The recent revelation that shops near the Ise Shrine (one of the holiest places in Japan) have been fraudulently altering the production and use-by dates for their sweets is getting a lot of attention:
At a press conference, [Ofuku-mochi president Masaki] Kohashi bowed very low and said, “I’d like to apologize deeply for having so stirred up the public.” However, he withdrew after less than five minutes, pleading poor health.
Left to carry on after him at the press conference was the manager of the flagship shop Yoshihiko Morita (50), who explained, “We weren’t knowledgeable about much of the content of the JAS [Japan Agricultural Standards], with the result that [improper labeling] continued. I became aware that this was a legal infraction half a year ago, but I didn’t advise anyone of that.”
Unsold products that had been pulled from shelves were “stored in the factory warehouse, then discarded as ordinary waste after the contents had been removed from the packaging,” he emphasized.
Ofuku-mochi is not to be confused with Akafuku, a competitor that admitted not only to manipulating product date stamps but also to recycling products for sale after their sell-by date. (That’s why the Ofuku-mochi store manager went out of his way to mention that old stock was thrown away.) The Ise Shrine is a major travel destination, and the confectioners in question are venerable purveyors of the souvenirs you’re supposed to bring back for the homefolks whenever you go on a trip:
One housewife of sixty, who’d come as a tourist to Ise from her home in Kita Ward, Kobe, said, “And here I’d thought it would be nice to buy Ofuku-mochi sweets instead of Akafuku as my souvenirs. They’re such an institution–you kind of feel betrayed.”