See all posts in this series via the '12days' tag.
Christmas cake, to Brits like me, is a fruit cake cloaked in marzipan and thick white icing. There is no alternative. A Christmas pudding might be offered, sure, but that's an entirely different brandy-soaked animal.
Come to Japan for Christmas, and you've suddenly got hella cake choices.
But you'll have to be quick, because most shops have a reservation system. Can't have your cake and eat it on Christmas Day unless you put a deposit down back in November.
I'm going to cover a single brand in this post: the 7-11 chain of convenience stores.
These pics from the 7-11 Christmas food selection should start to explain why. Not only are they very high qality, there are SO MANY. I suspect the point is to give you so much choice that comparing another store's offerings would melt your brain.
All images lovingly ganked off the 7-11 website (in Japanese). As if I could ever dream of being this good at food photography. Reservations for all cakes were still open at the time of writing.
Including cakes, tarts, cheesecakes, ice cream cakes, a 'decorate-your-own' cake and a chocolate log, this one convenience store has over 20 options.
Are any of these cakes hiding a marzipan layer and half a kilo of sultanas? Not on your nelly. Sponge and cream - plain or chocolate - with fruits (and the occasional chestnut) await when you cut the first slice.
The heart-shaped 'Berry Berry Christmas' cake is filled with almonds and white chocolate crunchy bits. Those are sandwiched between layers of stawberry cheesecake mousse, sponge, and more berry mousse. No marzipan in sight.
You'll also notice many of the cakes have whole strawberries on top. Those aren't cheap here. Japan's the biggest consumer of dessert strawberries in the world, so demand is high. Factor in December being the most out-of-season month, and you're more or less paying for the fruit. The smallest strawb-topped cake (which feeds 2) is about £14.
As with pretty much every Christmas food, the ideal/luckiest/most auspicious day to eat your chosen cake is the 25th itself.
There's a (frankly unkind) saying in Japan that compares women to Christmas cake. After the 25th, it's as good as over. Just as it's unlikely anyone buys cake on Boxing Day, at the age of 26 you've hit your own expiry date. The 7-11 website lists the 25th as the final day for collection or delivery. Ouch.