The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, known as CITES, banned international trade in ivory in 1990. But Japan and European Union states are among countries that allow domestic sales. Under those rules, foreign visitors are banned from buying ivory items, such as for souvenirs.
Japan's domestic businesses using ivory rely on stockpiles of more than 2,000 tons of tusks. Most was imported before the ban. The rest was bought in 1999 and 2009 under special approval of CITES.
Ivory is used in musical instruments, name stamps, and other items in Japan. The Environment Ministry says more than 700 tons of the country's ivory had been used as of the end of June. That's about 35 percent of Japan's inventory.
Go Tsurumi, chairman of Japan Federation of Ivory Arts and Crafts Associations says some people may have a negative impression about the use of ivory. However he says his group observes related laws, while preserving traditions for the next generation.
Japan's government says the domestic market doesn't rely on poached or smuggled ivory and should continue. Officials say Japan has tightened controls and is working to curb illegal trade in the material.