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Tochigi Pref. city to pair with Yakult to look after elderly using 'hometown tax'

OYAMA, Tochigi -- Donations made to this city through Japan's hometown tax payment system will go to new efforts with a local distributor for probiotic beverage company Yakult Honsha Co. to look after elderly citizens living alone here, the municipal government announced on April 20.

    In return for contributions via the tax system, local distributor Ryomo Yakult -- set to be commissioned by the municipal government -- will provide a single delivery of a set of seven 86-yen Yakult products (tax included). The number of deliveries possibly changes depending on the amount of money donated. The delivery will be made face-to-face by a "Yakult lady," who will check on the welfare of the elderly recipient and act as a partner for conversation. A confirmation email is sent to the donor afterward. In the past, workers are said to have found elderly citizens who had fallen ill and collapsed, as well as gas leaks or other problems that would not have been discovered otherwise.

    Amid debate over fierce competition between municipal governments to offer the best rewards to those who make donations through the hometown tax payment system, Oyama is attracting attention for trying to return to the original intent of the system: to reflect people's connections with their hometowns and families.

    As of April 2017, the city was home to roughly 21,000 citizens over 65 years old who lived on their own or in households with other seniors, and has been focusing on promoting care through a city social welfare council. The municipal government is calling on people living far away who have elderly parents or relatives living in Oyama with the aim of the regional government becoming the agent for promoting activities that look after elderly residents.

    The city will begin to advertise the service on its website after officially signing a contract with Ryomo Yakult on April 25, and plans to begin the service in June this year.

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