Updated February 2021
Real or fake? Have you ever seen the plastic food samples on display outside of restaurants in Japan?
It’s Fake? Japanese Plastic Food Samples
Have you ever been to a restaurant and wondered exactly what the meals on the menu look like? Even if the menu is in your native language sometimes it’s hard to visualize what exactly comes with each meal. These seemingly real plastic dishes give you an idea of how each menu from the item looks! If you look closely though, you can see that they’re “FAKE” and not real!
We call these “fake food samples”. Why did the Japanese people create them? Allow me to explain what I found out about this mystery below.
1. The First Creator of Food Samples Used to Make Anatomical Models
There are a few different stories about the history of plastic food samples.
It is said the very first plastic food sample was created in Kyoto, Japan in 1917 during the Taisho Period. The individual named Sojiro Nishio, made wax anatomical parts for study by doctors and students. People impressed with his outstanding quality of work then asked him to make food samples…quite a difference!
During the year 1923, after the Great Kanto Earthquake, the Shirokiya department store at Nihonbashi opened several kinds of restaurants. Department stores were opening eateries for the increase of people eating out at the time. The stores put real dishes in the glass box to let customers see from outside what type of food was on the menu, but as the dishes were the real thing, it caused some serious sanitation issues. Meanwhile, a person called Tsutomu Sudo was working as a wax-worker and was asked to provide wax food samples.
The food model industry really took off in the 1930s though when Takizo Iwasaki, owner of Iwasaki-bei created a model of omurice (omelette rice). It is said his inspiration came from his candles at home.
2. The Meals Are Made To Scale
Today, many people see plastic food samples as a form of art. Plastic food samples are used for and very effective in the following areas:
1. To attract customers’ attention.
2. To portray a realness that makes customers hungry and then enter the restaurant.
3. To show the size of each meal component, as they are made to scale.
4. To show what comes with the meal, this is especially helpful for people unable to read the menu.
5. To ensure customers remember what the food looks like so they can associate it with the restaurant.
3. Asakusa Is the Place to Buy Them
If you’re interested in plastic food samples, walking around Asakusa area is a great way to find some real gems. There are some famous and popular plastic food sample shops in this area. Here are 4 major and popular plastic food sample shops you can find in the Asakusa area:
1. Shop name: Tokyo Biken
Address: 1-5-14, Nishi Asakusa,Taito-ku,Tokyo,111-0035
Hours: Weekday 9:00am-5:20pm, Weekend 10:30am-5:00pm
Access: From Asakusa Station use Exit A1-2 and walk about 7 minutes
2. Shop name: Maiduru
Address: 1-5-17, Nishi Asakusa,Taito-ku,Tokyo,111-0032
Hours: Weekday & weekday 9:00am-6:00pm
Access: From Tawaramachi Station, walk about 5 minutes
3. Shop name: Sato Sample
Address: 3-7-4, Nishi Asakusa,Taito-ku,Tokyo,111-0035
Hours: Weekday 9:00am-6:00pm Weekend 10:00am-5:00pm
Access: From Asakusa Station exit at Exit A2, walk about 4 minutes
4. Shop name: Ganso Shokuhin Sample Shop
Address: 3-7-6, Nishi Asakusa,Taito-ku,Tokyo,111-0035
Open Hour: Weekday & weekday 10:00am-5:30pm
Access: From Asakusa Station exit at Exit A2, walk about 5 minutes.
At these stores, you can find many food samples like beer, hamburgers, bread, and even iPhone case covers with plastic food samples attached. Looking around these plastic food sample stores, you will be amazed at the many varieties available. They are also a great souvenir to take back home for family and friends!
What Do You Think About Japanese Plastic Food Samples?
Do you search for and choose restaurants that have food samples? Do the dishes look appetizing to you? Or do you think it is a waste of plastic? It’s hard to deny that plastic food samples come in handy when taking relatives or friends new to Japan for a meal. It’s a lot easier to be able to see what your food will look like, but only if it looks really tasty!
We would love to know what you think about food samples in Japan. Do you have them in your country?