Japan and China depend on each other economically, but not necessarily in an equal way. Sometimes slight changes in commercial prospects in China can have a profound effect on Japan, or, at least, more of an effect that people realize.

Earlier this month, the Asahi Shimbun reported that China is now the No. 1 importer of mutton in the world. On the surface, this fact would seem to have little to do with Japan, which doesn't export mutton or have much of an appetite for it. However, the importation does affect Japanese consumers.

In the past, China was able to satisfy its mutton demand domestically, but the large number of free-range sheep has desertified huge swaths of pasture land, and with demand increasing in line with standards of living — the Asahi reports a "barbecue boom" in China — meat suppliers have had to go abroad to buy mutton. In 2014 China imported 330,000 tons of mutton, a five-fold increase over the amount imported in 2009, representing 30 percent of the world's mutton exports. Almost all of it came from either Australia or New Zealand. China's demand, however, has shifted production in those countries from wool sheep to meat sheep, since meat is more profitable.