Food Samples in Japan

Posted by Oyatsu Cafe on

When you walk through the streets of Tokyo one thing in particular will catch your eye: the amazing food displays that will make your stomach grumble and your mouth water. Delicious Ramen, crispy tempura and fresh sushi almost scream at you to enter the store. Who would have thought that plastic could look so appetizing? You have read correctly - what many people first assume to be freshly made dishes are actually plastic replicas of the meals you can buy inside the store. Japan exceeds at the art of making fake food as a form of advertisement. How do they look so realistic and who makes all of the replicas all over Japan? These are some of the questions we want to answer today. I hope you are not hungry, because we will show you some of the most mouthwatering food replicas found in Japan. Enjoy! Plastic Japanese desserts in an office at Maiduru Corporation, Tokyo, Japan, 22nd December 2008. Maiduru corporation makes highly realistic plastic food for display in restaurant and cafe windows.


Why samples?

You might ask yourself what the reason is behind all of the food replicas in Japan. After all, almost any other nation does just fine with old-fashioned menus and simple pictures of their items. There certainly isn’t a definite answer to this question, but an important factor is the Japanese appreciation of fine aesthetics, especially when it comes to food. Japanese cuisine values the presentation of every meal and using food replicas help making each eating experience as pleasing to the eyes of the customer as possible. Even before ordering your food you can already appreciate the appearance of the meal and imagine the taste. Of course, these replicas are also a very effective form of advertising. After all, they are made to look as appetizing as possible and will never turn bad inside the store window. Possible customers do not need to flip through the pages of a menu or go inside the restaurant to get an idea of what they serve. Just walk by any shop and with one look you can decide where you want to stay for lunch. Plastic Food 4


How to make it

Now that we know why fake food is a great idea, let’s talk about how to actually make these small pieces of art. Even though there are certainly cheaper alternatives out there nowadays, most restaurants and shops use custom-made sampuru (jap. samples), as the replicas are called in Japan. This means that the manufacturers will use pictures or even real-life references to make items specifically for the meals of that shop. The process of creating a replica is similar to the way the meal is cooked: you will chop artificial vegetables into small pieces, fill a bowl with plastic noodles and top everything off with fake broth. First food samples were made out of wax, but that material was soon replaced by the plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC). By combining different kinds of plastic as well as molding and cutting every single piece amazing effects can be achieved, like noodles that are held in mid-air by a pair of floating chopsticks. Plastic Food 3


Samples today

Covering almost 80 percent of all samples produced in Japan, company Iwasaki Co. is the biggest manufacture of fake food at the moment. What started as the vision of one man in the 1920s soon swept the country off its feet. Nowadays, Japan is known for its food replicas and they have become one of the many tourist attractions drawing thousands of people into the country every year. There are even fake food workshops available that allow customers to make one or two samples by themselves. Plastic samples have become an art form that is cherished throughout the country and has created a million dollar industry. An authentic replica for an expensive restaurant will easily cost three to four times the amount of the actual meal. Competitions are held for the most believable sample and good manufacturers do not have to be afraid to run out of orders. Fake Food has become an art form and means so much more to Japanese culture than just being an advertisement to bring customers into the house. Plastic Food 2


This was our quick excursion into the world of food samples. Hopefully you came to see how the displays you see in front of restaurants are important for Japan’s culture and economy. Some countries started adapting the Japanese way of displaying food samples, but fake food still seems to be something unique to Japan. What do you think of the food displays? Do you like them or is a simple menu enough for you? Feel free to share experiences and opinions in the comment section down below.

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