Trends in Japan: Sweets in Disguise

Trends in Japan usually show up here a couple of months or years later; here is one to watch. It appears that men do not like to be seen eating elaborate cakes in public, so a confectioner set up what looks like a typical fast food outlet to sell what look like hamburgers and fries, but that are in fact cake. We see a big market for vegetarians who want to buy monster houses. ::Trends in Japan

"The Mamido burger, for instance, which sells for ¥390 ($3.25 at ¥120 to the dollar), is a highlight of the menu. The "bun" is actually a sponge cake, the "patty" inside is chocolate cream, and the "pickles" are kiwis. The deep-fried fish burger, meanwhile, priced at ¥440 ($3.70), features a banana shaped like a fish fillet in sponge cake. It is topped with "tartar sauce," which is actually fresh cream. And the gratin burger, also at ¥440, is a sandwich with a cream cheese and fruit filling.

The side dishes are equally ingenious. The French fries look like the real thing but are actually custard cream covered in starch powder and deep-fried. The fries, diners are told, are delectable when topped with ketchup. Without exception, every item on the menu is a sweet of some sort.

When it comes to sweets, women are widely regarded as by far the most important market. And when it comes to cakes in Shibuya, high school girls generally have a monopoly.

There are plenty of sweet-toothed men, but many feel too embarrassed to eat elaborate cakes and the like in public. For men like this, especially middle-aged businessmen, the great thing about the sweets at Mamido's Burger is that they come disguised as fast food. Such men can now walk around town munching away, safe in the knowledge that nobody will ever suspect that what they have in their hand is not a hamburger but a cake. Perhaps this is why men number so highly among the shop's patrons. "