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Luxury Okura hotel chain ensnared in food-label scandal

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If there's one good thing to come out of these stories, it's that -- just maybe -- it'll make Japanese realize their supposedly superior palates aren't as great as they thought they were. I bet almost none of those diners realized they were eating Aussie beef - the same stuff Yoshinoya uses -after paying the fat bill for what they though was wagyu. I'm sure they all took a bite and, eyes closed, nodded in lame ignorance and agreement at how superior their food was -- all while some beef dealer in Australia laughed his way to the bank.

23 ( +26 / -3 )

threatening to undermine the country’s reputation for safe, high-quality produce.

I think the reputation has already a big dent but that's OK. Bend, appologize and everything will be forgotten.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

This whole scandal reminds me of the song "Dounimo Tomaranai" (1972) by Yamamoto Linda.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@conbini I believe Yoshinoya only uses US beef

2 ( +3 / -1 )

amid a growing scandal that is threatening to undermine the country’s reputation for safe, high-quality produce.

Wrong. The myth that is being debunked by this scandal has nothing to do with food but everything to do with Japanese honesty and integrity.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Is anyone surprised? Look at all the exquisite packages that aim to convince the customer they're paying premium prices for "premium" products that are anything but. 1000 yen + fruit = me laughing my ass off. But really, with the limited agricultural land Japan's got, they really have no choice but to lie. Ironically, the same countries they depend on for their food are the same ones they're at odds with, and look down upon.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I bet right now what is taking up most of the time in management meetings of other hotel chains is, "when should we come clean?" Okura obviously made the decision to do it now to minimise the damage - better to be caught when surrounded by a group of other guilty hotels - rather than singled out 6 months down the road.

I'd wager they are all dishonest to some degree.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Can we have a consumer watchdog with teeth?

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I was wondering - how did all of this come to light - was it just in the course of normal inspections, or was there a whistle blower?

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Along the same vein of food labeling, I noticed recently that many products on the produce and meat shelves are now labeled as "Nihon San", or of Japanese origin. Certainly it is technically true. I only noticed it because a day earlier, the same products were labeled as "Fukushima San", or from Fukushima. Japan definitely needs to give its consumer watchdog some teeth.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I just can't stop chuckling about this whole thing. For the entire time I've been here in this nation I've been hearing about the superiority of Japanese food (which now is going to be nominated as 'world heritage') and what great taste Japanese people have, and here is proof that they were wrong.

What's sad, though, is that people will STILL go to these hotels and department stores and pay top dollar believing that since it's more expensive, it's therefore more delicious, and these places will continue duping customers and making a mint.

13 ( +17 / -4 )

Clearly the approach is to cough up before someone does it for you.With all the other cases,"mislabel fatigue" will allow you to not get as bashed as the earlier cases. Next ?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Folks as some have been saying we are STILL only at the tip of the iceburg!!!

This goes WAY WAY WAY beyond hotels & restuarants

It also goes WAY beyond food!

Basically what most should now realize is that there is precious little oversight in most areas of the economy, including all the STUPID regulatory "authorities" , the are all just BS to drive of costs & kick backs, but do next to NOTHING for the people of Japan

But guess what, we have been here before with milk, rice etc & once again the locals will NOT learn & continue to allow themselves to lied to & CHEATED & their wallets will continue to lighten!!!

7 ( +7 / -0 )

"I was wondering - how did all of this come to light - was it just in the course of normal inspections, or was there a whistle blower?"

That's what I was thinking. Why all these sudden confessions? And you've got figure that this is the tip of the iceberg. How many more are keeping silent and hoping this passes over?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Restaurants can easily fixed this problem but customers will have to pay for it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I just can't stop chuckling about this whole thing. For the entire time I've been here in this nation I've been hearing about the superiority of Japanese food (which now is going to be nominated as 'world heritage') and what great taste Japanese people have, and here is proof that they were wrong.

???? as usual. What does mislabeling of ingredients in a hotel operated French, Chinese, Italian, and Japanese restaurants have to do UNESCO's application of "Washoku"??

-5 ( +7 / -13 )

NBoy,

Simple because there is also a lot of lieing when it concerns J-food as well, should be obvious but apparently not!

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Don't expect this to change the belief that Japanese beef is best, along with Japanese rice, vegetables, fruit, eggs etc.... This is creed. It is because it is.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I saw the Takashimaya shacho on TV yesterday at is "im sorry" conference. He was still half in denial. His attitude was he is sorry about causing mistrust with consumers but did not take responsibility or say sorry for his actions one time.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Get Real:

Can we have a consumer watchdog with teeth?

No. We're in Japan. Business interests must come before all else.

"I was wondering - how did all of this come to light - was it just in the course of normal inspections, or was there a whistle blower?"

That's what I was thinking. Why all these sudden confessions? And you've got figure that this is the tip of the iceberg. How many more are keeping silent and hoping this passes over?

I suspect this is some "overseeing authority's" way of letting these scrummy establishments get away with their "honor" intact. A dozen ministry bureaucrats took a whole day of phoning around to different grub places offering them to "come clean" or be exposed.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Everyone needs to come out, the entire industry is faked

3 ( +4 / -1 )

i really don't see how this is "proof" that japanese food isn't superior to other food. these were cost-cutting measures introduced by hotels, restaurants and other food companies for the very fact that japanese products demand a premium for their quality. ask any chef around the world, and they will lavish praise on the high quality of japanese food products.

and do japanese people really think they have a "superior palate? i've heard that a few japanese people don't think foreigners have the same palate to understand the subtleties of japanese cooking but not a "superior palate."

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

i've heard that a few japanese people don't think foreigners have the same palate to understand the subtleties of japanese cooking but not a "superior palate."

It means the same. It goes something like this- we are different= we are special, we are special= we are unique, we are unique= we are superior. People might not be saying they are superior but the inference is there.

ask any chef around the world, and they will lavish praise on the high quality of japanese food products.

Yes but they won't lavish praise only on Japanese products and ignore all others, which unfortunately is what happens here

6 ( +10 / -4 )

I wanted to say "another one bites the dust," but there's bugger all sanction for these sharks.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

???? as usual. What does mislabeling of ingredients in a hotel operated French, Chinese, Italian, and Japanese restaurants have to do UNESCO's application of "Washoku"??

Valid point -nothing to do with the UNESCO application. At the same time what does the fact that these hotels operated French, Chinese ,Italian restaurants have to do with anything? The mislabelling was done by Japanese staff in Japanese businesses in Japan( be they hotels, supermarkets, manufactureres or whatever ).

Don't expect this to change the belief that Japanese beef is best, along with Japanese rice, vegetables, fruit, eggs etc.... This is creed. It is because it is. LOL indeed.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

If no dogeza, it isn't honest. I want to see these yes-men oyaji on the damn floor. But of course, they are not really sorry for what they did. They are sorry they got caught.

If Japan had any journos worth their salt (there are a few, I know) they would have been on this, like vultures on an black shrimp terrine. Instead of just attending the ministry PC, they would have demanded answers from these lying, greasy haired oyaji, all in the name of public good.

rickyrick,

You know as well as I do that when Japanese people say "different", they mean better. Japanese produce is usually of very good quality. After 3/11, though, I am not so sure you pals "any chef around the world" would praise J-products.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Valid point -nothing to do with the UNESCO application. At the same time what does the fact that these hotels operated French, Chinese ,Italian restaurants have to do with anything?

Read smith's post once again.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

with all the problems with mad cow, bird flu, fukushima on Japanese agricultural products over the years, you can understand how brainwashed people can be to believe that Jproducts are still superior to the imported ones.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Valid point -nothing to do with the UNESCO application. At the same time what does the fact that these hotels operated French, Chinese ,Italian restaurants have to do with anything?

Read smith's post once again"

I did. Still its irrelevant to go into what kind of restaurants the guilty hotel chains operated.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Look! They can sell you a completely normal apple for almost 1000 yens in some places arguing that it is made in Japan and must be great. How then they wouldn't go as far as lying about the food content and still sell it at high prices? Of course they will do it because you can make people believe anything in this country. People are manipulable so easily that of course some will use it for doing business.

Fresh food in Japan is overpriced, it's not bad, it's overpriced over what it is. And all of these premium concepts have been introduced to even charge more for products that are in any standard totally banal. When they realized that japanese don't make any difference anyway, they started to lie about the real items used in order to make more money.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I did. Still its irrelevant to go into what kind of restaurants the guilty hotel chains operated.

I know. But smith is little slow. I was merely pointing out that Washoku ≠ French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese restaurants operated by the hotel. Nothing more.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

I'm pretty happy to see this. Like many people here we are seeing what we have suspected for so long. So much about the Japanese service industry is completely and utterly rotten. It's been a long time coming, but finally the truth it out for everyone is see.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

See those guys bowing? Push their faces into some of that food they have mislabeled.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Not surprised at all.

A friend is a health-inspector and he sez your average greasy spoon serves more quaIity food and is more hygienic than top end places. And that is overseas.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

we are different= we are special, we are special= we are unique, we are unique= we are superior. People might not be saying they are superior but the inference is there.

uhh, so my palate is different from yours so i'm superior? i think you're reading waaaay too much into that. if you think the japanese are food snobs, then you've never been to france, my friend. personally, any native born person from any country will have a keener palate for their food.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

A friend's wife works at Mitsukoshi in shinjuku. She told me it is common practice to remove seafood from the shelves, wash the slime off it, cut off any dried or discolored sections and relable it as fresh. Japan's reputation for safe high-quality foods is just brainwashed BS that people have believed without questioning it.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

That's got to be one hell of a blow to Japan's integrity as an honest people but then again, when if comes to power and money, they are no different from the rest of the world! I applaud the whistle-blowers, we need more of them!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

so the veneer of lofty elan is undermined by the reality of a ( home ) market which deceived its user while feeding it the vary product they looked down upon, primarily due to its foreign genesis, ha ha, jokes on you.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

ask any chef around the world, and they will lavish praise on the high quality of japanese food products.

Are they actually getting Japanese food because this is the issue - many of the "from Japanese" food being served and costing a small fortune is actually food from abroad.

Gee, let's take a look at the food "from Japan" that has been found out to be from abroad shall we? Shrimp, various kinds of fish, rice, beef, various veggies... Um, Japanese staples are... fish, rice, shrimp...

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

This is why we've eaten different places and said afterwards , 'heh...mou hitotsu datta ne', wondering what all the fuss was about. I knew they were doing something to Akafuku Mochi, they just didn't taste as good as they used to and they cut way down on the amount of an on the top. All consumers aren't being deceived, I'm sure. Those who are disappointed just don't go back again.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

if you think the japanese are food snobs, then you've never been to france, my friend.

I used to live in France. And nowhere did I say that the Japanese are the only ones.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@Knox,

An independent consumer watchdog with teeth is a no-brainer for Japan Inc. It can't compete externally or (post-TPP) internally without one.

And let's not forget the juggernaut rushing up the value chain on our doorstep, with arriviste millions hungry for quality, aspirational food they can trust.

Let's walk the talk, Japan!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

nowhere did I say that the Japanese are the only ones.

i think you inferred it.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I think the mislabeling and deception has been going on a lot longer than most people think, and is very much an entrenched practice.

One of my students told me of a factory job in her college days. Her main task was to take frozen vegetables out of bags marked "Produce of China" and repackage them in bags labeled "Product of Japan." This was back in the 80's.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Good to see the curtain lifted on these luxury businesses! I guess the affected could afford to pay anyway and they would do again no matter the labels. Good for the average people to know that eating the cheap stuff isn't always bad.

However I do not agree to most of the bashing of the Japanese cuisine! It's about the way it is prepared - always fresh and eaten as soon as its made.

I for myself long resident came from culture topping everything with ketchup and soy sauce but with the years I wonder how was that possible. Now going back to my home country always surprises me the strong taste that doesn't give you anything. Yeah I enjoy the subtle quality of even cheap Japanese meals - did I became superior?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

... when i comes to power and money, they are no different from the rest of the world!

I don't disagree, but the problem is that they claim to be different from the rest of the world. Anybody actually living in Japan will hear, almost on a daily basis, about so-called Japanese quality, or due diligence, or high standards, or safety, etc. I think all of those things are laudable, but when I pay for them only to find out that they don't actually exist ... well, then I get mad.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Ben4short said:

Wrong. The myth that is being debunked by this scandal has nothing to do with food but everything to do with Japanese honesty and integrity.

While I agree that it does have implications for the reputation of Japanese honesty and integrity, I think it would be unfair to claim this is only a problem the Japanese have. I think what this shows is the sinfulness of the human heart whether one is Japanese, Russian, Chinese, or American. People are the same everywhere. Maybe Japan has less violence than other countries - which is a great thing and something I love about Japan - but that doesn't make Japanese people any better than anyone else. Our faults or perhaps we could say, our sinfulness shows itself in different ways in different societies, but our hearts are all the same.

Dishonesty is a problem wherever you go. The need for laws to protect people from this problem is all the evidence we need. And if we are honest, it is a problem in our own hearts as well. Again, it just shows itself in different ways and it is easier to hide from others if it is in our own hearts.

Truly, all have sinned and come short of the holy standards of God. This is a human problem as opposed to simply a Japanese problem.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

While French folks can be snobby about their food, they come no where near the snobbery and "We have better food than anyone else" that the Japanese are oh so fond of. The whole "Japanese has the best food quality in the world" thing is a joke and has been proven time and time again. For a country that has so few farms and the like, they sure do seem to like to believe everything labeled "made in Japan" is actually from Japan. Impossible.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Tessa said:

I don't disagree, but the problem is that they claim to be different from the rest of the world.

Tessa, I read your note after posting the previous message and I also agree with what you are saying and with what Ben4short said. Sometimes Japanese people do seem to think they are morally superior to other people, but this clearly shows that not to be the case.

This is not the first such scandal in Japan. Just think of how many unreported problems like this exist!

So, you also have a good point, and I think you also see the other side of the coin as well - that in some senses, we humans are all the same - imperfect beings who struggle with dishonesty, as well as many other sins.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

To whoever is moderating this forum. You can't just edit people posts, this isn't China here, you understand?

Why did you remove the last sentence of my previous post? Yes japanese are crazy about money and they will lie, cheat and become very violent for it. This is how japanese society works. Sure it's not only Japan (although money has a more important role in all society here), it's all over the world. But again people here on a big national deny try to make you believe that they are somewhat better than the world.

Moderator: The rules of the discussion board state quite clearly that posts may be edited to remove any inappropriate comments. Your post contained remarks that were both offensive and incorrect. A very poor contribution from you.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

All readers back on topic please, which is the mislabeling scandal.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The whole "Japanese has the best food quality in the world" thing is a joke and has been proven time and time again.

please show any link that proves your statement, even one link that "proves" japanese food quality isn't better than most country's. or can you even name more than 10 countries that have better food quality than japan? i'd say it's better than 90% of all the countries in the world.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This is why we've eaten different places and said afterwards , 'heh...mou hitotsu datta ne', wondering what all the fuss was about.

Uh oh. This comment reminds me of my student, who is very wealthy and regards herself as a gourmand especially about Japanese cuisine. She visited a recently Michelin starred restaurant here in Kansai, and was so disappointed that she told everyone the place was a rip-off, with poor service and sub-standard food. She's one of those rare Japanese ladies who tells it like she sees it, so I trust her opinions when it comes to food.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

We may be talking the biggest food scandal since the infamous scandal from the 1930's of unscrupulous retailers selling cans of expensive Crosse & Blackwell curry powder filled with curry powder made by House Foods or S & B.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

failed to notify diners they had injected beef with fat to make it juicier

So, if they had printed on the menu "This super-yummy beef is injected with fat to make it even yummier!", everything would be ok, right? Silly billys. Fancy overlooking that.

Let the bowing begin. These geezers remind me of falling dominoes.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Again with the deep now and apologies. That makes everything ok. How about some criminal fraud charges and some jail time? Is that asking to much?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The first rule of corporate PR damage control is, "No one will remember this in six months." The whole idea is to get through the news cycle and emerge under the radar. If you can uncover a similar scandal or problem at a rival, go for it. But above all else: buy more shares when the price dips.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Uh oh. This comment reminds me of my student, who is very wealthy and regards herself as a gourmand especially about Japanese cuisine.

Don't need to be wealthy to have good taste buds...too many people don't, I guess though.

In the US, turkeys are injected with broth, butter and flavorings so that they come out better, but it's on the label.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Too bad class actions don't really exist here. They would think twice about defrauding people.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think it boils down to this: These are all big, anonymous corporations without any sense of personal responsibility. These decisions are made 'cause they knew (they thought, hehe) they could get away with lying and these middle-level slime balls thought they were being good boys by saving their bosses some cash. They thought they were clever and that they would never get caught. They took their customers for idiots.

Well, I pity the fool.

I suspect small, family-owned high quality food establishments would not do this since they take some sort of pride in what they serve. I have been to greasy soba restaurants in Asakausa that felt like they served up much higher quality than the expensive stuff in Ginza. Problem here is (as daito_hak so excellently described it above) the tendency of Japanese customers to be extremely gullible. And to not ever question anything. They also think that paying a premium price equals getting a premium price. While that should be the case, and usually is, this scandal shows that far to many businessess have, yet again, taken advantage of this.

Japanese tourists are frequently fleeced when going abroad. They are considered money-laden and gullible, not to mention scared of argumenting. An easy target. Must be tough to see that many of their countrymen consider them to be just that as well.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

A low bow or too and a word of (fake) apology and all is soon forgotten...I am not sure who I am more frustrated with... the execs, or the public.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's funny because I can still hear after every mouthful - OISSSSSHIIII

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Okura’s admission Thursday comes as Japan’s hotels, restaurants and food shops are being warned by government officials over the dishonesty, amid a growing scandal that is threatening to undermine the country’s reputation for safe, high-quality produce.

"DISHONESTY" parasites are more seen lately in every Japanese business and government as ethics are not taught in every day life. I have been avoiding all food products from China because of safety issue. I hope I do not have to do that to all made in Japan food products as well.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Commendable move by Japanese government. Now if only they can apply it to themselves.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Don't need to be wealthy to have good taste buds...too many people don't, I guess though.

That's for sure. My point about my wealthy student is that she has the money to indulge her every culinary interest, and she has always been a firm believer in paying premium price for premium quality, along with being a firm supporter of all things "made in Japan." Naturally she is not happy to learn that she has been ripped off by her favourite department stores and restaurants, and deceived by her compatriots.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This This incident is just a small reminder that Business operates only to make maximum profits. This is the main problem in the civilized world that is man made, and solvable by man. The only reason giant businesses exist is for profit. Apple makes a charger that they collect $40,00 for and it only costs them $1.40 to manufacture. It is outrageous that there is no limit on profits.....there sure is a limit on what Business pays their employees.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I really love this debate as the same stuff happens globally. Even food experts say that there is NO difference in taste.

So people buy into an image and pay for it.

What is saying? There is a sucker born every minute. And 'A fool and his cash are soon parted.'

Enjoy your branded food and goods.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Okura hotel chain, which has hosted foreign VIPs including U.S. President Barack Obama

The President of the United States doesn't eat the food everyone else does at State dinners. A secret service chef gets the menu and recipes from the local chef, sources ingredients, and makes an identical dish.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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