Abe’s ‘made-in-Japan’ gift for Trump produced by China-owned firm

by and

Staff Writers

During a high-profile meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Nov. 17 in New York, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proudly gave a “made-in-Japan” gift to the maverick businessman — a luxury, gold-colored golf driver manufactured by Tokyo-based Honma Golf Co., which touts its top artisans’ skills at a factory in Yamagata Prefecture.

But a somewhat awkward fact for the Japanese government was pointed out Wednesday by the state-run People’s Daily in China: Honma Golf Co., which went bankrupt in 2005, is now owned by a Chinese company.

“As the first foreign leader to meet Trump since the election, Abe presented Trump with a golden golf club to reinforce mutual trust. However, the club was manufactured by a company that, while originally Japanese, has since been acquired by a Chinese enterprise,” the English version of People’s Daily reported.

Honma Golf Co., the core entity of the Honma group, was declared bankrupt in 2005 after applying for court asset protection under the Civil Rehabilitation Law.

According to the website of Honma Golf Ltd., which now owns Honma Golf Co. through its subsidiaries, Chinese businessman Liu Jianguo acquired the Honma group in 2010.

Honma Golf Ltd., whose chairman is Liu Jianguo, went public on the Hong Kong stock exchange last month.

All the golf club products of Honma Golf Co. are assembled at a factory in Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture, according to the firm. Thus their products can be technically described as “made in Japan.”

A spokesman for Honma Golf Co. said the firm recently sold one of its most expensive golf clubs from its BERES series, priced at ¥500,000, to Japan’s Foreign Ministry.

The firm doesn’t know who ended up with the club, the spokesman said. The Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

During an Upper House session on Thursday, Abe, when asked about his meeting with Trump, said he paid for the golf club out of his own pocket since Trump has yet to take office.

Abe also said he has now classified Trump as “trustworthy” because the president-elect has shown respect for U.S. President Barack Obama since the election and didn’t give away what the two discussed during their Nov. 17 meeting.