in rural areas. The system provides breaks on income and residential taxes if taxpayers donate ¥2,000 or more to regions of the country they select themselves.

To encourage the donations, municipalities have started offering incentives to such donors, making use of local industries and specialities.

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