1990年代初，DuPont Japan 的少數美國人和日本人來台灣出差，我有時會建議他們買台灣的米和烏梅酒等當回家禮物。因為這些物美價廉。
Japanese rice on Chinese shelves / Koshihikari, Hitomebore back in shops after 4-year ban lifted by Beijing
Japanese rice went on sale again in Beijing and Shanghai on Thursday for the first time since 2003 as China's ban on imports of rice from Japan was lifted.
Although Japanese rice is more expensive than local rice, the Japanese producers hope that their rice will attract wealthy customers with its quality and safety.
The Japanese government plans to expand the country's exports of agricultural and fishery products to the 1 trillion yen level, more than double the current exports, by 2013, buoyed by the international popularity of Japanese food.
The resumption of rice exports is regarded as key to achieving this goal.
At Ito-Yokado's Yayuncun store in Beijing, Koshihikari rice from Niigata Prefecture and Hitomebore from Miyagi Prefecture went on sale Thursday.
A 50-year-old company employee rushed to the rice section when the store opened at 9 a.m. and bought nine two-kilogram packs of rice.
"I bought them because Japanese rice tasted very good when I ate it in Shanghai before. I'll eat it all myself, but if it's good I'll share it with my friends and relatives," the man said.
At the store, the rice was cooked and offered as samples for customers to taste. One shopper said, "I've never had better rice than this."
A two-kilogram pack of Koshihikari rice was on sale for 198 yuan (3,200 yen) while a two-kilogram pack of Hitomebore was priced at 188 yuan (3,008 yen).
On the other hand, locally grown rice is available for about 8 yuan, less than one-twentieth of the cost of Japanese rice.
In China, more than 200 million tons of rice are consumed annually while Japanese only eat about 9 million tons.
In urban areas of China, the number of wealthy people have rapidly increased, so experts believe that a potentially huge rice market exists in China if Japanese rice is accepted by the nouveaux riches as a luxury food and gift item.
However, there are other hurdles to overcome before Japanese rice is widely sold in China, apart from the high prices.
In China, Chinese versions of the Koshihikari and Hitomebore names have already been registered locally, so Chinese translations were not permitted on the packaging, which are labeled as "produced in Niigata Prefecture" and "produced in Miyagi Prefecture," rather than the descriptions familiar to Japanese consumers.
The Chinese government banned imported rice from Japan in 2003 due to quarantine problems concerning insects.
However, when Premier Wen Jiabao visited Japan in April, a lifting of the ban was announced.
On June 24, a consignment of 24 tons of rice was exported to China for the first time in four years from Yokohama Port.
The Japanese government plans to increase exports of its agricultural and fishery products.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, "We'll break down the conventional idea that agricultural and fishery products are for the domestic market." He said he aimed to increase the exports from 370 billion yen in 2006 to 1 trillion yen 2013.
Japanese products are highly appreciated in other countries as they look beautiful and taste good, too.
Amid the recent global boom of health-conscious lifestyles, low-fat Japanese food has become popular, leading to the recent steady expansion of exports.
In Hong Kong and Taiwan, apples grown in Japan are seen as luxury gift items, with apple exports reaching 5.7 billion yen last year, a 7 percent increase from the previous year.
Japanese green tea is also popular in Europe and the United States, with exports expanded to 3.1 billion yen last year, a 45 percent increase over the previous year.
The export of Nagaimo or cinnamon vines, which are becoming popular in Taiwan and the United States as an ingredient in Chinese dishes in which Chinese herbal medicine is combined with conventional ingredients, was 1.8 billion yen last year, a 44 percent increase from the previous year.
The total exports of agricultural and fishery products increased last year by 13 percent from the previous year.