Takio Iwasaki (1895-1965) is the inventor of shokuhin sampuru, the lifelike food models that appear in restaurant displays throughout Japan.
The idea behind the replicas is that restaurants can display the food they sell without having to remake display dishes every single day. Iwasaki’s first mold was an omelette with ketchup, based on the one his wife would often make. In fact, his wife couldn’t tell the difference between her omelette and her husband’s fake one. Iwasaki continued to hone his food-sample-making skills and eventually created Iwasaki Be-I Co., Ltd., which still has around 70 percent of the sample food market share in Japan.
These days sampuru craftsmen use plastic, wax, gelatin, and other materials to create replicas that are identical to the restaurant menu items. For those who cannot read Japanese, sampuru offer a lot more information about dishes than a menu could.
Making food replicas is treated as an art form, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be reserved for just the professionals. The town of Gujo-Hachiman, the food replica capital of Japan, has workshops where tourists can make their own fake food. For those unable to go to Gujo-Hachiman, there a variety of DIY kits are sold online, letting them make sanpuru at home.
Here’s a selection of plastic food models found online to whet your appetite — but remember, they’re not eatable at all.