Yen weakness may be driving up the cost of food imported into Japan, but analysts say even pinched pocketbooks won't stop the country's consumers from getting 60 percent of their meals overseas.
"[Imports] probably will stay more or less stable in the long term unless Japanese agriculture can become more competitive," said Yasuhiro Enomoto, senior analyst at Marubeni Research Institute. In the short-term, however, he expects consumers will buy more domestic-produced food to protect their wallets.
The yen has lost around 40 percent of its value against the dollar over the past two years, shedding around 18 percent between April and September.
Japanese farmers provide just 39 percent of the 2,224 calories consumed by an average adult every day, government data shows. Combined with April's 3 percent consumption tax hike -- also imposed on groceries -- food costs shot up by around 5 percent on-year in both the second and third quarters.
Are price increases just beginning?
But even if the yen doesn't get any weaker, Japan's grocery bills may keep getting bigger.
"Many food companies have been able to hold back from passing on the cost of the weaker yen to consumers," said Akio Shibata, director of the Natural Resource Research Institute.
That's because of which foods get imported. While Japan produces enough of its main calorie source -- rice -- and around 80 percent of the vegetables to meet domestic demand, it imports much of its meat, seafood and grains, Shibata noted.
According to the latest consumer price data, food prices in November rose by 2.9 percent on-year. A 10.3 percent on-month drop in the price of fresh vegetables was not enough to compensate for a 13 percent rise in pork prices – Japan imports around half of its pork.
Still, corn and wheat prices scraped around four year lows over the summer, helping to limit Japanese diners' pain.
That's not likely to last.
Indeed, Nissin Foods will hike the price of its iconic cup noodle by nearly 6 percent from January. Almost all cup noodle ingredients are imported.