Shinzo Abe has built a brave reputation.

But even for Japan's popular prime minister, hiking sales taxes for the first time in nearly two decades takes guts.

The tax increase is meant to help tame the government's runaway debt - the heaviest in the developed world.

But not surprisingly, it's proving divisive.

Some top business leaders, like Sony's Kazuo Hirai, have expressed their support.

But some of the consumers who are going to get hit straight in their wallets are downright angry. .

Arisa, a 22-year-old college student living in central Tokyo, is one of the many who's going to feel the pinch once the tax goes up.

We went shopping with her.

First stop - a flower shop. A pot of flowers just over 6 dollars but she decides to pass as she'd rather save her money for new clothes

Next up - a home decor store where she found a nice wine glass. At 35 bucks, not cheap for a college student.

And it's only going to be more expensive when taxes go up. She gives it a miss too.

(SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) ARISA, TOKYO SHOPPER, SAYING:

"From an average person's point of view, things that I bought without a second thought before, I'll now think twice about before I purchase - because of the tax increase."

In the end, Starbucks was the only retailer to pry a few yen from our young shopper's wallet.

And even that purchasing habit might be endangered by the tax hike.

(SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) ARISA, TOKYO SHOPPER, SAYING:

"I like to get a cup of coffee from Starbucks when I go out in the mornings. But I might switch to the smaller size. I think I'm going to have to tighten my purse strings a bit. Before I didn't mind paying for it, but now I think I'll have to be more sensitive to cost."

(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, YONGGI KANG, SAYING:

"Paying a few more yen for your daily coffee doesn't sound like much. But Abe is counting on enough consumers like Arisa chipping in to put the country's finances on sounder footing. With sentiment so fragile, it may be his riskiest gamble yet."

ENDS

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