If you have been to Japan, surely you’ve noticed the food samples being displayed outside restaurants and different establishments. These delightful looking foods range from sushi and sashimi, ramens, tempura and even drinks making customers decide which food to choose.
But of course, these realistic looking foods aren’t actually real but are made of plastic. Plastic food displays, or 食品サンプル (Shokuhin Sample), as it is called in Japan, have been used for a long time and continue to entice customers into trying out the products being offered by a certain establishment.
During the 20th century, actual food was being displayed in restaurants and establishments for customers to see what they are serving. But because if these were real foods, they would change color, spoil and also attract flies.
In 1932, Iwasaki Takizo from Osaka had his electricity cut out due to a financial crisis. He then used candles to bring light to his houses and there he discovered the possibilities of wax when he picked off a piece of molten wax with his fingertip. An acquaintance of Iwasaki asked if he could make model food samples and took the opportunity.
He made mold prototypes and successfully created it with his first work being an Omelette. And in the 1970’s, the use of wax was replaced with plastic as it was more durable and detailed compared to plastic, which is heat sensitive and easy to break.
Aside from being used as food display models, these plastic foods nowadays have also become popular gift souvenirs for tourists visiting the country. These visitors have a wide selection of these to choose from like key chains, table top displays and even ring boxes and eyeglass stands which are available all over Japan and even in airports.
The plastic food displays has been a part of the Japanese food culture and it also goes to show a creative side of the country with its precise work details and realism. With the vast usage of these plastic food models or displays it’s hard to miss them when you’re in Japan!