Radiation Fears, Shipment Bans, Weigh Heavily
On Mushroom Pickers, Growers
Fukushima Power Plant
EMF Protection Devices
Magnetic Field Detector
The ban on wild mushroom shipments from 43 Fukushima
Prefecture municipalities announced on Sept. 15, paired with
widespread radiation fears, is discouraging pickers from
their usual mushroom-hunting trips into the woods.
The ban came after wild mushrooms containing cesium
beyond the legal limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram were
found in the prefecture. Tawny milkcap mushrooms containing
cesium over the legal limit, meanwhile, have also been found
in Takahagi, Ibaraki Prefecture, endangering
mushroom-picking in that region as well.
In the town of Tanagura in Fukushima, tawny milkcap
mushrooms picked this month were found to contain 28,000
becquerels of cesium, or 56 times the legal limit. The town
is famous for matsutake mushroom hunting between the end of
September and late October each year.
The town holds an annual mushroom festival in October,
and the festival is a big draw for the matsutake mushrooms
in Japanese sake on offer, as well as a bingo game offering
expensive locally harvested matsutake as a major prize. The
events were canceled this year amid radiation concerns,
leading an official of the town's tourism association to
say, "We wonder if we can hold such events next year."
Tanagura is about 70 kilometers from the crippled
Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station, and it has
atmospheric radiation of about 0.2 to 0.3 microsieverts per
The Japanese Society of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition
says wild mushrooms are more likely to absorb radioactive
materials than other food products. Some studies indicate
that mushrooms such as matsutake and tawny milkcap
mushrooms, both of which grow out of the ground, tend to
register higher levels of radiation than mushrooms which
grow on dry vegetation, like maitake and nameko.
The impact of radiation fears is not limited to Fukushima
and Ibaraki prefectures, however.
The Jindaira Farm in Nakanojo, Gunma Prefecture, also
organizes a mushroom hunting tour every autumn, but the
number of participants -- mainly from Tokyo, Saitama and
other neighboring prefectures -- is down by half this year.
Its 76-year-old owner said, "The mushroom season is going to
start soon, but I am worried the effects (of the radiation
fears) are going to get worse."
The Mikawa Kanko mushroom park in Aga, Niigata
Prefecture, says it has received inquiries from potential
visitors about radiation but told them its mushrooms are
safe because it grows them indoors.
Amid the radiation furor and news of shipment bans, major
mushroom growers are taking measures to defend themselves.
Yukiguni Maitake Co. in Minamiuonuma, Niigata Prefecture,
bought testing devices at a price of 15 million yen each,
and on Sept. 15 started testing mushrooms for radiation. The
firm is posting serial numbers of its mushroom products on
its website to allow customers to check the safety of their
"No radioactive materials have been detected so far, but
we want to assure our customers of the safety of our
products," a Yukiguni Maitake representative said.
Unlike other farm products, wild mushrooms are picked by
mushroom hunters who then bring them to retailers, direct
sales stores, and local roadside markets.
The Forestry Agency is advising those planning to go
mushrooming to check the websites of respective local
governments for the results of radiation tests and gather
other pertinent information.
(Mainichi Japan) September