每日英語跟讀 Ep.K636: Concerns Mount for Japanese Eateries in China as Fukushima Water Discharge Looms
Just over three weeks have passed since China heightened its scrutiny of Japanese food imports due to radiation concerns, and Kazuyuki Tanioka, the owner of an upscale sushi restaurant in Beijing, is already grappling with fears about the future of his business. Tanioka's Toya, a renowned establishment that has endured the challenges posed by COVID-19 restrictions, now faces a double blow – a decline in customers and a scarcity of seafood – in anticipation of Japan's decision to release treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea. This impending crisis is causing serious concerns for Tanioka, who describes the situation as a potential life or death scenario.
China stands as the largest importer of Japanese seafood. Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster caused by the 2011 tsunami and earthquake, China initially banned food and agricultural product imports from five Japanese prefectures. This restriction was subsequently expanded to include ten prefectures out of Japan's total of 47. Despite these bans, Japan has consistently relied on China as its principal seafood export market. However, the recent surge in import restrictions followed the approval of Japan's plan by the United Nations' nuclear watchdog to discharge treated water from the Fukushima site. China, along with domestic opposition, strongly criticized this decision, citing potential threats to marine life and human health.
The impact of these restrictions on imports has been substantial, with severe delays at customs and a notable decline in customers. Strident warnings circulating on Chinese social media platforms, asserting that Japanese food is radioactive and should be boycotted, have further deterred potential patrons. Kenji Kobayashi, a Japanese restaurant owner in Beijing, has seen a significant drop in his customer base this month, emphasizing the disparity between China's viewpoint of contaminated water and Japan's perspective of purified water as a key factor affecting public perception.
Beyond restaurants, seafood suppliers are also grappling with the consequences. Longer wait times at Chinese ports, now averaging around three weeks, have prompted some suppliers to consider diverting shipments to third countries to circumvent the restrictions. This, however, presents challenges and financial burdens. Japanese officials have appealed to their Chinese counterparts to avoid a complete ban, but amidst the tensions, some Chinese diners support the stricter checks for the sake of citizen safety. With the impending discharge of Fukushima water, Japanese restaurant owners are adapting their strategies, exploring alternative seafood sources within China or from foreign suppliers, in a bid to ensure the continuity of their businesses.
Reference article: https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japanese-eateries-china-fear-ruin-fukushima-water-discharge-looms-2023-07-31/