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Shelling out: Japan city giving away scallop bikini for 'hometown tax' donations

A scallop-shell bikini that was recently added to the city of Mutsu's "hometown tax" return gifts is seen in this photo provided by the Mutsu Municipal Government in Aomori Prefecture.

MUTSU, Aomori -- Donate 6,000 yen (about $54) or more in deductible "hometown tax" to this north Japan city and you'll get one of its local scallop-shell bikinis currently going viral for being "too unique."

    The Mutsu Municipal Government added the bikinis to a hometown tax return gifts list on Sept. 23, in a bid to use part of donations in recovery efforts from damage caused by torrential rain this past August. An official said, "We want to make the city of Mutsu known with something impactful that can support recovery efforts in one way or another."

    According to the municipal government, the bikinis are made by local seafood seller Abe Shoten, using strings and shells from the city's specialty scallops. The items are a unisex return gift available for donations of 6,000 yen or more. Sept. 23 alone reportedly saw 34 applications, with the bikinis getting coverage on online news and elsewhere.

    Abe Shoten says it originally came up with the bikinis as a way to make profits from scallops, which saw a sales decline from the effects of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. About 100 sets are sold annually. News quickly spread after company president Manabu Abe's Sept. 23 morning tweet saying the bikinis had been included among hometown tax return gifts, which was retweeted 25,000 times and gained over 37,000 likes by the following day's afternoon.

    "We'd be pleased if the items can be of use to the city's recovery," Abe said.

    (Japanese original by Kenta Oka, Aomori Bureau)

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