TOKYO - Chinese are buying more Japanese luxuries, with pearls and traditional iron kettles becoming especially popular. These goods are selling faster than producers can deliver them, and their market prices are rising.
The trend, underpinned by a growing middle class, has set in despite China's economic slowdown.
At Takashimaya, a big Japanese department store operator, tax-free pearl sales to foreigners doubled in the year to February. Major jeweler K.Mikimoto saw sales of pearl necklaces and other goods to foreigners at its Ginza shop rise 50 per cent in 2015.
In China, the jewelry industry has been hit hard by an austerity programme championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping. But pearls started gaining popularity about two years ago when it became widely known that Xi's wife, Peng Liyuan, likes them.
At a pearl exhibition in Hong Kong in early March, Tokyo Pearl, a wholesaler, sold 100 million yen (S$1.25 million) worth of pearls in three days. Chinese customers buy high-quality pearls first, making "good pearls hard to come by [elsewhere] these days," a representative at another Tokyo-based pearl wholesaler said.
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