Japanese may not be known as the most charity-minded people in the world. But if there is one charitable activity that has proved a hit in this country in recent years, it's the "furusato nozei," or hometown tax.

Despite its use of the word "tax," the furusato nozei is essentially a means for people to make donations to municipalities and prefectures of their choice.

And dovetailing with its rising public popularity, the donation program's political importance has likewise surged, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apparently considers it an instrumental part of his administration's much-hyped "regional revitalization" policy.