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I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Japan currently has a pretty severe butter shortage and it’s been going on for a long time. For months grocery stores around the country have been limiting customers to one box of butter at a time, and even then, people are paying hugely inflated prices.

Generally, Japanese cooking doesn’t really use that much butter, so what is all of this stuff being used for exactly? Cakes and cookies. With Christmas just around the corner, and the butter shortage expected to continue for the foreseeable future, a new and very important question has arisen: Will we still be able to eat Christmas cake?! 

▼ Will there be a shortage of cakes this year?


Image: G-Maman

Whole chickens and turkeys are rarely sold in butcher’s shops and supermarkets in Japan, and few households have ovens large enough to roast a whole bird even if one can be procured, so Christmas in Japan is often celebrated by eating fried chicken. More important than that, though, is Christmas cake, which unlike the rich dried-fruit cakes found in many countries at this time of year, is usually some kind of soft sponge with cream and strawberries. Strawberries might not sound especially Christmassy, but for many Japanese, a Christmas without this kind of Christmas cake just wouldn’t be the same.

I think it is appropriate to blame the Grinch for this Christmas crisis, and by Grinch, I mean the policymakers of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries who decided to downsize the number of dairy cows in 2006-2007 due to a decrease in milk consumption. In their efforts to keep us from enjoying our buttery Christmas cakes, they went a little overboard and by 2008, we saw the first butter shortage. It got so bad that in May of this year, they made an emergency decision to import 7,000 tons of butter, but it hardly made a difference.

▼ How many cakes could you make with 7,000 tons of butter?

4180697613_def1c8902f_bImage: Flickr (nerissa’s ring

We’re still in a butter crisis and things are not likely to change until some deals are made within the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to lower tariffs so that the US can import more of their processed dairy goods to the butter-starved Japanese people. But many local farmers are angry about this, saying that their industry being overlooked.

But let’s focus on the immediate problem: Christmas is a little over a month away and Japan doesn’t have enough butter for their Christmas cakes. Some bakeries are choosing to replace butter with margarine this year, claiming the slight change in taste will be less noticeable than the potential jacked-up price we would see if they used imported butter. Quite whether this will result in millions of Japanese consumers remarking that they “can’t believe” it’s not butter remains to be seen, but for many shoppers it’ll have to be marg’ or nothing this Christmas.

Still, if cake made with margarine really isn’t your thing, there’s a variety of other Christmas treats you could eat instead, including Christmas-themed Japanese confectioneries and donuts, or you can just go for a Christmas ice-cream cake. Regular cake lovers, keep your hopes up, perhaps there will be a Christmas miracle of a sudden excess of butter in Japan. Come on, Santa, make it happen!

Source: Nikkan Gendai
Top Image: Wikipedia