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In Japan, plastic food models aren't just for restaurants anymore

There is an entire industry devoted to creating these food samples

Nevin Thompson | Global Voices 

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

In Japan, plastic models of food are common outside of just about every eatery. In order to provide potential customers with information about exactly what's on the menu, shokuhin sanpuru (??????, “food samples”), or highly detailed replicas of every dish served in the restaurant, are displayed near the entrance. Customers peruse the food samples, and then decide to enter the shop or keep looking for someplace to eat.

There is an entire industry devoted to creating these food samples. The Tokyo neighborhood of Kappabashi is home to a cluster of these small businesses that make plastic food samples, which German filmmaker Wim Wenders documented in his movie Tokyo-Ga more than 20 years ago.

While plastic food samples are so common in as to be unnoticeable to most Japanese people, there is a new trend in to turn them into eye-catching cellphone accessories and other knick-knacks. Writing on Naver Matome, blogger itinii has collected a variety of social media links with photos of this twist on shokuhin sanpuru.

This is just the beginning of an increasing descent into whimsy. Some stand and case designers allow you to create your own work of art, in this case, by using ikura, or salmon roe that is a popular topping served with white rice. One Twitter user doubts:

Is there anyone out there who is going to say, “Wow, cool, I can customize my case with salmon roe?” I think I'll be the only one.

The fake food accessory boom also can take perhaps less appetizing forms, including gag items to startle coworkers and family members.

Our newest stand comes in the form of melting ice cream. We also have rice ball (onigiri) earrings and a dried salmon strap.

To see more quirky uses of fake food, check out itinii's Naver Matome blog post, or follow the Twitter hashtag #??????#?????.

And to learn more about the original trend that started it all, this video provides a glimpse of Kappabashi in Tokyo, a district devoted to supplying the restaurant industry, including with shokuhin sanpuru.

As well as this video, which gives an overview of how samples are actually made.


This article, written by Nevin Thompson, was published on Global Voices on May 22, 2017