Iitate to introduce “hometown residence registry” for visitors

27 November 2017

The village of Iitate is considering introducing a “hometown residence registry” system in fiscal 2018 for the first time among municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture to offer public services to visitors. The scheme includes a plan to allow visitors to use public facilities for the same fees as villagers. It is intended to help increase visitors and encourage them to take up residence in the village as well as strengthening bonds with former residents who have transferred their residence certificates to other municipalities following the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The hometown residence registry was proposed jointly by a private-sector think tank and eight municipalities in Japan, including Iitate, in 2015. Under the Iitate scheme, anybody interested in the village will be allowed to register irrespective of age or place of residence.

Details of specific services to be offered have yet to be fixed. Current plans include one permitting the use of accommodations and other public facilities in the village for the same charges as villagers. It is also planned to present exclusive goods to visitors and let them act as one-day village mayor. The village is poised to set aside related expenses in its initial budget for fiscal 2018 starting next April. It will issue “hometown resident cards” to registrants. The cards will come in three different designs, with 500 cards to be issued for each design for a total of 1,500.

Outsiders targeted for the residence registry scheme are donators under the “hometown tax payment program” that allows taxpayers to pay their local tax to municipalities of their choice in return for some deductions from their tax payments. Such donators to Iitate have added up to some 17,000 cases. Also presumed as potential registrants are those who have contributed their goodwill to the “Future Fund for Iitate Kids.” The village is seeking to collect support from outside to help ensure sustained regional development.

An evacuation order issued in the village after the nuclear disaster was lifted at the end of last March except in a “difficult-to-return zone.” The number of Iitate residents stood at 546 as of Dec. 1, 9.2% of the registered village population of 5,934. The evacuation of the whole village forced many residents to move their residence certificates to other municipalities. Against that background, the village is discussing a plan to encourage those who have relocated elsewhere to maintain contact with residents through mutual exchanges by having them register in the planned hometown residence registry.

Following the nuclear accident, Iitate Mayor Norio Kanno urged the central government to introduce a “dual residence card” system that would allow villagers to register themselves as residents in multiple municipalities. But the request went nowhere as the government failed to fix relevant policies, including those associated with taxation and voting rights. “We would like to rack our brains about what sorts of services we could offer to those who are caring about our village,” Kanno said.

※Hometown residence registry: A discretionary system under which municipalities provide people other than residents with public services. It was proposed in August 2015 jointly by policy think tank “Japan Initiative” and the heads of eight municipalities, including Iitate. Under the system, a participating municipality fixes details of services to be offered and issues cards to registrants. Hino town, Tottori Prefecture, launched it in February 2016 for the first time in Japan. At present, five municipalities in three prefectures – Tottori, Tokushima and Kagawa – have done so. Main services include the delivery of a publicity magazine, the supply of freebies and exchanges with senior municipal officials.

(Translated by Kyodo News)