"The facts about much of Japan's social, political, and financial life are hidden so well that the truth is nearly impossible to know," writes Alex Kerr in his acclaimed 2001 study "Dogs and Demons: Tales from the Dark Side of Japan." He continues, "A lack of reliable data is the single most significant difference between Japan's democracy and the democracies of the West."

This insight goes a long way toward explaining the curious fact that the latest figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for marine fisheries and aquaculture — released this year, but pertaining to 2010 — exclude data from the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima.

As it happens, of course, it was precisely those parts of the Tohoku region of northeastern Honshu that were most gravely damaged by the tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. Since those three prefectures generate 10 percent to 12 percent of all domestic fisheries landings, it would appear that some public servant somewhere felt a huge drop in total production nationwide would look bad on the record for 2011, which will be released in 2013. Hence the incomplete information for 2010 to make such comparisons well-nigh impossible.