Ikebukuro’s new furusato nozei returns are aimed right at otaku’s hearts, include custom costume and professional makeup and photography.

Though it used to be largely stuck in Akihabara’s shadow, in recent years Tokyo’s Ikebukuro neighborhood has become an anime fan mecca in its own right, with a large number of otaku media specialty stores. Ikebukuro has also become one of Japan’s premier cosplay venues, with the neighborhood hosting multiple costuming events such as the annual two-day Halloween Cosplay Festival.

It’s an image the local government is embracing, too. Starting next month, Toshima Ward, the ward of Tokyo in which Ikebukuro is located, will be offering an official Ikebukuro cosplay experience package for those who make a suitably sizable donation.

Japan has a system of tax-deductible donations called furusato nozei, or “hometown tax.” The way it works is you make a donation to a town’s government, and in addition to being able to deduct the amount when you file your taxes, you also get some sort of thank-you gift that reflects the community you donated to. Originally, the system was focused on agricultural products, since the system started out as a way to support small businesses in rural towns that had shrinking populations, and lower tax revenue, as more and more people move to Japan’s big cities. So, for example, you might get a box of oranges as a gift for making a donation to a town whose claim to fame is its citrus fruit farms.

The furusato nozei name alludes to it being a way for people to support their hometowns even after relocating elsewhere. However, there’s no rule that you have to have grown up in a town in order to make a furusato nozei donation, and now even large cities are part of the system. In Tokyo, they’re offered at the ward level, and with Ikeukuro now famous for cosplay, Toshima Ward will be adding a variety of cosplay thank-you gifts for furusato nozei doners. At the top tier is the Platinum Plan, in which you tell Toshima Ward the specific anime or game character you want to cosplay as, then they arrange for your costume plus professional makeup, wig/hairstyling, and photography, as well as a cosplay event participant pass, for a full-service Ikebukuro cosplay experience. The services are provided by Hacosta, a cosplay-oriented subsidiary of anime specialty merchandise superstore chain Animate, which recently opened a gigantic new flagship store in Ikebukuro.

▼ Toshima Ward head Miyuki Takazawa at this year’s Ikebukuro Cosplay Festival, where she cosplayed as Evangelion’s Misato Katsuragi

A custom-arranged costume and professional makeup work, obviously, aren’t cheap, and the platinum plan will be a reward for a generous furusato nozei donation of approximately 530,000 yen (US$3,670). For those who pockets aren’t quite so deep, there will also be a Gold Plan, for those who donate roughly 220,000 yen, in which you select a character to cosplay as from a list of provided candidates, but otherwise includes the same services as the Platinum Plan.

Experienced cosplayers or those with general tailoring and accessory-making experience may find those prices exorbitantly high, but remember, furusato nozei is supposed to be a donation system, not a straight-up sale of goods and services. Plus, as the donation is tax deductible, the true cost of the Platinum and Gold Plan packages will be less than the amounts listed above, as the outlay will result in a lower tax bill for the donor. Toshima Ward is also planning more modestly priced tiers, starting from 20,000 yen, with things such as passes for early entry to cosplay events held within the ward.

The cosplay furusato nozei packages will become available in late January.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun via Livedoor News via Otakomu, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Tokyo MX
Top image: Pakutaso
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!