Why Artificial Food Models Are A Multi-Billion Yen Industry In Japan


When you are in Japan, sometimes you will explore that the fake food displaying in the restaurant windows look better even than the original food inside. Many times, you will be tempted to look at the restaurant windows and cabinets displaying attractive perfect looking foods, but those are all fake food. Actually, these artificial display foods are called sampuru (サンプル), a word originated from the English word ‘sample’. But these are not those food samples that you get the chance to nibble at, the Japanese sampuru is only meant for looking at or displaying since these are all made of plastic and vinyl.

The main idea behind the creation of these Japanese fake foods is to present to the fake food display before the customers in order to help them to choose their food so that they can see the food even before they order. Thus seeing the sampuru displaying on the restaurant windows the food lovers can decide about their menu. In fact, these fake food props play an important part in the Japanese food culture with its culinary aesthetics by giving a real feast for the eyes even before you taste it.

When going through the culinary journey about this Japanese fake display food, you will be amazed to know that the cost of sampuru is at least 20 to 30 times higher than the original food replicated. Moreover, the people who are engaged in making them are considered as the master craftsmen. The fact is that in order to learn the superior art of making perfect sampuru of ramen, it takes around a decade.

In the 1920s, a young businessman named Takizo Iwasaki invented sampuru in his hometown Gujo. Gradually the art gained immense popularity and his company is now considered as the top most producer of artificial display food in Japan. Around 1932, he prepared a perfect model of was rice omelets and the sampuru models exploded overnight. Today, his sampuru factory is a booming tourist attraction in Japan and still you will find the first was omelet proudly displaying in the perfect condition.

From the time of 1980s, the sampuru production had taken a revolutionary step by switching from wax to plastics and PVC as it ensures the food models can last pretty longer.

Undoubtedly, the art of Japanese sampuru spread so immensely that it holds a multi-million yen in the Japanese industry. Through some of the fake food models are also being manufactured in China and Korea, but those fake food props are so superior like the Japanese sampuru in terms of perfection and craftsmanship.

The emerging demand for the fake foods is that the puzzled tourists can get help from the display foods before placing order so that they will not be upset by choosing any wrong dish from the menu card without knowing its meaning, ingredients, shapes and quantity. Thus, the Japanese display food is not only popular within Japan, but also the art of sampuru has spread throughout the world.

Plastic Food

November 26, 2015

Posted In: Handmade Crafts

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