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Japan: "I wasn't aware that we were so dependent on imports."

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hana Mukai, 38, an apparel merchandiser in Tokyo, had always been a carefree shopper. "But now that prices of many of the foods out there have gone up, I am feeling the strain. And I think I will come to feel it more," she said.

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Nearly everything Mukai buys is more expensive. "I am thinking of switching stores because I have found a place where I can get it cheaper. I am more careful about where I buy. I try to shop at cheaper stores."

She used to casually toss items into her shopping cart, things that she might already have at home. But not anymore.

"Now, if I am not sure, I don't buy. I wait, go home and check the fridge," said Mukai, who has a 2-year-old. "I go grocery shopping once a week, and I try not to shop during the week because that would make me spend unnecessarily."

Her husband drinks about a can of beer a day, "the expensive stuff," she noted. "This beer costs three times as much as the real cheap beer, the low-malt beer. I am looking the other way right now, but honestly speaking, I would love him to drink less, like one can every two or three days."

She worries about Japan's dependence on imported food. "I saw the other day on TV that if everyone stopped exporting to us, we will only be left with a bowl of rice," she said. "And since the flour we use is almost totally imported, if that stopped coming in we wouldn't be able to make udon noodles.

"It was a revelation. I wasn't aware that we were so dependent on imports. I realized we are actually in a pinch."

-- Akiko Yamamoto

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