Budget cakes sate Japan's sweet tooth in tough times

Tue Nov 10, 2009 2:35am EST
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By Yuriko Nakao

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Japan's economy may be stagnating, but sales of a traditional, fish-shaped sweet snack are going along swimmingly, thanks to its small price and auspicious name.

Taiyaki, which means baked sea bream, is a baked pancake stuffed with a sweet bean jam and served hot.

"Tai," Japanese for sea bream, sounds similar to the word for happiness and with a price tag of as little as 130 yen (approximately $1.50), the snack, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, is making a lot of people, especially the elderly, happy.

"Taiyaki has been around from ancient days but I still want to eat one once in a while," said Masako Kano, a 69 year-old housewife who was queuing for the pancake outside a new store.

"Compared to other cakes, which normally cost around 200 yen to 300 yen, its price is attractive," she added.

Fancy Corporation, which operates a chain of taiyaki stores in Japan, recently opened its 45th outlet in Kawasaki, just south of Tokyo.

Representative Eriko Yano said the snack was as popular as ever, even during the economic downturn, and was core to the Fancy Corporation's business.

"In this economic environment, customers prefer products that are low-priced, safe and reliable. I think that's why the number of our stores is growing," Yano said. "As people cut back on luxuries, such as dessert, taiyaki has become even more popular."   Continued...