By Kimiteru Tsuruta
TOKYO (Reuters) - Don't know what to get your pet dog for the holiday? Depending on whether they were naughty or nice, nothing will say Christmas quite like a special Japanese holiday cake for canines.
Pastry chef and Italian restaurant owner Naohiko Nagatani came up with a dog-friendly take on Japan's Christmas cake, which is usually based on sponge and laden with whipped cream, that can be eaten by both dogs and their owners.
"The birth rate's declining here in Japan, so dogs have pretty much become like children and people want to share Christmas with them," Nagatani said.
"But if it's just the humans eating cake, the dogs put on a really sad face. They want to have some themselves and get upset if you don't give them cake too."
To make his creation canine-friendly, Nagatani leaves out chocolate and alcohol. He makes the sponge from spelt, a type of wheat that he says causes fewer allergies than regular flour.
The cake, which he first began selling six years ago, has proved popular. This year, the restaurant has already filled orders for 70 of them, priced at 6,000 yen ($73) each.
Akiko Uchida, whose six-year-old mongrel Kenji is a cake shop regular, said the special cake is a guilty pleasure.
"I share out the cake between us, take photos and shoot videos to capture the moment," the 46-year-old said, as Kenji lapped up cake from a fork. "But to be honest, I probably enjoy it more than him."
(Reporting by Reuters Television Writing by Elaine Lies, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)