Fake food in Japan

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Fake food in a restaurant window in Japan
Fake food samples in a display case

Plastic food replicas appear in the windows and display cases of establishments which serve food throughout Japan. Once made from wax, today they are usually made out of plastic.[1] The plastic models are mostly handmade from polyvinyl chloride and carefully sculpted to look like the actual dishes.[2] The models are custom-tailored to restaurants and even common items such as ramen will be modified to match each establishment's food.[3] During the molding process, the imitation ingredients are often chopped up and combined in a manner similar to actual cooking.

The craftsmanship has been raised to an art form. Japanese plastic food by the Maizuru Company was exhibited at London's Victoria and Albert Museum in 1980.[3] Regular competitions are held in making fake food dishes out of plastic and other materials. The food displays are called sampuru (サンプル?), derived from the English word "sample".

The plastic food manufacturers fiercely guard their trade secrets as business is lucrative; the plastic food industry in Japan, by conservative estimates, has revenues of billions of yen per year.[4] A single restaurant may order a complete menu of plastic items costing over a million yen.

In recent years, Japanese plastic food manufacturers have been targeting markets overseas, such as China and South Korea.[5]

Plastic food manufacturers[edit]

While some large companies exist, others are small shops with a single proprietor. Fake food items can be found and purchased in Kappabashi-dori, the food supply street in Tokyo and also at Doguyasuji located in Namba, Osaka. Factories can be found in Gujō, Gifu.

  • Iwasaki Be-I, the biggest plastic food manufacturer in Japan, founded by Takizo Iwasaki in 1932
  • Maiduru (Maizuru), another old and large manufacturer


  1. ^ "Hungry Days For Fake-Food Firms -- Profits Fall For Japan's Innovators". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. January 2, 1994. 
  2. ^ "Delicious Vinyl: Japan's Plastic Food Replicas". Sake-Drenched Postcards. Retrieved May 20, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Lubarsky, Jared (December 29, 1985). "Shopper's World; It Looks Good Enough To Eat". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  4. ^ Yoko Hani, "A Feast for the Eyes", Japan Times, November 24 2002.
  5. ^ Japan's Plastic Food", Oddity Central