if you want to know more about honey in usage, i would suggest looking up different translations of offerings described in the kojiki for Shinto practice. one listed as different offerings sake, wine, and spirits along with proper amounts of the five sacred grains.
it seems to me that if honey was scarce, it may have been an offering or holy food explained their, but you'd need to compare several translators to find it with the heavy european tint i have seen in online references thus far.
I would also wonder if maple syrup was connected to offerings made in the right time of year. my kioto autumn leaf incense smells quite strongly of it, and its a japanese import.