The second type is becoming popular in Japan at Christmastime, a time when people traditionally buy or bake a sugary Wester-style cake. (Japan's "Christmas cake" tradition is thought to have been imported from Britain.)
However, more and more kids in Japan are allergic to milk, eggs, or wheat—the prime ingredients of cake. In fact, one source I came across says that 10 percent of kids in Japan can't eat cake because of an allergy to one or more of the ingredients. The cause, some say, is the Westernization of the Japanese diet and the chemical additives used in Japanese mass-market foods in general.
Consequently, parents of kids with allergies had given up on Christmas cakes—until someone hit on the Zen-like idea of a cake that isn't a cake.
That someone was a Mr. Toyoshima, owner of Enmusubi, a bakery in Nagasaki that makes the cake in the photo below. Mr. Toyoshima said he was inspired by sad stories that customers told him of their allergic kids celebrating their birthdays by sticking candles in manju.
Mr. Toyoshima's sushi cake is made with pressed sushi rice and slices of ham, cucumber, and strawberries (but no fish). Even kids with the most common food allergies can dig in. "I want kids to believe that Santa sees all children as equal," he explains.
If you live in Japan, you can buy one of these cakes online. And if you're passing through the Suzuka area of Nagasaki, you can pick up one of these sushi cakes at the Suzuka Pass Farmers Market [Japanese-only website].
[Story from Asahi.com and other sources]
Mr. Toyoshima's surprisingly scrumptious-looking sushi cake. If you ask nicely, you might be able to get your local sushi chef to make one for you.