Tanuki, also known as Japanese raccoon dogs, hold a special place in Japanese culture. Often the center of folktales for their large testicles, magical abilities, and easygoing attitude, you can see them depicted in works of art all over the country.

However, now the tanuki is threatened. Not the actual animal, but a cake created in its image known as the tanuki cake. For many middle-aged Japanese people the mention of such a treat would awaken fond childhood memories. Despite this, the tanuki cake population in Japan has plummeted in recent years to the point of being critically endangered.

That’s why the website Tanuki Cake No Aru Toko Meguri has established the National Tanuki Cake Habitat Map, so that we may monitor and perhaps conserve these noble animal-shaped cakes.

Tanuki cakes (nyctereutes triglyceride) are a species of Japanese shortcake fashioned in the image of a tanuki. The flavors and toppings of tanuki cakes vary widely leading to a once rich ecosystem of subspecies. This diversity, however, is rapidly fading away.

Image: Tanuki Cake No Aru Toko Meguri

The map is created in part by the support and information of regular Japanese citizens passionate about keeping this snack species in existence. Our own Mr. Sato is one such concerned individual.

“I was born in 1973 and I remember tanuki cakes as a childhood feast. They were sold at a pastry shop in Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture. I think it was about that time the cakes were at their peak.
However, recently young people don’t even know what a tanuki cake is. The cakes’ natural habitat of quaint bakeries are being overrun by urbanization and the invasive species that come along with it such as red velvet cake and Krispy Kreme donuts. Where on earth can you go to buy tanuki cakes now!?”
(Mr. Sato)

That’s where the National Tanuki Cake Habitat Map comes in. Using this modified Google Map you can locate all of the shops in Japan currently offering tanuki cakes. In addition, you can also see shops that once held tanuki cakes but have since closed their doors.

This map serves as a useful reference for those looking for tanuki cakes. On the other hand, it also helps to raise awareness for the rapidly declining numbers of tanuki cakes in Japan. Looking at the entire country it might appear that these cakes are plentiful, but zooming in on even a major urban center like Tokyo or Osaka will reveal how truly few and far between they actually are.

It’s important to remember that this is only the beginning of the tanuki cake crisis and the National Tanuki Cake Habitat Map alone won’t save their dwindling numbers. It’s up to environmentally conscious individuals like you and me to do something to reverse this trend.

You can start by rescuing a tanuki cake from one of the bakeries listed on the map. After that, take it to the safety of your own home and cut it up with a knife before devouring it. If we all did our little bit, we may just keep the tanuki cake alive for our children to enjoy too.

Source: Google Map – National Tanuki Cake Habitat Map, Tanuki Cake No Aru Toko Meguri (Japanese)
Original article by Mr. Sato
[ Read in Japanese ]