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Dear Alice,

My sister just made her first visit to Japan. Before she went back to California, she made me promise to ask you about what she disparagingly referred to as “bento turf” — the little strips of plastic grass that come in practically every bento (boxed lunch) you buy in Japan. We figure the grass is there to add color and visual appeal, but to her, it’s crazy for a country with too few resources and too much garbage to use plastic for garnish. Why not use something edible or at least biodegradable? I’ve been in Japan long enough to know there’s usually a reason things are done the way they are, but I can’t begin to guess on this one. Can you tell me why the heck there’s plastic grass in bento boxes?

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