National

Donations to quake-hit towns in Hokkaido rose sharply in fiscal 2018

Kyodo

Donations to three towns in Hokkaido hit by a powerful earthquake last year expanded sharply in fiscal 2018 under the government’s furusato nōzei (hometown tax donation) system, according to local municipalities.

Under the plan, which allows taxpayers to contribute to their hometowns or other municipalities of their choice in return for tax cuts, donations to Atsuma grew 5.4 times from the previous year to a record for the town of some ¥1.13 billion.

The town of Abira also pulled in a record ¥605 million in donations, a jump of 1.6 times from the previous year, while donations to Mukawa more than doubled to around ¥109 million, the second-largest sum the town has received so far.

Though many people receive gifts produced locally in return for their donations under the program, ¥300 million given to Atsuma, ¥135 million to Abira and ¥55 million to Mukawa were donated without asking for any gifts.

With the increases in donations, demand for local gifts has grown significantly. At a cheese processing firm in Abira, production could not keep up with demand. It took until this July for the company to finish sending out gifts for donations that were received late last year.

An old butcher shop, which sells lamb meat for a barbecue dish that is a local specialty, received some 2,400 orders from late last year to early this year, compared with about 300 orders around the same time period in years past.

“Though the number of customers declined because of the quake, we were cheered by orders coming from many places in Japan,” said Taisei Ichihara, the 30-year-old manager of the butcher shop in Azuma.

The magnitude 6.7 quake that struck Hokkaido on Sept. 6 last year claimed a total of 44 lives and triggered a region-wide blackout.

Atsuma was hit hard by the disaster, with landslides killing 36 residents and destroying homes.

“We appreciate support from all over the country through the hometown tax program,” said an official of the Atsuma Municipal Government. “We’d like to utilize donations for reconstruction from the quake and various other projects.”

Meanwhile, the land ministry briefed reporters Monday about restoration work on a dam in Atsuma, which was once feared to be in danger of bursting after dirt and debris from a collapsed mountain blocked a downstream waterway.

In all, the quake caused 30 million square meters of earth to collapse. Work continues to resume operation of the dam, the ministry said.

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