The food shortage that has hit Japan is announced by the glaring gap on supermarket shelves next to the margarine and the sour cream and just above the cheese.
The butter shelf is empty.
The rich yellow stuff has all but vanished from grocery stores across Japan, with the world's second-biggest economy, where fine foods are prized and aisles otherwise groan with abundance. Some stores have tried to ration the few bricks that occasionally arrive by limiting customers to a pack or two, but in most places merchants have been reduced to posting signs apologizing for having none.
Nor does anyone know when butter will be back. Japanese milk production has dropped over the last two years, leaving less available to be churned into butter.