The Word Works

Consuming Japan


Matsutake Laundering

Published By: John on 08/31/06
Categories: Consumers Hit Products Marketing

Where else but in Japan would your evening paper (Asahi Shimbun, August 29, 2006) front page a story headlined “Matsutake Laundering: North Korea to China to Japan.”image

The story is no joke. Matsutake mushrooms are a seasonal favorite in Japan. Fall without Matsutake would be like Christmas without a turkey. But as shown in the chart reproduced here, in 2005 Japan only produced 39 tons of the 2881 tons of Matsutake consumed in Japan.  783 tons came from North Korea and 1,655 tons from China. But Japanese upset by North Korean nuclear sabre rattling are seen by the merchants involved as a threat to this lucrative trade. The result, a lot of North Korean mushrooms are slipped across the border to China, for reshipment labeled as Chinese mushrooms to Japan. That’s a violation of Japanese labeling laws and a cause celebre in Japan. Still, it all goes to show: Where there’s a buck, a won,  a yuan or a yen, there’s a way.


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