Not that this is particularly specific to Tokyo, but I found it very interesting and amusing. A lot of restaurants have a showcase that’s filled with fake food models to show you what is being served.
Those food models were originally all made of wax, but production was mostly changed over to resins such as plastic due to the models getting soft when left out in the sun. Apparently some of the more difficult things to model are still made of wax today!
A lot of effort goes into making food samples for restaurants in Japan: they first make molds from the actual food itself, then pour resin into it, and finally hand paint it to look delicious. Each one is hand made to order with everything from steaks and beer to soup and pasta available. Here is a ‘how to make a fake shrimp tempura’ video:
The origins of this industry are a little unclear, but a few possibilities place the first of these food samples as somewhere between 1917 and 1932, possibly first offered at either the Shirokiya department store or by the Shimadzu Corporation, which does have some history with chemicals.
So where does all this plastic art come from? Well if you’re opening a restaurant, cafe or bar in Tokyo, the place you want to head to first is called ‘Kappabashi’. Every shop there is dedicated to the restauranteer. Whether you’re looking to buy sushi knives, chairs and tables, signs, menu covers, plates, expresso makers, or of course plastic food, Kappabashi has it all.
However, this area is most known for its plastic food. We’ve not been there yet, but I’d love to experience the half-mile stretch of Tokyo’s northeastern Asakusa neighbourhood with its 200 wholesale and retail stores. In the meantime, I’ll have to make do with this BBC video about plastic food in Tokyo.