Accessibility links

Bird Flu Raises Concern for Japanese Food Industry; Toy Maker Unveils 'Dream' Gadget

An outbreak of bird flu is causing concern for the food business in Japan, and one of the country's largest toymakers unveils a gadget to allow sleepers to create their own dreams.

Japan's supermarkets and restaurants are on the alert following an outbreak of avian influenza at a poultry farm in southern Japan.

The highly contagious bird flu, the country's first known case in nearly 80 years, has killed about 14,000 chickens since late December.

The food industry is worried that consumers will stop buying chickens and eggs, or that prices will go up on imported fowl.

The Agriculture Ministry says it believes the impact on the domestic market will be minimal because total poultry production in the Yamaguchi area is small. Agriculture Minister Yoshiyuki Kamei is asking consumers to stay calm.

He says the government has ordered a stop to shipping chickens from the farm where the flu was detected.

Japan has some good news on trade figures, with overall trade on the upswing for the fifth straight month. The country's current account surplus, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, surged 34 percent in November from the same month a year earlier. That totals $14 billion.

The Finance Ministry says a drop in imports outpaced a decline in exports. The trade surplus grew more than nine percent, but exports, the key engine for the nation's economy, fell due to currency appreciation. A strong yen hurts Japanese exporters by making their goods more expensive abroad.

A big Japanese toymaker has created a device it says helps people have sweet dreams. Users of the gadget look at a photo of what they would like to dream about, then record a story line on the machine called "Yumemi Kobo" or "dream workshop."

The device uses the voice recording, as well as visual information, background music and smells to help sleepers direct their dreams. The company plans to begin selling it in Japan in May at a price of about $140.