Japanese Pubs and Restaurants Display Green Lanterns to Promote Local Produce

More pubs and restaurants in Japan have started hanging green lanterns outside their establishments, instead of the traditional red ones, to let people know that they use grown-in-Japan ingredients in more than half of their dishes. The idea was launched in Hokkaido in the spring of 2005 by Kiyoaki Maruyama, the Director-General of the National Agricultural Research Center in the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization, with the aim of revitalizing Japan’s agricultural sector, responding to concern that the country’s food self-sufficiency ratio had fallen below 40 percent. The voluntary campaign by the people has spread nationwide since then. Over 1,000 restaurants will be displaying the green lanterns in the end of May 2008.

Establishments that support the campaign and use as much domestic produce as possible in their dishes display green lanterns bearing words stating the Japanese equivalent of “We use produce grown in Japan” and showing one to five stars. The green color was chosen to indicate safe-to-eat vegetables and green fertile fields. The number of stars indicates the percentage of domestic ingredients contained, based on calorie content. One star indicates domestic produce is used in more than 50 percent of the food served. Each additional star indicates that a further 10 percent of domestic produce is used, with five stars meaning the use of 90 percent or more.

Restaurants are invited to join the campaign, and consumers are encouraged to be “green lantern supporters.” They are then expected to dine at establishments displaying the green lanterns and promote the campaign to their favorite restaurants. In this way, participating restaurants can increase the number of regular customers, grow their sales, increase the demand for domestic produce, and thus help to increase Japan’s food self-sufficiency.

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