The best part is you don’t even have to live there to pay the tax!
Seki City in Gifu Prefecture recently announced that they will be giving away 20 handmade Japanese swords to anyone who pays into their furusato (hometown) tax in amounts of either 3 million or 5 million yen (US$49,300 and $29,600).
Furusato tax is not exactly a tax since it is not mandatory nor is it paid by the residents of the city. It is more of a donation that is used as tax revenue for the city and also allows the donor to receive a break on their own residency tax.
It was begun in 2008 as a way to address the loss of revenues rural areas were facing as a result of their declining populations. In order to attract donations cities will often offer “thank you gifts” such as local produce or crafts, or even the chance to be mayor.
In the case of Seki, donors are tempted with one of the legendary swords that the area has been famous for producing for nearly 700 years, including such notable swordsmiths as the Seki no Magoroku.
Earlier this year they ran a campaign where a 1 million yen ($9,900) furusato tax donation would be thanked with a Seki handmade dagger measuring 24 centimeters (9.5 inches) and the response was so good that they decided to up the ante for full swords.
▼ The million-yen knife
This time, a donation of 5 million yen will get you one of five 72-centimeter (28-inch) swords crafted by 63-year-old Mitsutoshi Ogawa the successor of 60 generations of sword-making techniques and artistry and a certified “Important Intangible Cultural Asset” of Seki City, although I’m sure he would prefer not to be called “intangible.”
If 5 million is a little too steep, you can always spend 3 million and have it made by an up-and-coming middle-aged swordsmiths affiliated with the Sekiden Japanese Sword Training and Technology Preservation Society. They may not be legendary yet, but give them time.
Either way, you’d still be paying less than market value for this level of craftsmanship and getting a tax deduction for it. Donors would also get to meet with their swordsmith and have an engraving of their choosing made on their blade. The swords take a year to be forged and also come with a sheath and cleaning kit.
Reader reaction in Japan was a mix of rabid desire and some musings over the relevance of owning a sword in this day and age.
“5 million yen is freakin’ expensive!”
“I would use it to cut meat and vegetables for dinner.”
“*Drools* Just the chance to meet with the swordsmith is great!”
“That’s ridiculous. Millions of yen for a chunk of iron.”
“I’ll just buy one of the ones in the Asakusa souvenir shop.”
“That would be handy when I can’t find my flathead screwdriver.”
“How about they craft some nail clipper for a 10,000 yen donation?”
“I’d love to have one, but that price…”
Joking aside, these swords should be seen more as works of art and pieces of cultural heritage rather than actual tools, but of course a zombie apocalypse would easily flip the script on that.
If you’re craving such a weapon from overseas, we don’t know if it will work for certain. I presume Seki City would be more than happy to take your money, but of course you wouldn’t be eligible for the tax break in your own country. Enqueries can be made to the Seki City Planning Department Citizen Collaboration Section (firstname.lastname@example.org), but probably only in Japanese.
The Seki City website also lists the other blades available for furusato tax donations, and wouldn’t you know it? They actually have a nail clipper set for 10,000 yen!