- The Washington Times - Friday, November 23, 2001

TOKYO The imminent birth of Japanese Princess Masako's first baby is proving a boon to businesses in her home neighborhood turning out commemorative products such as golden cupcakes and cradle-shaped rice balls.
"We cannot keep up with demand," said Terumichi Uehara, 58, who runs Loncheale, a bakery on the shopping street 10 minutes' walk from the home of the princess's parents in Meguro, a posh southwestern Tokyo suburb.
To celebrate the birth of the royal baby, who is due any day now, Mr. Uehara made chocolate cupcakes sprinkled with gold dust and the cakes named "gifts from the stork" were selling like well, hot cakes.
"Every day, the cakes are sold out by noon," he said. Each customer can buy no more than 20 stork cupcakes priced at $1.60 each, but that cap has not helped the bakery cope with high demand.
"Since we started selling the cakes on November 15, we have received so many phone orders from all over the country. But I am turning all of them down, simply because we do not have a capacity to mass-produce cakes," he said.
"It was beyond what I expected," the baker said.
Ryoko Kobayashi, who sells home-made lunches, said one of her popular lunch menus also came from "a stork."
"I started a "stork lunch" soon after her pregnancy became official. It's been selling very well," said the 47-year-old.
Priced at $6, the stork lunch includes a boiled egg and a nestlike rice ball.
As Princess Masako is to give birth late this month or early in December, Miss Kobayashi said a new lunch menu commemorating the royal baby is already in waiting.
"The 'stork lunch' is almost over. I can't wait to sell my new lunch," she said, showing the 850-yen royal baby lunch comprising a cradle-shaped rice ball and vegetables wrapped in a slice of beef like a baby wrapped in a blanket.
The royal lunch also includes two teriyaki chickens that she said symbolize the baby's parents, Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako.
Across from Miss Kobayashi's lunch shop, Shuichi Miyata's liquor shop is flooded with orders for special sake named after a rugosa rose, a flower officially symbolizing the princess.
"We are amazed by the number of orders for the princess sake from Hokkaido [Japans northernmost island] to Okinawa [in the far south]," Mr. Miyata said.
Priced at $15 and $25, the sake, "Rugosa Rose Story," bears a label reading: "Dear Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako, Congratulations on your new baby."
"Our sake brewer is working day and night these days to be ready in the market anytime the princess delivers a baby," Mr. Miyata said.
"I hope people all over Japan will celebrate the birth of the royal baby with the Rugosa Rose Story," the 52-year-old said, adding: "Princess Masako has enlivened our shopping street."
Tadanobu Nishiyama, 64, owner of a greengrocery, is thinking of making a special fruit basket promotion for the upcoming royal event.
"As a neighbor of the princess, I want to do something," Mr. Nishiyama said.
"I am thinking about selling something unusual. That's why I go to a fruit market every day to make sure I can buy exotic fruit minutes after she gives birth to a baby," he said.
Pasted on the shop window, Mr. Nishiyama's handwritten sign reads: "Dear Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, we look forward to seeing your healthy baby."
On the bottom of the sign, Mr. Nishiyama has added the question on everyone's minds: "Is your baby due around November 25?"


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