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NY1 Health Reporter Erin Billups traveled to Japan to file this special series on Japanese nutrition and healthcare.

The Japanese Way: Young Japanese Adopting Western Tradition of Eating Meat, Fast Food

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Reporting from Japan for this NY1 series on Japanese nutrition and healthcare, Health Reporter Erin Billups filed the second installment on how meat and fast food dishes are becoming more and more popular in Japan, especially among young Japanese.

TOKYO, JAPAN—In its heyday, Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market had 4,000 shops. Now, there are just a little over 1,000.

On top of a shift to supermarkets, it's the change in eating habits these salesmen point to.

“My generation cannot do without fish. But today's young people place a disproportionate emphasis on meat,” says Takashi Iwasaki, owner of Iwaryo Fish Shop.

We spoke to one chef in the fish market who says younger generations don't want to deal with the inconvenience of traditional meals.

"As a chef we cannot win against fast food,"says Takayuki Kuno, owner and chef of Tsukiji Paradiso Restaurant.

On top of fast and easy Japanese food—sushi, tonkatsu, tempura, ramen—more and more dishes are made with meat.

Western restaurant chains also have a strong presence.

The McDonalds here in Japan serves the Ebi burger, a fried shrimp burger—a nod to their fish-centric diet.

It's still breaded and fried, though, with a whopping 2.3 grams of salt.

High salt intake is a persistent problem in Japan where the average Japanese person consumes 11 grams of salt daily, compared to the average eight and a half grams consumed in the U.S.

Obesity and diabetes is becoming a more and more problem," says Dr. Yoshihiro Ishikawa, Professor and Chair of the Yokohama City University School of Medicine.

If you look at the numbers, Japan still has a comparatively low rate of obesity; 4 percent to 36.5 percent in the U.S.

Still, over the past few decades, Japan has seen an increase in expanding waistlines.

"Looks like Japanese population has higher risk when if they just a small amount of obesity compared with people in the United States," Ishikawa says.

There are many initiatives underway aimed at curbing the trend, such as the so-called "metabo" law.

It mandates that local governments and companies measure waistlines.

Shokuiki is another measure—promoting food education in schools.

"Elementary schools to give lectures, cooking classes to teach how to filet and eat. Those are the things we are doing here," says Yoshinobu Yoshihashi, who owns Yoshizen Fish Shop.

But it's just a start.

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