The lines for high-end sushi can sell for $150 per person simply for a sampling menu in the upscale Japanese restaurants that line the crowded sidewalks of Hong Kong’s Central district during noon.
Over a hundred people are chatting and eating on the floors at Fumi, one of the more famous restaurants.
The general manager of Fumi, Thomason Ng, states that business is brisk as usual. “Only a small percentage of people have inquired about the origin of the food. They’re here for the delicious meal, as well as the wonderful service.
Once again, the giant economies of Asia are colliding across the water, but judging by the way these customers are dressed, either nobody told them or they don’t care.
China, Japan’s neighbour and old rival and the second-largest economy in the world, reacted angrily to Japan’s decision to dump more than 1 million metric tons of treated radioactive waste water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea. Japan has the third-largest economy in the world.
China immediately extended the limitations it had put in place on seafood imports from Fukushima prefecture after the plant’s meltdown in 2011 by announcing that it would ban all seafood imports from its neighbor shortly after Japan started pumping the water into the ocean on Thursday.
In response to Japan’s actions, calls for a boycott of Chinese media, both conventional and social, have exploded. Several official media sources have published critical editorials and opinion polls. Within a few hours of the release on Thursday, a hashtag praising the release received more than 800 million views on the Chinese social media platform Weibo.
China maintains that the embargo is required “to prevent the risk of radioactive contamination of food” and has charged Japan with acting in a way that is “extremely selfish and irresponsible and disregards the international public interest.” It has consistently denied Japan’s assertions that the water has undergone proper treatment and contains minimal radiation.
Aiming at the heart
Even while the ban seems to be intended to hit Japan where it hurts, that degree of hatred is not apparent this time around—at least not yet.
Despite their painful histories, Japanese cuisine is incredibly popular and business is thriving across much of China.
In 2022, there were 789,000 Japanese restaurants in China, and the industry had a $25 billion market value. In China, there are actually more Japanese eateries currently than there were prior to the coronavirus pandemic’s outbreak in 2019.
The restriction is probably going to have a major impact on those establishments as well as trade relations in general.
According to the Japanese government, Japan sent seafood worth $942.4 million (137.7 billion yen) to China, its main commercial partner, and another $432.3 million (63.2 billion yen) to Hong Kong.
The Japanese fishing sector is another factor to consider, as local fishermen are inconsolable about what they perceive to be negative publicity.
“Not even slightly harmful”
Critics claim that China and Hong Kong are utilising the problem to gain political advantage over a rival in the region at the expense of scientific objectivity. They also accuse them of using sensationalism and double standards.