Hirosaki, a city in Japan has started accepting Bitcoin donation in a first of its kind initiative by a public institution in the country. This is coming barely a few weeks after about 260,000 stores in parts of Japan started accepting the digital currency as a payment method.

Known for its Aomori Prefecture park which has 2,600 cherry trees and 400-year-old castle, the Hirosaki city starts accepting the Bitcoin donation to raise funds for the preservation of the 50 kinds of cherry trees and repair stone walls of the castle for future generations.

According to the national Japanese TV NHK which featured the news on Thursday, April 20, the park attracts two mln people during blossom season each year. Thus it is necessary to care of the trees which run into hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

The broadcaster cites that city officials chose to collect donations in Bitcoin to encourage donations from overseas because the currency is popular outside Japan and remittance fees are low. It also quotes deputy mayor Noboru Yamamoto as saying that Bitcoin may provide a solution to other Japanese local authorities at a time when most are struggling to raise funds.

CoinCheck, the Japanese Bitcoin company which cooperates with the local government on the initiative, quotes a government staff of Hirosaki as saying:

“We expect Bitcoin donation to be an effective approach to promote Hirosaki’s cherry blossoms and a castle especially to people living outside of Japan.”

He adds: “When collecting donations from overseas, features of Blockchain such as fast payment process, low processing fees and transparency and security of transaction enhances the efficiency of funding.”

Furthermore, Bitcoin donation enables sending money quickly just by reading QR code with a smartphone as well as checking the progress and outcome of donation in real time. We thought these characteristics of Blockchain could help increase satisfaction and provide memorable donation experience for donors. We also expect Bitcoin donations to be a unique tourism promotion. When it comes to more practical benefits, Bitcoin donation requires much lower initial cost and running cost compared to a traditional method.”

The Business Lead at CoinCheck, Kagayaki Kawabata, points to a change in the Japanese populace perception about Bitcoin. He says via email:

“The Japanese local government accepting Bitcoin donation indicates general audiences perception of Bitcoin is improving dramatically. A few years ago, the government didn't bother with Bitcoin at all. Now even the local government is showing an interest in using Bitcoin as a promotion tool to attract foreign visitors to their city.”

The Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival is held from April 22, 2017.