Japan's government opened on Monday a week-long hearing with economists, business leaders and consumer advocates that may help determine Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's decision on how to proceed with a planned increase in sales tax.
During six days of hearings to Saturday, the government will gather the opinions of 60 people on Japan's most significant fiscal reform in years - a change that is unpopular but equally seen as necessary to reduce public debt, which recently reached 1,000 trillion yen ($10 trillion).
Those taking part include academics, consumer and labor union heads and executives from businesses ranging from a small spring maker to auto giant Toyota Motor.
On Monday, most of the seven participants, including head of a powerful business lobby, called on the government to proceed with the scheduled two-stage tax increase from next year.
(Read more: No cure: Japan doctor's lobby takes on Abenomics)
Under a multi-party agreement last year, the sales tax is to rise to 8 percent from 5 percent next April and to 10 percent in October 2015 to pay for rising welfare costs in the ageing society.
A consumer union representative at the hearing opposed raising the tax at all, while a former central bank deputy governor suggested raising it more gradually.
Economics Minister Akira Amari, who chairs the hearings, said the government must eventually raise the sales tax but is was seeking the best way to balance the need to revive the economy and maintain trust in Japan's finances.
"From a medium-term perspective, not raising the sales tax and keeping it at 5 percent isn't an option," he told reporters after the meeting.
The government must certify that the economy is strong enough to withstand the pain of the increase before making a final decision on whether to carry out the plan.
(Read more: Japan Fires 'Third Arrow,' but Will It Work?)
The tariff is similar to a general sales tax or value added tax in other countries.
At 5 percent, Japan and Canada have the lowest equivalent consumption tax in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to OECD data.
Abe will make a final decision based on a summary of the debate compiled by Amari. Comments made at the hearing may offer clues on which way Abe's administration will lean in terms of the timing and scale of the tax increases.